McClatchy Digital-Only Sales Rise

McClatchy Co. said digital ad sales declined 2% during the fourth quarter. The publisher, however, attributed the year-over-year decline to the fact that it bundles digital sales with print advertising.

Year-over-year, McClatchy said digital-only sales increased 7.5% during the fourth quarter.

“We continue to see good results from digital-only revenue initiatives, including our dealsaver group-buying product,” Gary Pruitt, McClatchy CEO, said Tuesday. According to Pruitt, digital-only revenues were helped by strong growth in retail digital-only sales, which rose 9.9%, and automotive digital-only sales,  up 17.7%.

That said, total digital advertising still only represents 19.9% of the company’s total advertising revenue -- compared to 18.1% in 2010.

During the quarter, Classified Ventures -- a Web company in which McClatchy own a 25.6% stake -- paid out a dividend of $17.4 million in December. Classified Ventures owns the auto Web site Cars.com, and the rental site Apartments.com. 

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Also, CareerBuilder -- in which McClatchy holds a 15% stake -- paid out a dividend of $7.5 million.

“We are especially pleased with the performance of our Internet investments,” Pruitt said on Tuesday. “These companies provide important products to our newspaper Web sites and are strategic partners in our digital success.”

To date, Dealsaver has been launched in every McClatchy market.

More broadly, McClatchy said ad revenues declined 5.7% in the fourth quarter -- an improvement on the first three quarters of 2011, when ad revenues consistently decreased in the 10% range. Pruitt attributed the improvement to strong growth in digital-only advertising, as well as retail, direct marketing and national advertising.

"Much of the improvement in the ad revenue trend occurred in November, but each of the months in the fourth quarter of 2011 was better than the trends through the first nine months of the year,” Pruitt said. “Advertising revenues were down 8.7% in October, 2.4% in November and 5.9% in December.”

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