UPDATE 2.50pm APN News and Media boss Brett Chenoweth is adamant there is a future for local newspapers despite his admission that times are tough in the publishing industry.
APN, which owns regional newspapers and radio stations across Australia and New Zealand, posted a loss of $319.4 million in the six months to June 30 after it took $485 million off the value of its New Zealand publishing business.
Mr Chenoweth said the earnings decline in its publishing business was caused by weak advertising markets, a contraction in commercial printing and the investment made in the transition to digital.
But he said he still believed there was a future in the publishing industry.
“We’re believers in news media generally, whether its newspapers or the digital versions,” he said.
“We think that its challenging. There’s no doubt that it’s challenging we’ve got more readership than ever before it’s really the advertisers that have gone a bit stale on newspaper advertising.”
He said company was trying to stimulate advertising markets with more online and digital offerings and converting broadsheet papers such as the New Zealand Herald to tabloid form.
“All the media has changed and our responsibility is to make the media exciting,” he said.
However, he said he did not think paywalls would work for regional newspapers.
“I think it’ll be a long time before the Toowoomba Chronicle has a paywall,” he said.
APN’s New Zealand publishing business posted earnings of $21.7 million, down 20 per cent from the previous corresponding period.
Earnings for its Australian publishing division dropped nine per cent to $21.2 million.
Mr Chenoweth said if current conditions in the publishing industry continued then earnings from the combined publishing operations would post similar falls in the second half of calendar 2012.
However, earnings from APN’s Australian radio business lifted 11 per cent on the previous corresponding period.
Its outdoor advertising business also performed well, but its earnings were diluted by APN’s recently announced sales of half of the business in a joint venture with a private equity firm, Mr Chenoweth said.
Shares in APN closed five cents, or 10.64 per cent, lower at 42 cents.