Belfast Telegraph

Publisher's slump in advertising revenues blamed on the Olympics

By Holly Williams

Johnston Press, which owns the News Letter and around 20 weekly titles in Northern Ireland, has blamed the Olympics for a slide in advertising sales but said a major digital push should start to pay off by the end of the year.

The company, which owns nearly 250 titles, including The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, said sales fell by 14.7% in the six weeks since the start of July after London 2012 hit advertising not directly related to the event.

Half-year figures revealed total ad revenues fell by 8.2% in the six months to June 30, while underlying interim pre-tax profits nearly halved to £8.1m from £15.7m.

But Johnston said an overhaul to "put digital at the heart" of the business would begin delivering results in the second half and throughout 2013 as title relaunches, cover price hikes and new websites boost performance.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield hailed a period of "tremendous activity" in the first six months. Since the revamp was unveiled in April, the group has already relaunched 23 titles as integrated digital and print products with aims to increase the group's web audience to match its newspaper circulation.

Last month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Johnston Press is proposing to group some of its weekly papers, which lie in neighbouring geographic locations, under one editor, one deputy, two photographers and one advertising manager.

The Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena and Antrim Times titles are thought to all be affected by the change to "editorship clusters".