Time Out has a bunch of advantages that other media companies would kill to have. A brand name that is recognised in major metropolitan cities across Europe; a reputation for expertise in recommending experiences; and a highly engaged communities. For a lot of other publishers, that position is exactly where they want to be.
So Time Out Group Plc’s latest annual results are likely to be heavily scrutinised. And while the headline EBITDA loss of £10.6m is bound to give fellow publishers some palpitations, some strong performances from areas of the business in the back half of the year are more positive.
Julio Bruno, CEO of Time Out Group plc, is candid about how early on the journey to optimum monetisation of its audience the group actually is, stating:
“2016 has been a year of significant events for Time Out Group. We listed on the stock market in June to take this iconic brand to the next stage of its development, accelerating its growth and consolidating the lines of business.
“We have beaten revenue expectations but we are just at the beginning of our quest to transact with our large, global audience.”
He highlights the benefits afforded to Time Out’s advertising partners through its “brand-safe environment” (timely, given the controversies erupting around Google lately) with regards to its online advertising and ecommerce propositions. By the KPIs reported in the annual statement both of those propositions have made significant progress since the previous period, adding an extra 50,000 ecommerce transactions and nearly 50m in raw global audience reach on a monthly average.
As a result, revenue from ecommerce and advertising grew 45 and 36 percent respectively. Meanwhile, revenue from Time Out’s Premium Profiles listings option grew 51 percent (though comparatively it represents a relatively small proportion of overall digital revenue). Back in January the company noted that full year revenue was on track to grow by 23 percent (17 in constant currency) and the results show that has been attained.
In January the group also mentioned that operating loss was on track to meet director’s expectations, and the operating loss of £17.9m is, indeed, better than the recorded operating loss of £18.4m from the previous period.
It all speaks to a company in the midst of transitioning from a traditional publishing model to a more distributed and considered model. Last September Time Out’s digital CEO Noel Penzer urged a crowd at Monetising Media to not be restrained by being a publisher, saying:
“The question we asked is ‘we’re telling people what to do, why aren’t we enabling them to do it? Why is it not just making it simpler for the consumer to do what they want?’
“Time Out was [originally] an 4 page pamphlet which was listings of things to do. It’s only just over two years ago that Time Out figured out they could make money from that. Restaurants and bars, we proactively go to them and say ‘do you want to reach our audience?’ We’re creating a channel for particularly the smaller businesses [to reach an audience].”
Part of that transition is focused on the Time Out market (and future clones in other European cities), and the results show that the Lisbon market delivered 115 percent revenue growth, delivering an EBITDA of £1.1m. The results note that:
“In line with the stated growth strategy, the Group is expanding this format internationally to other cities. Leases, which are subject to planning approval, have been signed for new locations in London and Miami. It is anticipated that the markets will open in the first half of 2018. The Group continues to see a high level of interest from landlords in many other cities.”
The results demonstrate that, if nothing else, Time Out is committed to its ongoing strategy of transitioning from a publication that recommends experiences to a company that actually delivers them – and connects brands with its audiences as it does so.