Gannett newspaper ad revenue falls in fourth quarter

NEW YORK Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:52am EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Print advertising revenue at Gannett Co declined in the fourth quarter, and shares of the largest U.S. newspaper chain fell 4 percent.

Advertising revenue at the company's publishing division fell almost 6 percent to $722.3 million from a year earlier, mainly due to weakness at national newspaper USA Today and the UK newspaper division.

In the third quarter, publishing advertising revenue was down 5.1 percent.

"In terms of top line, it's pretty much what we expected, but great increases in broadcast and digital revenue still aren't going to mitigate declines in publishing," said Morningstar analyst Joscelyn MacKay. "It's a newspaper company at the end of the day."

Gannett's results, which are considered a bellwether in the newspaper industry, followed those of Media General, which also reported a slide in revenue at its publishing division.

The newspaper industry has been struggling to lift its ad revenue as other media, like broadcast, enjoy a rebound in marketing spending.

At USA Today, paid advertising pages for the quarter totaled 680, compared with 705 a year earlier. Gains made with travel and financial advertising failed to offset softness in other key categories, including automotive and telecommunications.

Total revenue at Gannett rose 0.4 percent to $1.46 billion, compared with the analysts' average forecast of $1.47 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue at Gannett's broadcast stations rose 27 percent to $232.8 million on strong political advertising.

Excluding special items, Gannett reported earnings of 83 cents per share, above the analysts' forecast of 80 cents.

Quarterly net income from continuing operations was $174.1 million, or 72 cents per share, compared with $133.6 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.

Shares of Gannett fell 4 percent to $14.59 in morning trading.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba, editing by Maureen Bavdek and Lisa Von Ahn)

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