Regional publisher Johnston Press says it is continuing to explore the possible sale of some of its 200-plus local newspaper titles following the acqusition of national daily the i.
In a trading update issued this morning ahead of its annual general meeting later today, JP revealed a 13.7pc drop in revenues for the first four months of 2016.
This included a 5.7pc drop in digital revenues in the period January to March, although this was followed by a 4.5pc increase in April.
The update reported that overall advertising revenues for the period were down 16.9pc on those of the previous year.
It said: “The sector has continued to experience challenging trading conditions and volatility in the advertising market in the first quarter, which began to show signs of improvement in April.
“Johnston Press remains focused on increasing audiences, providing creative solutions for our advertisers, further cost reduction and integration and growth within the i.
“The group has continued to invest in relaunching websites for our primary titles including rolling out 15 new fully responsive, mobile-first platforms giving users a better, faster experience on any device.
“Following the completion of the i acquisition, we continue to explore the disposal of certain assets, with a view to deleveraging the balance sheet and further reducing financing costs.”
Earlier this year the company announced it had identified a series of assets for potential sales following a “portfolio review.”
It said the titles in question either fell outside its selected markets, or did not match the audience focus, or did not offer the levels of digital growth sought by the group.
At the same time, it identified a list of 59 daily and weekly newspaper titles which it considers to be “sub-core.”
Today’s update revealed what the company termed “contrasting trends” in digital revenues with recruitment advertising performing poorly and display advertising relatively well.
Digital employment revenues were down 22.8pc in the period January to April, while digital display and transaction revenues were up 5.8pc in the period January to March and 15.6pc in April.
The company said the latter increase had been driven by “strong growth” in its national display advertising platform 1XL and in Google ad word sales.
JP’s digital audience grew by 22.7pc on average year on year to 24.1m unique users in April, with over half the audience now viewing content on a responsive site.