Torstar revenue misses as print ad drop offsets digital gains

Wed Mar 1, 2017 12:19pm EST
 
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Torstar Corp (TSb.TO: Quote), the owner of one of Canada's largest circulation daily newspapers, reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue on Wednesday, as a decline in print advertising outweighed growth in its digital businesses.

The company's shares nevertheless jumped 5.9 percent to C$1.79 as its adjusted earnings beat expectations and an online forum business in which it holds a majority stake showed solid growth.

Torstar, which publishes the Toronto Star and a string of other titles, has struggled to offset the steady defection of advertisers from newspapers to social media and search sites such as Google.

Its Star Touch tablet app, launched in September 2015, has disappointed executives and investment in the project will fall to between C$2 million and C$4 million in 2017 compared with around C$11 million last year, they said on a conference call with analysts.

"There are just not as many people (using it) as we would like," said Chief Executive Officer and acting Publisher David Holland. "At least I can say we tried," he said.

Holland, whose retirement was first announced in July, will step down on Friday and a successor announced "very soon," the company said.

Print advertising revenue fell 13 percent in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, while revenue in its digital ventures climbed 5.5 percent.

That business includes its majority stake in online forum company VerticalScope, which executives said should notch high single-digit organic earnings and revenue growth in 2017.   Continued...

 
File Photo: Torstar Corp President and Chief Executive Officer David Holland speaks at the annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, May 5, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch