JOHNSTON Press chief executive Ashley Highfield has said that local press will be printing newspapers “for decades to come” because many consumers prefer to read a paper in print rather than online.

The News Media Association reports that Mr Ashley was speaking on the BBC radio’s Today programme on Friday when he said that people who have written off the industry have overlooked the fact that the industry is approaching a tipping point at which digital revenues cancel out print declines.

Speaking about the role of local press in a global news and information environment, Mr Highfield said:  “I think at our best we are the glue that helps bind communities together. We provide news and information and entertainment for those communities.

We can hold elected officials to account but perhaps most importantly we can champion local communities and then help local and increasingly national businesses reach those ever growing audiences across print and of course increasingly online.”

Audiences up during election period

Mr Highfield said both print and online audiences for Johnston Press were up between 20 and 30 per cent during the election period.

Talking about industry trends, Mr Highfield said: “Newspaper sales will continue to decline but slowly and we’re seeing that rate of decline starting to level out and I think newspapers will be with us for a very long time.

Mr Highfield said that a lot of people preferred the “serendipity” and ease of picking up a printed newspapers.  “Online, people go there for breaking news, traffic, travel, weather, football headlines, but in the paper they’ll sit back and read a more in depth article about a complicated planning permission or keeping the local hospital open, and so that’s why we’re finding, let’s say for families, they will both buy the paper and they’ll go online.