Ad Revenues for Dailies up in First Quarter Results

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NEW YORK ( -- Gannett Co. posted mixed results in the first quarter, partly due to comparisons to last year's period that included heavy ad spending behind the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Gannett, parent company of national daily USA Today and 99 other local dailies, posted net income of $249.8 million, up 2.6% from the year-ago period, on revenues of $1.55 billion, also up 2.6%. Advertising revenues rose 2% for the quarter, thanks to a 5% increase in classified revenue, which offset flat local advertising and a 3% drop in national ads.

TV revenue down
Television revenue dropped 5% below

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last year's numbers, compared to the year-ago quarter, when Olympic and political advertising totaled $30 million, said Gannett Chairman-CEO Douglas McCorkindale. Gannett's TV division includes 22 stations in the U.S.

Mr. McCorkindale said local newspaper advertising had been up 2% in the first two months of the quarter, but fell flat in March, as marketers were reluctant to run ads as war broke out in Iraq. He also noted that last year Easter fell in March as well, adding additional ad revenue to the year-ago quarter. National advertising had also been up 2% in the early part of this past quarter but dropped in March, he said.

Some advertising categories have remained strong throughout the nearly monthlong war, Mr. McCorkindale said, pointing to local health care and financial advertising, as well as real estate classified. He also noted that national automotive, pharmaceutical, technology, financial and entertainment ads rose.

The weak categories included local department store, consumer electronic and telecommunications advertising, and national travel advertising, which declined 14% for the quarter and 47% in March alone, mostly due to the "uncertain geopolitical environment," Mr. McCorkindale said.

April rebound
Advertising cancellations and postponements have declined "substantially" in April from where they were in late March, Mr. McCorkindale said. April TV sales are pacing up in the mid-single-digit percentages, but he added the situation remains volatile and visibility is still limited in the short term.

"The signs are getting positive each day, but it's too early," he said.

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