Johnston Press said its 2005 results were held back by the worst market conditions in more than a decade.
And the regional publisher - which owns such titles as the Chronicle and Echo newspapers in Northampton and the Telegraph and Citizen in Peterborough - warned there had been no rebound in advertising spending.
Echoing a raft of rival media companies, Johnston Press said the advertising market remained "challenging" in the early weeks of 2006.
Chief executive Tim Bowdler said: "The trading environment in 2005 proved to be more difficult for the regional press than at any time since the early 1990s."
For 2005, the group reported revenues of £520.2 million, compared with £519.3 million in the previous year, with pretax profits rising to £151.4 million from £149.8 million, in line with expectations.
Advertising revenues fell some 3.7 per cent over the course of the period, with a slide of 1.5 per cent in the first half compounded by a drop of six per cent in the second half of the year.
Regional newspapers have suffered over the past 12 months, with a slowdown in the economy and a migration of recruitment and other classified ads to the internet both contributing to steep falls in marketing spending.
But Mr Bowdler insisted the market was not in long-term decline, and the current slump was merely a product of broader economic weakness.
"We are confident that this advertising downturn was primarily cyclical in nature reflecting weaker consumer confidence, partly fuelled by a flatter property market and a cutback in recruitment by a number of employers," he said.