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Trinity Mirror recorded a 30 per cent increase in digital display advertising revenue for its publishing division last year, according to the organisation's annual report for 2013.

The publisher was said to have enjoyed "strong digital audience growth", reflected in a reported 59 per cent increase in average monthly unique users, and "good momentum on digital revenues" as adjusted pre-tax profit increased to £101.3 million.

Despite an overall drop in revenue of 6 per cent, Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror plc, told Journalism.co.uk digital revenues had increased by three per cent on the publishing side, largely due to advertising and "some commercial partnerships".

This growth in digital advertising revenue puts a demand on publishers "to innovate" in this field, said Fox, adding this is a key part of Trinity's strategy.

The improvement of loading times is one area Trinity will investigate, alongside the use of data "in a more scientific way," he said, "to serve the right ads to the right browser", while video represents an area of "enormous opportunity".

Backing the digital advertising model

At the Digital Media Strategies conference in London last week, Fox had discussed his attitude towards digital advertising, sharing his confidence that this would continue to grow and support the publisher, instead of paid-for news content online.

"I think you will not be successful trying to charge for straight-forward news content," he said at the time, although added that the Financial Times model will work due to its "deeply specialist" content.

For our day-to-day, breaking news and sport content, I can’t see a time when we would charge for thatSimon Fox, Trinity Mirror
For Trinity's "day-to-day, breaking news and sport content", however, Fox could not "see a time when we would charge for that".

"I think if we had particular content that was so unique that our customers were happy to pay for it then we would consider that route," he said.

Instead, the "huge digital ad budget out there for us" is seen as a focus for Fox and Trinity Mirror as he insisted that "it is imminently possible to replace [print advertising] with digital advertising".

Overall advertising revenue for Trinity Mirror decreased by 10 per cent across 2013, according to the report.

On the publishing side of the business, print advertising fell 10.6 per cent compared to a 4.2 per cent increase in digital advertising.

Fox told Journalism.co.uk that digital revenue from free-access news sites "needs to offset print advertising revenue" adding that Trinity Mirror will achieve this "within a couple of years".

Today's results also reflected on some of Trinity Mirror's "new businesses built around our distinctive content and audience" online, such as UsVsTh3m and Ampp3d.

"Investment in new businesses built around our distinctive content and audience is a key part of our strategy to deliver growth," the report adds. "We continue to consider and evaluate opportunities and will make investments as appropriate."

The publisher is also driving new storytelling formats with the introduction of a digital content innovation team, currently being recruited by the team's editor, Alison Gow.

And its news sites have "been upgraded onto a new technology platform delivering a far improved user experience on desktop and more significantly on mobile".

On the subject of mobile, Fox told Journalism.co.uk that the publisher's e-editions are also "seeing great success", referring to viewing statistics of 50,000 daily readers of the Daily Mirror's tablet e-edition.

The Mirror's e-edition is free to access on weekdays, but Fox said that while some print readers will have migrated to the free digital version, the "vast majority are new readers now choosing to read us on a tablet". In comparison, the local news brand e-editions are paid-for products.

And engagement with the publisher's free mobile apps is proving strong, with page views said to be "30 to 50 times higher than a causal browser". "So it's very important to us to encourage app downloads", Fox said.

Latest digital launch

Trinity Mirror also today announced the arrival of Scotland Now. The new site is "aimed at the 50 million people with Scottish links who live round the world", according to a press release, "whether they are ex-pats or people with Scottish ancestry".

"The site will deliver a daily update of news, sport, comment and features and will act as a new global voice and online community for Scotland," the release adds.

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