Trinity Mirror has suffered an 8 per cent drop in digital revenues in the past six months, underlining the problems that the owner of the Daily Mirror group faces in offsetting falling sales of its newspapers.
Online recruitment advertising slumped by a quarter and the chief executive, Simon Fox, blamed a "wrong decision" to close regional sales offices and centralise recruitment, a move he has reversed.
Leaving aside recruitment, digital income was little better than flat and it contributed £19.1m overall as turnover fell by 8.5 per cent to £332m.
Trinity's performance contrasted sharply with those of Guardian Media Group and Daily Mail & General Trust, which recently reported double-digit growth in digital earnings that has compensated for declines in their print newspaper circulations. Mr Fox conceded Trinity was lagging behind but said: "That's OK because I think we can catch up fast."
Mr Fox said he would keep Trinity's websites and mobile apps free to users and added he hoped to pick up online readers from the Mirror's red-top rival The Sun, which put its digital content behind a paywall yesterday.
Half-year pre-tax profits were steady at £30.3m as Fox slashed costs, including 200 jobs. He warned press advertising, down 12 per cent, was "incredibly volatile", with furniture ads badly hit by the recent warm weather.