Daily Mail & General Trust, which owns the Daily Mail newspaper, provided further evidence of the drought in recruitment advertising as it reported difficult trading conditions in its consumer divisions.

At Northcliffe Newspapers, which owns regional titles such as the Hull Daily Mail and Western Morning News, recruitment revenues dropped 16 per cent. But the company said the rate of decline in recruitment revenues had slowed, from 19 per cent in the first quarter to 12 per cent in January and February.”

Excluding recruitment revenues advertising revenues were 3 per cent lower.

The news may fuel concerns that readers’ changing patterns of media consumption are having an impact on the business and that the decline in regional newspaper advertising is more structural than cyclical.

It follows news last week from Johnston Press which saw the decline in its revenues from job listings accelerating from 12.1 to 23.7 per cent between the first half and second halves of last year, echoing a similar statement the previous week from Trinity Mirror.

DMGT, which was updating the market ahead of its half year end on April 2, said advertising revenues decreased by 9 per cent at Associated Newspapers, its national newspaper division whose stable includes the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. This reflected “well reported difficulties within the market.”

Associated’s newspaper display advertising revenues fell 10 per cent in the five months to February 2006, while classified advertising revenues were down 11 per cent for the same period.

“Although visibility on future advertising performance is very limited, there have been recent signs that the year-on-year decline in advertising revenues may ease in the second half of the financial year, but in any event all cost areas are being rigidly controlled with significant savings flowing through,” DMGT said.

Digital advertising revenues at Associated Newspapers online brands such as Prime Locations rose by 43 per cent year on year and continued to show signs of encouraging growth.

Associated’s UK advertising revenues for the five months to February 2006 as a whole were 9 per cent below the comparable period last year, with the first quarter down 8 per cent while the decline in January and February was 9 per cent.

At DMGT’s information publishing division, revenue growth year on year was 20 per cent. At its financial publishing arm, trade followed a similar pattern to last year.

Overall, the group was on track for a “satisfactory year”.

DMGT will be reporting interim results for the half year on May 25 ahead of its half year end on April 2.

It emerged earlier this week that DMGT was understood to be in talks to sell the Scottish arm of its local-papers division for up to £120m.

The news followed a decision last month to abort the auction of its entire local and regional newspapers, through which it had hoped to raise £1.3bn. It pulled the sale when it received offers of only about £1.2bn for a unit that generates profits of £101m from more than 100 titles.

DMGT had shocked the market when it put the regional division up for sale in November. Industry experts saw it as an admission that the long-term prospects for the industry were being compromised by the internet.

Shares were down 1.2 per cent in early trade at 688½p.

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