Regional publisher Johnston Press reduced costs by £7.6m in the first half of 2015 as revenues fell by 4.6pc.
In its half-yearly results issued today, the group said it had been hit by a “slowdown” in general trading in the period April to June, although July had seen “some improvement.”
The figures showed revenues down 4.6pc at £128.9m compared to the first half of 2014, while pre-tax profits were up from £8.3m to £17.8m, reflecting reduced interest payments since the group’s refinancing deal last year.
The group also made cost savings totalling £7.6m in the period, although £2.6m of this was used to fund digital investment.
Digital audiences grew by 20pc to an average 19.9m monthly, while digital revenues increased from £14.1m to £16.5m, representing 20pc of all advertising revenues.
However print advertising revenues fell by 9.5pc to stand at £64.1m while circulation revenues fell 5.3pc to £37.1m.
Today’s report showed that the group’s net debt, which stood at £303m at the start of 2014, has since been reduced to £180m.
And it revealed that the ‘Newsroom of the Future’ initiative, which saw teams of journalists working across multiple titles, will be followed by a parallel project for advertising staff called ‘Salesforce of the Future.’
The report said: “The group continues to transform the business in line with the strategic priorities previously set out.
“The group has completed the first phase of a major structural change, implementing Newsroom of the Future (which aims to increase digital engagement, and arrest print decline rates, whilst improving operational efficiencies) across the group, and has commenced the planning and design for the implementation of Salesforce of the Future (a project aiming to increase customer penetration, focus on solution selling and improve digital upsell).”
Chief executive Ashley Highfield commented: “Trading conditions in the first half of 2015 have undoubtedly been challenging, with May and June being particularly difficult – a time when there was also a high degree of uncertainty in the wider market.
“However, we believe, local publishing, with SMEs representing 80pc of our advertising revenue, is not as volatile as national publishing.
“We have seen some improvement in reducing the decline in advertising revenues in July compared to July 2014. We will continue to drive for further improvement in revenues, albeit off a lower base, and will also continue to target further cost savings.
“Our strategy remains constant and is showing real traction. Digital now accounts for over 20pc of advertising revenues, up from 13pc two years ago.”