Daily Mirror editor boosted by removal of ‘nonsense’ online polls

Reach’s chief executive said the decision to remove “nonsense” polls that were a barrier to articles contributed to a surge in digital revenue that helped push the publisher’s shares to a 14-year high.

Tuesday’s results showed Reach, whose titles include the Daily Mirror, Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo, saw a 4% rise in half-year sales to £302.3m despite continued declines in print media .

Shares of Reach rose nearly 5% in London to 328.25p, hitting the highest level since 2007 even as more readers abandoned the papers.

Print still accounts for more than three-quarters of the company’s revenue, and declines in circulation and advertising led to a 5.2% drop in like-for-like physical media sales in the six months to June 27.

However, a 43% jump in digital revenue over the period offset the decline.

Like other digital publishers grappling with how to make money from online content, Reach had previously sought to glean data about readers by asking them questions before they could view the content.

But chief executive Jim Mullen said the attempt was too crude as many users provided inaccurate information and others were put off visiting the sites.

“The questionnaires were an engagement killer. People just got discouraged — it ruined the experience,” Mullen said. ‘nonsense.’

Instead, the company has sought to use more sophisticated approaches to understanding reader habits and making its sites more appealing to advertisers.

Although none of the company’s online titles require users to register, they encourage readers to sign up for free with an email address.

Reach has 6.7 million registered users, about 150% more than a year ago, in its portfolio, which includes a stable of local websites under the Live brand. The company is expanding its range of sites and launching NorfolkLive and MyShropshire this week.

Mullen also argued that predictions of print media’s demise were overblown. The decline in broadcast revenue had recovered from an 11.3% drop in the first quarter to end the first half down 5.1%.

“Much of the negativity around the print – its level – is unwarranted,” he said. Given the typical age of readership, trends in mortality implied that there was “another 25 years of engagement” in physical newspapers.

Reach acknowledged second-quarter comparative numbers were weak given the start of the pandemic a year ago, but said there was “clear momentum” in its strategy thanks to trends in digital revenue, signups and commitment.

The company’s first-half statutory pre-tax profit, which also publishes OK! magazine, ticked higher from £25.2m to £25.7m. The board of directors declared an interim dividend of pa 2.75 per share.

Melvin G. Rodriguez