Pulitzer's Q3: No Ad Prizes

Pulitzer Inc. posted a flat third quarter in advertising revenues, although a spate of retail ads last year made for tough comparisons.

The newspaper publishing company's advertising revenues were $81.8 million in the third quarters of both 2003 and 2002. Many of the major categories were down slightly. Retail advertising fell to $28.4 million from $29 million a year ago, mostly because 2002's results had been boosted by $1.2 million in retail grand-opening ads at Pulitzer's St. Louis newspapers. But slight declines were posted in national (down to $6.4 million from $6.5 million a year ago) and classified (down to $32.4 million from $33.04 million in the third quarter of 2002). Excluding the grand-opening revenues, Pulitzer would have had a 1.4 percent increase in advertising revenues.

In St. Louis, total ad revenue was down 1.4 percent in the quarter, including a 0.7 percent decrease in retail because of the grand opening revenues.

"We had a tough hill to climb in St. Louis," said Robert C. Woodworth, president and chief executive officer of Pulitzer. But he said that excluding the one-time revenues from last year's third quarter, retail would have been 3 percent in the third quarter of 2003. National ad revenues rose 3.9 percent. Classified was down 3.8 percent, helped by an 11 percent drop in help wanted and a 4 percent drop in automotive. Real estate was up 3.4 percent in St. Louis.

In Tucson, where the company owns 50 percent of the Arizona Daily Star, comparable ad revenues were down 2.1 percent. Yet there, national advertising was down double-digits and classified, including help wanted, was up 8.8 percent. Mark G. Contreras, a senior vice president who runs the Tucson operation for Pulitzer, said about half of the decline in retail was because pharmaceutical companies didn't run ads this fall.

Pulitzer didn't provide projected revenues for the fourth quarter and full year, although it said that it stuck to its predictions on earnings per share. But Woodworth said that continued poor advertising in help wanted, automotive and retail was making achieving it would be "more challenging than originally anticipated."

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