Newspaper Publishers Buck Trend, Boost August Ad Volume

While ad spending in some major media began to slowdown in August, it increased 2% among major U.S. newspaper publishers, according to a MediaDailyNews compilation of estimates from ten publicly traded newspaper companies.

The group tallied $1.05 billion in ad revenues in the four-week period in August, which is generally considered a slow month in the newspaper business. Fortunes were boosted throughout the sector by the five Sunday newspapers published in August, compared to the four that fell in August 2002. Sundays are the most lucrative days for newspaper publishers, where the inserts and run-of-press ads in retail, real estate and automotive are the strongest. But the opposite is true in September, which has only four Sundays this year compared to five in 2002.

While that was good for some newspaper companies - E.W. Scripps, for instance, saw total ad revenues rise 8% in August - August wasn't a good month for either Knight Ridder or The New York Times. Knight Ridder's ad revenues dropped 2% to $161.61 million, a loss of $2.6 million compared to August 2002. Total ad revenue at The New York Times was flat at $121.6 million.

August & Year-To-Date Ad Results (In Millions)


Publisher August Ad Dollar YTD Ad Dollars
Gannett $323.9 +3% $2,833.1 +4%
Journal Register $23.2 +1% $196.6 +1%
Knight Ridder $161.6 -2% $1,438.3 NC
Lee Enterprises $20.8 NC $222.4 +1%
McClatchy $70.1 +3% $591.5 +3%
Media General $33.7 +3% $289.1 +3%
NY Times Co. $121.7 NC $1,220.6 +3%
Pulitzer $25.6 +3% $216.5 +1%
E.W. Scripps $46.5 +8% $356.2 +3%
Tribune $226.4 +2% $2,017.3 +3%
Total $1,053.5 +2% $9,381.7 +3%

Source: MediaPost compilation of data from company statistical reports. NC = No change.

Year-to-date, all but one of the major newspaper companies have been showing low single-digit gains. Gannett saw a 4% increase in ad revenues compared to the same period in 2002, and several other companies - including McClatchy, Scripps, Tribune, Media General and The New York Times Co. - saw 3% increases. Knight Ridder was the only company to see a decline in year-to- date, with a $1 million fall in ad revenues that amounted to a less than 1% decline.

Two bellwether ad categories, retail and classified, were both flat in a collective analysis of the 10 newspaper companies. Classified ad revenue rose $1.59 million (less than 1%) while retail revenues dropped $1.7 million (less than 1%) in August compared to the same four-week period in 2002. Knight Ridder reported a 3% drop in retail ad revenues in August, down to $80.3 million compared to the same period a year ago. Media General also lost 3% to $9.79 million. E.W. Scripps, Tribune and Journal Register posted 1% declines in retail revenue while Gannett and The New York Times Co. posted 1% increases. Lee Enterprises, owner of 38 daily newspapers in mid-size markets mostly in the northern half of the country and part owner of six others, saw retail sales rise 2%. The Davenport, Iowa-based newspaper company purchased 16 newspapers in 2002 but said retail advertising revenue in the continuously owned newspapers rose 5.4% in August and 2.6% by the end of August. Still, the company's top executive said advertising demand remains sluggish and uneven.

Knight-Ridder said retail was soft in all of its markets, with the company taking a particular hit in department store advertising and home improvement/home furnishing.

Classified was a mixed bag for the newspaper companies, with swings of a 7% increase for E.W. Scripps to a 6% drop for Knight Ridder. Classified is down 4.9% for the year at Knight Ridder. At the Boston Globe, New York Times executives said help wanted has shown signs of bottoming out with a 3% increase in ad sales for its semi-annual recruitment section bolstering spirits. At the Journal Register Co., whose daily and weekly newspapers are located in the Northeast, classified jumped 5% on the strength of automotive and real estate ads.

Only national ad revenues - reported at all but three of the 10 - rose by 6% to $1.03 billion. Double-digit increases were reported in national advertising at Media General, Pulitzer and E.W. Scripps. Much of the national advertising increases were due to a rise in spending by telecommunications companies, which boosted totals at Media General and Pulitzer. Media General said national ad revenue had steadily improved since April and both telecommunications and financial ads at The Tampa Tribune and telecom ads in the Richmond Times-Dispatch helped. Pulitzer said telecom boosted national advertising at its newspapers.

Telecom and automotive were strong, Knight-Ridder said.

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