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October 7, 2015updated 08 Oct 2015 2:52pm

Johnston Press announces closures of 11 free titles to focus on ‘digital offering’

By William Turvill

Johnston Press has announced the closures of 11 free newspapers. (Picture: Shutterstock)

The regional publisher has axed eight free print titles in the Midlands and folded a further three into paid-for titles in the North West and South.

The company announced the closures in a statement to shareholders this morning in an update on its “cost reduction programme”.

Johnston Press said the closures will “allow the group to focus resources on its digital offering in those and adjoining markets where the growth potential of digital is stronger”.

The closed newspapers are: the Peterborough Citizen, Norfolk Citizen, Rugby Review, Northampton Mercury, Dronfield Advertiser, Eckington Leader, Peak Courier, Sheffield Gazette, South Elms Gazette, South Bognor View and the Lutterworth Mail.

Asked if there would be any job losses as a result of the closures, Johnston Press said: "As part of our ongoing cost-cutting programme, where there are inefficiencies, including headcount, we will evaluate on a case by case basis."

The company also announced in the statement the launch of a new responsive website for the Scotsman newspaper.

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Johnston Press's interim results for the first half of 2015 showed its operating profit had fallen 4.3 per cent year-on-year to £27m. Its total revenue was down 4.6 per cent to £128.9m in the six months. Advertising revenue was down 5.1 per cent to £80.6m. Within this figure, print advertising revenue was down 9.5 per cent to £64.1m and digital revenue was up 17.5 per cent to £16.5m.

Regional publishing rival Trinity Mirror has closed 19 newspapers in the past year.

According to Press Gazette research, more than 300 local newspaper have closed over the last ten years and around 100 new titles have launched.

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