He will oversee more than 100 newspaper and online brands including The Scotsman. He will also be charged with reversing revenue and profit declines, down 6% and 29.6% respectively in 2010.
Highfield is currently vice president of Microsoft’s UK consumer and online division, leading parts of the business including content portal MSN and its video offering.
He was previously director of new media and technology at the BBC, where he was responsible for the launch of iPlayer. He was also CEO of the ill-fated Project Kangaroo.
Highfield will also be made a shareholder, and has been given £500,000 of Johnston Press shares.
Ian Russell, chairman of Johnston Press, says Highfield’s “combined online and media sector pedigree will be a major strength in enabling us to grow our business again. “
It is not yet known who will succeed Highfield in his role at Microsoft.
John Fry announced his departure earlier in the year, and will handover to Highfield at the end of October.
This story first appeared on New Media Age. For more digital stories and analysis’ from NMA click here now