Johnston Press, the debt-laden regional newspaper publisher currently trying to cut its Irish workforce, said the decline in its advertising sales had worsened in recent months but predicted that circulation sales would recover in the fourth quarter.
The UK company, which publishes the 'Kilkenny People', 'Limerick Leader' and 'Leitrim Observer' in Ireland, said total sales fell 11.4pc in the past 18 weeks. Stripping out once-off factors such as newspaper closures and turning daily titles to weeklies, circulation revenue slipped 0.5pc while total print and digital advertising revenues were down 14pc. Shares slumped as much as 17pc in London following the news.
Johnston Press, which recently launched a voluntary redundancy programme at its Irish titles and forced some editors to re-apply for their jobs, is struggling to make money here and in the UK where it owns many more papers including the 'Scotsman' and the 'Yorkshire Post'.
"Difficult market conditions mean that trading in the second half of 2012 has been even more challenging than in the first," the company said. "The results also include the impact of moving a number of titles from daily to weekly, the closure of titles, and changes to the contract printing operations."
The Edinburgh-based publisher said the "successful" re-launch of 54 paid-for titles had contributed to a slowing of the group's year-on-year circulation revenue decline and it now expects year-on-year growth in circulation revenues in the final quarter.
The digital audience is rising with monthly website visitors showing a 25pc increase to 9.8m in October compared to the same month last year, it said.
"While market conditions have been even tougher than expected, we have made good progress in restructuring our operations, reducing the cost base, maintaining focus on debt reduction and continuing to invest in growth areas," chief executive Ashley Highfield added.