The fourth quarter of last year didn’t bring much good news for newspaper publishers, judging by some of the first results announced this week by Gannett Co., which serves as a bellwether for the rest of the newspaper industry.
Total revenues at Gannett fell 5.1% from $1.46 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010 to $1.39 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the company, which attributed the drop to a weak print advertising demand, as well as the absence of political advertising associated with the 2010 midterm elections. (The latter mostly impacting the company's broadcast TV operations.)
In the fourth quarter, Gannett’s publishing division revenues declined 5.3% to $1.01 billion, as total advertising revenues slipped 7.1% to $670.7 million. Like other big newspaper publishers, ad revenue declines were spread across all the major categories, with retail down 5.8%, national down 9.1% and classifieds down 8.4% in the fourth quarter. Within the classifieds category, automotive was down 6.5%, employment slipped 2.6% and real estate fell 12.9%.
In addition, Gannett’s broadcasting revenues slipped 14.2% to $199.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. As noted, this was due mostly to the absence of political advertising, which accounted for $47.5 million in revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Removing political advertising from the comparison, total TV revenues were actually up 11%, due in part to strong automotive advertising.
Another bright spot was digital revenues, which increased 6.5% to $290.3 million in the fourth quarter, due primarily to strong growth at CareerBuilder, the company’s online classifieds service for employment.
For the full year, Gannett’s total revenues declined from $5.44 billion in 2010 to $5.24 billion in 2011. This was likewise attributed to weaker print advertising demand, with total publishing advertising revenues for the year decreasing 7.4% to $2.51 billion. Publishing circulation revenues edged down 2.1% to $1.063 billion, while full-year broadcasting revenues slipped 6.1% to $722.4 million.
However, digital revenues for the full year were up 10.1% to $1.1 billion, accounting for 21% of the company's total operating revenues.