Revenue for newspaper publisher Johnston Press went down by almost 10 per cent in 2017, its results released today have shown.
Even an "exceptional" first full year of trading from the i, which the group bought in 2016, could not push earnings up.
Overall revenue was down 9.5 per cent from 2016, to £201.6m, while adjusted EBITDA stood at £40.1m, down from £43.9m the previous year.
Adjusted revenue came to £201.2m, a 4.5 per cent drop from 2016.
Johnston owns national short-form newspaper the i as well as 200 local titles including the Yorkshire Post and the Scotsman.
The trading environment remained "challenging", Johnston said, as publishers continue to be hit by advertisers increasingly moving on to online platforms like Facebook.
"Comparatives do get harder and we expect to see continued pressure on revenues, and the requirement for cost savings," the company added.
It also explained that there was a need for "cost savings" to be delivered in the next year.
Total advertising revenue for the company dropped 18.3 per cent to £100.2m in 2017.
In print, advertising revenue dropped 20.1 per cent, partly due to the sale of its Midland's and East Anglia titles.
Encouraging signs from the i
Despite this, the i turned out remarkable results, as advertising revenue went up 27 per cent alongside a 20 per cent increase in newspaper circulation revenue.
Overall, it delivered adjusted EBITDA of £9.3m, and is expected to continue its success with revenue up 21 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter.
Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press admitted that 2017 had been a "tough year" for the sector.
Across our regional portfolio of titles national print advertising tracked in line with prior year in the first quarter of 2018, with advertisers starting to increase spend in regional print," he said.
This trend is driven by a somewhat stronger overall advertising market, our ability to precisely target audiences using ‘big data’, and improving sentiment towards quality print publishers in the wake of the Fake News and social media trust concerns.
The news follows Highfield batting off criticism last year when Johnston's second largest shareholder tried to oust chair Camilla Rhodes.