Johnston Press logo Credit: Johnston Press
Johnston Press has reported a £143.8 million loss in 2011, after writing off £163.7 million from the value of its newspaper titles.

In its end-of-year results today, the publisher also announced it had reached a new agreement with its lenders for a revised £393 million finance facility to run until September 2015.

The company reported a 10.3 per cent decline in like-for-like operating profits to £64.6 million.

Total advertising revenues fell by nine per cent year on year - but the rate of decline was faster in the first half of the year than the second.

Digital advertising revenues grew by 8.6 per cent in the second half, after falling five per cent in the first half.

The group reduced its operating costs by £16.9 million and its net debt by 9.1%.

The downward trend in advertising has continued into 2012, with revenues down 10.6 per cent year on year in the first 15 weeks of the year so far.

New Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield, who joined the company in November, said in today's results: "Although the prospects for the economy remain downbeat in the short term, I believe we can return Johnston Press to being a growth business through the twin track approach of re-launching and revitalising our papers while simultaneously growing our websites, and taking full advantage of the opportunities created by technology and the changing media demands of our users to deliver innovative propositions."

He added: "We aim to put digital at the heart of Johnston Press. Newspapers will remain our primary revenue stream for many years to come, but the web and apps, accessed from PCs, tablets and smartphones, are becoming as important, if not more so, as an access method for an increasing percentage of our audience.

"We have embarked on an ambitious plan to re-launch all our titles as far more integrated digital and print hybrid offerings, refreshed and revitalised in print, with new web, mobile and iPad offerings.

"In some cases the internet will become the hourly and daily pulse of a community and we will move to printing the physical paper just once a week - with overall audience uplift and a considerable increase in profitability for those titles.

"In all communities that we serve we aim to have a web audience at least as big as our newspaper circulation and to use print to actively cross-promote the web and vice versa, thus remaining relevant in a digital age, while not alienating our heartland audience."

Highfield said Johnston Press would also look to make greater use of subscriptions and "the bundling of content across a variety of platforms".

He added: "Looking a little further ahead, Johnston Press must look to diversify into new areas of business where we can put our existing strengths to good use. The introduction in 2011 of our successful Find it and DealMonster offerings showed what can be achieved and we will look at finding similar new business niches. These will be characterised by localness and a broad appeal to social media.

"We have built a huge repository of valuable content from all our newspapers, held in a single database, all indexed with excellent metadata. The opportunity is therefore there to aggregate and publish this content around specific interest areas, creating new websites, and we will be launching the first of these in 2012."

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