Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dreaming of a green Christmas

Average advertising sales gains for the newspaper industry were 2.8% in the first half of the year, but not all publishers are performing equally well. One even reported a slight dip in year-to-year revenues.

That’s what you learn by reading the devilish details in the mid-year revenue flash from our friend Miles Groves of MG Strategic Research, the economist whose industry insights top the must-read list for senior newspaper execs.

Comparing “same-store” sales of several publicly held newspaper properties, Miles found that Media General’s volume increased 6.5% this year over the first half of 2004. Gains of approximately 4% each were notched by Scripps, Gannett and Lee (the latter of which includes the integration into its P&L of the Pulitzer publications).

Knight Ridder and Journal Communications were a touch under average performance, while the New York Times Co. and Tribune Co. managed to eke out respective, if not respectable, gains of only 1.3% and 1.2%.

Bringing up the rear was Journal Register Co., which reported a reduction of 0.1% in year-to- year sales. Journal Register last year promised great things when it acquired a group of weeklies in suburban Philadelphia and a $415 million portfolio of dailies and weeklies in Michigan, although the impact of the Michigan properties will not be reflected until after the one-year anniversary of the transaction in the third quarter.

First-half sales typically represent between 33% to 40% of a publisher’s annual revenues, with the major gains coming during the make-or-break Christmas season. It’s never over in the ad game until the fat man Ho-Ho-Ho’s.


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