'USA Today' Struggles but Execs Point to Strong March

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NEW YORK ( -- Gannett Co. posted an 8% increase in net income for the first quarter, thanks to better performance by its broadcasting unit and cost-cutting in its newspaper units.

Net income rose to $243.6 million from $225.5 million after factoring out the effects of accounting changes, while revenues dropped 3.2% to $1.52 billion, from $1.57 billion in 2001.

A 7.4% increase in TV revenue partially offset a 5% drop in newspaper advertising revenue. The television properties benefited from Olympic-related advertising during February, said Douglas McCorkindale, Gannett's chairman and president-CEO. He estimated Olympic-related spending at $25 million to $30 million.

'No positive signs'
"There are no big positive signs on the horizon, except ... in the TV category. But on print, it's just a cautious, slow movement," Mr. McCorkindale said.

Advertisers are continuing to book ads close to deadline, which makes forecasting difficult, he said. For the time being, Gannett's management will continue to run the company as if the economy is still in recession, he added.

Gannett's flagship newspaper, USA Today, showed a 9% decline in advertising revenue and a 12% decline in ad pages for the quarter. The national daily showed some improvement in February thanks to Olympics-related advertising, and some important categories such as travel, autos and technology have showed sequential improvement in the quarter, Mr. McCorkindale said.

He pointed out that travel advertising, which was down 18% for the quarter, was up 14% in March and technology was flat for the quarter but up 5% in March.

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