A.H. Belo Newspaper Revenues Slip, Digital Up

Newspaper publishers had another weak quarter as last year drew to a close, although the rate of revenue decline is moderating somewhat. In the most recent results, A.H. Belo Corp. said it saw total revenues decrease 1% from $99.2 million to $98.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, reflecting continuing print advertising declines at The Dallas Morning News.

Total revenue from print and digital advertising and marketing services fell 4%, with display ad revenues down 8%, preprint 4% and classifieds 3%. The losses were all on the print side, as digital revenue increased 7% compared to the same quarter in 2012.

Digital ads -- especially 508 Digital and Speakeasy, a social content-marketing company formed as a joint venture between the newspaper and Slingshot LLC -- now carry native advertising.

Circulation revenue increased 2% to $31 million, thanks to higher prices for home delivery.

In October, The Dallas Morning News scrapped its online paywall and reverted to the free access model, although the newspaper is still offering a “premium digital experience” subscription for $2.99 per week, which will include enhanced design and navigation, less advertising and increased personalization. A new loyalty program offers subscribers perks, like tickets to the Texas State Fair and exclusive access to events hosted by the newspaper.

A.H. Belo chairman, president and CEO Jim Moroney noted that at the flagship paper, “growth in revenues from new products and services offset about 60% of the core print advertising revenue declines in the fourth quarter and about 70% of these declines for the full-year 2013.”

A.H. Belo also firmed up its balance sheet by selling The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California, to Freedom Communications for just over $27 million in the fourth quarter of the year. The company continues to explore a possible sale of The Providence Journal in Providence, RI. Like other big publishers, including The New York Times Co., A.H. Belo has been selling off smaller properties to focus on its flagship brand.

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