Johnston Press sees ad revenues fall 16.8%

Regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press has posted a 28 per cent drop in pre-tax profits and a 16.8 per cent drop in advertising revenues for 2008.

The publisher, whose titles include The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Evening Post, says the results “reflect a significantly worsening trend in advertising decline as the year progressed.”

The result show a pre-tax profit of £98.8 million and revenue down 12.4 per cent to £531.9 million.

One positive note was a rise in digital revenues by 31.1 per cent to £19.8 million and the company says it has “ambitious plans” for digital platforms this year.

National and regional publishers are both suffering from a structural change as people read less printed products and also from the effects of the recession on display and recruitment advertising. The regional press in particular is suffering from the plummet in recruitment and classified ad revenues.

Recently appointed chief executive officer John Fry (pictured), previously chief executive of rival Archant, said: “Advertising markets remain very depressed with advertising revenues to date in 2009 down 35.9 per cent below those for 2008.

“However, we are benefitting from the full effects of the 2008 cost reduction programme with more initiatives in place which will further drive efficiencies. Costs for the first two months of 2009 are running 15.7 per cent down on the same period in 2008.”

The Board has recommended no final dividend payment.

Former chief executive Tim Bowdler stepped down at the end of last year. Chairman Roger Parry is stepping down at the company’s AGM in April and Ian Russell was recently named chairman elect.

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