Johnston Press has revealed the i newspaper is now trading in line with its plans, with EBITDA for the title averaging £1m a month for each of the past three months.
This is the first time the title has traded at this level since it was bought by the group last April. Prior to its acquisition from ESI Media, the i delivered annual EBITDA of £5.2m on revenues of £26.1m for the year ended 27 Sep 2015.
In its Q3 trading update last month, Johnston Press announced that sales of i continued to see an upsurge, with like-for-like revenues increasing by 17% and print advertising up by 14% year-on-year.
The company attributed i's increased revenues and improved profit margin to the management's strategy of investing in improved content under editor Oly Duff's leadership as well as increased brand awareness and distribution, all while delivering efficiencies.
In an update, the company said: “Over the last 19 months, there has been a significant investment in the editorial team, with further roles planned for Q1 of 2018, including a policy editor with a Brexit focus and inews.co.uk head of audience development - bringing the headcount up to 66.
“Alongside this investment, Johnston Press has taken steps to maximise the value and appeal of the brand to both print and digital audiences. This included a relaunch of its Saturday offering in September, with a fresh new iweekend product, which is now attracting 12,000 additional readers each week compared to pre-launch.
“Under Johnston Press, the i newspaper's market share of main news advertisers has seen growth of 2%; from 20% during the pre-acquisition period of January - November 2015 to 22% in January - November 2017.”
Since i was acquired, the Monday to Friday cover price has risen from 40p to 60p, with iweekend now at 80p. Circulation for the title has remained steady at 266,000.
Johnston Press said i's market share among the quality newspapers has increased from 17.5% at acquisition to 20%.
The group is currently in the midst of a strategic review, launched in March, to find a solution to the repayment of £220m in high-yield bonds, which mature in June 2019.
Last month the business received a formal demand from one of its major shareholders that former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond is installed as chairman and a number of current directors are removed from their posts. There has been no update on this situation as yet.