New Johnston Press chief Highfield: 'Print is not dead'

Former BBC online editor Ashley Highfield, who this month took over as chief executive of regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press, has declared that “newspapers in print are not dead”.

His comments came after the publisher announced advertising revenue had fallen 8 per cent in the 18 weeks to 5 November, an improvement on the 10 per cent drop seen in the first half of the year.

Highfield replaced John Fry as chief executive on 1 November, joining from Microsoft where was vice president of its consumer and online business.

Before that he was the editor-in-chief of BBC Online – and unsurprisingly he is now eyeing digital growth of the Edinburgh-based company, where digital income rose 4.4 per cent in the second half of the year.

‘I took the job with my eyes open knowing that the regional press has structural challenges,’he told The Herald.

‘The opportunities are very clear with Johnston Press, as with other regional publishers, because the brands of the local newspapers are incredibly strong in local communities.

‘The trick is to help move those brands into the digital age and get the right balance between print and digital.

‘However, it is not exclusive. I do see an opportunity for stabilising and, hopefully, in a number of areas increasing circulation revenue as well.”

Highfield added: ‘It is quite clear to me that newspapers in print are not dead. It is about finding what audiences need and what mixture of print and digital products to offer them.”

Yesterday the company announced it had entered into talks to refinance its £357m debt.

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