JRC made $30 million in digital revenue in 2011

CJR | CJR
Digital First Media CEO John Paton shared some financial information with Columbia Journalism Review reporter Ryan Chittum, who also posts a Journal Register Company bankruptcy document filed with a court in New York.

Of JRC’s $295 million in revenue last year, $167.1 million of it was print ads, $86 million was print circulation, and $30.1 million was digital ads. That means digital ads were 10.2 percent of JRC’s total revenue, up sharply from the pre-Paton era when it was a miserable 2.8 percent.

Chittum points out three important caveats:

  • “Sharp print declines actually make digital look better than it really is.”
  • Chittum figures Paton’s received “a net gain of $20.1 million on a net increase of $12.8 million in expenses.” He calls that growth “low-hanging fruit,” though, and wonders how much more it can stretch.
  • A lot of that digital revenue was bundled with print-ad sales. Chittum
    cited an
    interview David Carr did with Paton
    last year in which Paton said
    60 percent of DFM’s sales were digital only. In the first half of
    2012, that figure was 63 percent, Paton says in an email.

Paton tells him cutting legacy expenses, as the JRC bankruptcy seeks to do, will give the company room to grow a sustainable digital business.

Also at CJR, Bill Grueskin dings Paton for not releasing numbers until JRC was in bankruptcy and “promoting impressive growth figures while refusing to provide the data that would give those numbers context.” Paton replies in the comments (he confirms via email that the response is from him), citing DFM’s growth. “It is my impression CJR and you are taking the position this isn’t much of an achievement by JRC employees and easy to do,” Paton writes.

Unfortunately, CJR casts this information as JRC “opening the kimono,” a term that needs to exit the lexicon yesterday.

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