Newspapers Report Grim First-Quarter Results

Ad Revenues From Web Operations Become More Important to Publishers

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NEW YORK ( -- Newspapers made a bit of a grim display this week when they reported their first-quarter earnings, revealing profit declines at The New York Times Co., Tribune Co., McClatchy Co. and powerhouse Gannett Co., but displayed at every turn the rising importance of the Web to their businesses.
The Tribune Co.'s earnings fell 28%; McClatchy Co. was down 14.2%.
The Tribune Co.'s earnings fell 28%; McClatchy Co. was down 14.2%.

The New York Times Co. reported perhaps the brightest results yesterday, even though first-quarter profit fell 68.5% to $35 million from $111 million a year earlier. That apparent free fall, however, mostly reflected the extra income in last year's first quarter when the company sold its headquarters in Times Square. boosts Times Co.
The Web played a big role in the company's overall respectable results. Ad revenue rose 3.9% in the first quarter to $554.6 million, up from $533.8 million in the year previous quarter. The Times Co. ad increases were largely delivered by; without that property, ad revenue would have increased just 0.7%.

Earnings per share were 4 cents, a penny higher than the analysts' consensus expectation compiled by Thomson Financial.

"Our results in the first quarter reflect higher advertising and circulation revenues at The New York Times Media Group and the Regional Media Group, in part due to the introduction of innovative new products," said Janet L. Robinson, president-CEO. But The Boston Globe's unit, The New England Media Group, was again hit hard by consolidation among advertisers and a tough competitive environment, she said.

Tribune looks to Web assets
Another heavy-hitter, The Tribune Co., reported yesterday that its first-quarter earnings also fell to the tune of 28%, with flat ad revenue. The Tribune owns newspapers including The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. Tribune expects online ad revenues to contribute about $350 million in 2006; it counts a stake a among its Web assets.

McClatchy Co., which agreed last month to buy Philadelphia Inquirer parent Knight Ridder, reported a 14.2% decline in first-quarter net income. Ad revenue at McClatchy, which houses newspapers including the Sacramento Bee, grew 1.4% to $237.1 million.

The powerhouse that is Gannett turned in perhaps the most surprising report on April 12, announcing that net income sank 11.5% in the first quarter. Its newspapers' ad revenue grew 5.7% to nearly $1.3 billion, but that factors in acquisitions without which first-quarter ad revenue would actually have fallen 1.8%. At its flagship USA Today, ad revenues declined 4.2%.
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