The first quarter of 2012 brought no respite for the beleaguered newspaper industry, with another round of sizeable declines in advertising revenue, judging by some of the early financial results reported by big newspaper publishers.
Gannett Co., which has often served as a bellwether for the newspaper industry in general, saw total publishing revenues decline 6% to $874 million in the first quarter of 2012. This was due largely to an 8.3% decline in advertising revenues to $551 million, with retail ad revenue down 7.6%, national ad revenue down 13.3% and classifieds down 6.6%.
Within Gannett’s U.S. classifieds business, automotive slipped 2.4%, employment was down 1.5%, and real estate tumbled 14.2%.
The New York Times Co., another industry leader, saw total advertising revenues slip 8.1% to $238 million, including a 6.1% drop at its news media group, which chairman and CEO Arthur Sulzberger Jr. attributed in part to “the uneven U.S. economic environment and uncertain global conditions.”
Sulzberger added that “print advertising revenue trends were similar to those in the fourth quarter of 2011,” suggesting no change in the long-term downwards trend. NYTCO’s national ad revenues dropped 6% to $146 million, while retail slid 0.8% to $34.3 million, and classifieds tumbled 10% to $30.3 million.
Within the classifieds category, automotive fell 7.4%, employment 5.5%, and real estate 16.9%. On the plus side, the decline in ad revenues was mostly offset by increased circulation revenues from NYTCO’s online paywalls at The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and Boston Globe.
Media General, the third-largest newspaper publisher, saw total revenues increase slightly, growing 0.4% to $150 million, due to improved results from its broadcast TV stations and online properties. These were mostly offset by a decline in print ad revenues. Print ad revenues fell at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Media General’s Charlottesville group, with classifieds down 12%, national down 1% and local down 2.8% in this market segment.
In MG's Florida market segment, total revenues decreased 5.8% due to a 12% drop in local revenues and a 14% decrease in classifieds; national revenues were basically flat, with a less than 1% decline.