Ashley Highfield: 'Regional press not like The Guardian where people stop buying print and consume online'

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield believes the decline of print may be “levelling off”.

Highfield (pictured) said that digital audience growth is “far outweighing any decline in print”, but added that he does not “want cannabilisation of what is our biggest source of revenue (print)”.

“The great thing about the regional press is it’s not like The Guardian where people stop buying print and consume online,” he told InPublishing.

“Actually we have pretty much created a new audience online who never bought us in print.”

On print, Highfield said: “I think that we can look at our more successful newspapers and say that the level of decline is levelling off…

“The Portsmouth News has managed to slow its rate of decline down to low single digits. Am I thinking, is there going to be a point where we can turn that round? There might be.”

In the interview, he also spoke about the “percentage between what we write [Johnston Press has shed 1,300 staff since Highfield took over three years ago] and what our readers contribute” shifting.

He used the example of a gardening column, written by the owner of a local garden centre, for the Harrogate Advertiser.

Asked by InPublishing if this equated to native advertising, Highfield said: “No, because the article is pure and simple about gardening. It’s not advertising just contributed content.

"But I do see native advertising as an important part of the mix, although it needs to be well-managed and sign-posted and not overwhelming.”

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