Mixed Newspaper Ad Results Continue As Knight Ridder Reports Weak Q3

A decline in retail and classified battered third-quarter ad revenues at newspaper publisher Knight Ridder, though conditions improved somewhat in September.

Advertising revenue was $525.9 million in the third quarter, down 1.2 percent from a year ago. The decline was driven by a drop in retail (down 4 million to $257.3 million) and classified (down 11 million to $196.5 million), although general advertising rose $8 million to $75.8 million. Strong gains were registered in national advertising, including computers, telecom and entertainment, said Steven B. Rossi, president of Knight Ridder's newspaper division. Retail dropped 1.5 percent in the quarter due to lower spending by Macy's, May Co. and Dillards, key department store clients whose buys dropped double digits since May.

All of the company's newspaper markets were down slightly with the exception of Contra Costa, Calif., and Fort Worth, Texas, which were up slightly. San Jose dropped 4.1 percent. Knight Ridder has newspapers nationwide, including St. Paul, Minn., Philadelphia, Miami, Kansas City and Charlotte, N.C.



But P. Anthony Ridder, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, pointed out that ad revenue improved as the quarter drew to a close. September's advertising revenue rose 0.5 percent, with retail up 1.9 percent, general up 7.8 percdent and classified down 3.8 percent. September's ad revenue rose in St. Paul, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, Akron, Contra Costa and San Jose. Classified revenue was soft in every large market except St. Paul and Miami and recruitment continued to fall double-digits, with a year-to-date drop of 19.3 percent.

Ridder said he was hopeful that a recovery was finally taking hold and viewed the future with guarded optimism.

"There's much, much that I feel good about," Ridder said.

Knight Ridder said October's ad revenues were trending about the same as September's, although executives said that some markets wouldn't be in positive territory in either classified due to help wanted or in retail.

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