Johnston Press is ready to wield the axe after more disappointing results

Johnston Press saw its pre-tax profits plummet 56 per cent to just £43m last year, dragged further into the doldrums by the ongoing advertising drought.

Like-for-like ad revenue fell 26.5 per cent and total group revenues fell 20 per cent to £428m. Britain’s regional newspaper industry has been hammered by a severe downturn in advertising and the move of classified adverts from newspapers to online.

Johnston, which runs 18 daily and 300 weekly newspapers, and more than 300 local websites, including The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, has been particularly hard hit by a fall in ad spending linked to higher unemployment, lower demand for car sales and the fragile housing market.

Johnston said to cut its dependency on ad revenues it was testing whether to charge people to read content online. It said no decision had yet been taken on imposing paywalls on its websites.

The results have raised the prospect of further job cuts, described as “inevitable” by the Scotsman and Yorkshire Evening Post publisher.