Gannett posts Q1 loss

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Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today and 84 other daily newspapers, released its first quarter earnings today, marking an 8% dip in revenue for the three months. The company had not returned calls as of press time.

Like the New York Times Co. — which reported a Q1 revenue slump last week — Gannet is attributing much of the loss to declines in advertising and the weak economy. Revenue for Gannett went from $1.83 billion in Q1 of last year to $1.68 billion this quarter. Advertising from the company's publishing units, largely responsible for its overall revenue, went from $1.2 billion to $1.1 billion, with a 16% loss in classified ads.

“We faced a very challenging advertising environment as the economy further weakened in the quarter, particularly in the latter half of March,” said Craig Dubow, Gannett chairman, president and CEO in a statement. “We are focused on positioning the company for the future from both a revenue and expense perspective as we navigate the uncertain economic environment.”

Flagship paper USA Today managed to buck the downward trend, posting a 2.1% increase in advertising revenue. USA Today was protected from the ad decline in part because it does not run real estate listings. Gannett's local newspapers, which lean heavily on real estate and other classified ads, were hit hard by the housing bust and economic downturn in the first part of this year.

Circulation revenues for the entire publishing arm were down 2.6%, from $317.5 million to $309.2 million.

Gannett representatives have not said what the company's growth plans are for the coming year, but, judging from its peers' actions, cutbacks of some form are likely. The New York Times, for example, is looking to decrease paid staff through voluntary buyouts and possible layoffs. The Tribune Co., whose preliminary results show double-digit declines in print for the quarter, is exploring sales of some of its properties, including newspapers and Wrigley Field.

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