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Future hails 'maturing' online advertising market

The online advertising market is "maturing" and beginning to follow patterns of traditional media buying, the chief executive of Future, the magazine publisher said yesterday.

Announcing interim results that pushed the share price of the Bath-based group up 3p to 42½p, Stevie Spring said: "Nobody in the world has cracked the online business model. Anybody who says otherwise is talking nonsense."

But the market for internet advertising, which rose 66 per cent for Future in its main markets in the UK and US, was starting to seem more familiar to those used to traditional print publications.

"The marketplace is changing. Online is maturing. Advertisers are realising that not all clicks are equal," said Ms Spring. The group announced interim pre-tax profits of £8.6m (loss of £1.6m).

Ms Spring added: "The [buying] criteria of the old media are starting to catch up on the new media."

The figures for the six months to March 31 showed revenue from continuing operations down from £107m to £95.3m, but earnings per share rose 36 per cent from a loss of 3.6p to earnings of 2.3p. Debt was reduced 24 per cent from £38.3m to £29.1m. The company, valued at £139m at its closing share price, announced an unchanged dividend of 0.5p.

Analysts welcomed the results, pointing out Future had been in serious trouble before Ms Spring's appointment in March 2006, issuing six successive profit warnings, but had rid itself of dozens of lossmaking titles.

Analysts expect the company to sell off its French titles, which have received no recent investment and where revenue fell 15 per cent last year, if a suitable opportunity presents itself.

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