Earnings Reports Reveal Secular Trends In The Media Industry

The old saying goes “follow the money.”

If you want to know the truth, if you want to know what really happened — or what’s really happening — in politics, media and business — follow the money.

It’s earnings season, the period after the close of each quarter when public companies report their financial performance. In this case, it’s the third quarter. I’ve done several articles on earnings reports in the last few days, and read several more.

In that spirit, there is a lot you can learn a lot from publicly traded media-company earnings reports. Here are some observations.

Legacy media companies continue to lag others.
Meredith, for example, reported revenue of $708 million for the third-calendar quarter, which is its fiscal first-quarter of 2022. That performance was good for a meager 2% increase over the prior period. EBITDA was somewhat better, coming in at $124.7 million, a 13% increase. Print revenue at Meredith declined by 2%. Similarly, Gannett reported a 1.8% revenue decline for the third quarter, coming in at $800.2 million.



Digital revenue performed well, even at the legacy companies.
At Meredith, digital revenue increased by 24% off a lower base, hitting $200 million. At Gannett, digital revenue for the quarter totaled $265 million and accounted for over one-third of total revenue and is growing, the company said, with growth of 17.8%.

Digital media companies report robust growth.
TechTarget, which offers marketing services and B2B media and serves the IT space, posted revenue of $69.7 million for the quarter ended September 30, up by 92% from the same period a year ago, and surpassing the estimate by 4.39%. Ziff Davis, the diversified digital-only media company, reported quarterly revenue of $434.7 million, an increase of 24.5% over the same period in 2020. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter increased 13.6%, to $175.1 million, compared to $154.1 million for Q3 2020, the company said in a statement.

Social-media companies Facebook and Twitter blow media companies out of the water.
The social giant’s growth was perceived to be tempered in the third quarter, according to Variety, but “it still raked in a ton of money and posted profits that topped Wall Street expectations,” Variety said. For the third quarter, Facebook reported revenue of $29 billion, up 35% from the same period last year, and net profit increased by 17%, to $9.2 billion ($3.22 per share). The consensus Wall Street expectation was for Facebook to post $29.5 billion in revenue and EPS of $3.19. Even Twitter produced robust revenue growth, increasing by 37 percent to $1.28 billion. It produced a quarterly loss of $537 million compared to a profit of $29 million a year earlier, but only because it paid $809.5 million to settle a 2016 shareholder lawsuit that accused it of misleading investors about its user metrics.

It’s worth noting: The media companies I cited are publicly traded and don’t necessarily represent the performance of organizations that are not public, or that operate in sectors that don’t include print. And second, these numbers relate to a single quarter, and thus a narrow snapshot. Things change.

That said, these companies and their performances add valuable context and perspective on the state of the media business.

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