DMS UK: Changes at Time Out are close to restoring profitability, analysts expect

Time Out Group is going from making a £21m loss to an expected return to the black next year after an overhaul that stretched the business focus to commercial opportunities outside its print heritage.

Julio Bruno (r) in conversation with Gideon Spanier
Julio Bruno (r) in conversation with Gideon Spanier

Non-print related activities such as events, digital advertising and  TimeOut Markets now drive around 60% of the company’s revenue, chief executive Julio Bruno told Campaign’s Digital Media Strategies conference in London this morning.

Bruno explained that three years ago, when he joined the business, 50% of revenue came from its print products, such as the free magazine and paid-for city guides.

He said: "When I joined in 2015 I had a clear idea on what I wanted to do. More than 50% revenue was in print ads, and the guides. I saw what was happening in the industry and that we needed to change to [focus on digital and ecommerce].

"I looked at it as a business rather than a news organisation and I looked at how to take a loss-making company into a profitable company."

Bruno, who was in conversation with Campaign’s global head of media Gideon Spanier, agreed that he had a clear-out of the team. "I changed 100% of the team, the management and then some," he said.

"The team was doing what they thought was right at the time but the company was losing £21m a year. It was a magazine online, I needed people to understand the digital and ecommerce side. The commercial side of retail was completely new so we needed people who understood that world which had nothing to do with traditional media."

As a result Bruno said that the majority that TimeOut writes about is available for booking through its site with affiliates. He explained that this means it makes shared revenue, and it produced 250 events last year for which it sold tickets. These events include silent discos and movies on the river.

However, Bruno made it clear that content is key to the business and it prizes editorial independence. TimeOut pays for its journalists to anonymously review restaurants, bars and theatre shows.

When asked whether the company can afford to fund this without a paywall, Bruno admitted it cannot because it is still a loss-making business but will be able to afford it "very soon".

He added that brands that work with Time Out Group usually advertise across a number of its platforms. "Our content team is one team, we create content and then we decide where to put that content – in print, online, in the markets or all of the them."

Bruno said that because of this agnostic content platform model TimeOut has launched eight new print products since he joined the business.

He explained that analysts expect Time Out Group to be profitable next year.