Early Returns On Major Newspaper Companies Show Results Are Up

It may not be the strong growth that publishers would want, but the early returns from major newspaper companies have found that results were up across the board in May.

Not all of the publicly traded newspaper companies have reported so far. The rest should be in by the end of this week. But some of the highlights include The Wall Street Journal in a mixed but still up position, and larger newspaper groups like Gannett, Knight Ridder, and Scripps in positive territory.

The Journal has had one of the toughest climbs out of the doldrums as any in either the newspaper business or the media as a whole, having been hit not only by a downturn in newspapers but a business-to-business market that has been incredibly slow to recover. That didn't really change in May, as the strong gains in linage in the general advertising category were offset by sharp drops in both technical and financial advertising. But total linage was up 5.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Dow Jones, which publishes the Journal, is alone among big newspaper publishers--it does not release a monthly revenue statement. Even the linage data it provides only gives percentages.



General linage rose 16.2 percent with several categories--travel, corporate, aviation, health care, and media--increasing while office products and automotive advertising were down. A loss in computer hardware and software ads hurt The Journal's technical advertising--down 19.8 percent. Retail financial and tombstone ads also fell, and although wholesale financial ads were on the increase, it wasn't enough to erase a 9.1 percent decline.

At the same time, one of the two other national daily newspapers reported another strong May. USA Today's ad revenues rose 10.9 percent on a 1 percent increase in paid ad pages. USA Today showed strength in entertainment, automotive, telecommunications, and packaged goods, while travel and technology were weaker in May.

Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper company, had another upbeat month. Total ad revenues on the newspaper side rose 9 percent, with a 1.4 percent rise in volume. Classified ad revenues rose 13.1 percent, including a rise of 25 percent in the help-wanted category and a real estate section that took in about 9.5 percent more revenues. Automotive advertising was flat. Local advertising revenues were up 4.9 percent at Gannett, but ad volume was flat. Strong categories included grocery, health, financial, and telecommunications. Department stores and consumer electronics revenues fell.

Knight Ridder, a newspaper pure play, reported Tuesday that total ad revenues rose 2.9 percent in May on their way to a 2 percent increase year-to-date. Retail was up only slightly in May, although national and classified were both up. Classified employment was up 16.2 percent, with 25 of Knight Ridder's 27 newspapers in positive territory there.

E.W. Scripps, which owns a portfolio of daily newspapers along with its cable networks, had growth of 8 percent in May ad revenues. Local was up 4.5 percent to $14.5 million, classified up 8.7 percent to $20.1 million, and national up 6.4 percent to $3.4 million.

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