Gannett Drops Outlook on Softer Ad Demand

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(AP) The nation’s largest newspaper publisher in terms of circulation, Gannett Co. Inc., reduced its earnings outlook for the first quarter Wednesday, citing softer advertising demand because of the war in Iraq.

In a news release, the publisher of USA Today and dozens of other newspapers, and owner of numerous broadcast properties, said it now expects earnings per share to be below the low end of the 94-96 cents range it forecast in March. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had predicted earnings per share would be 95 cents.

Shares of Gannett fell 17 cents, or 0.2%, to $71.75 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange following the news.

Gannett said that advertisers were showing reluctance to buy TV and newspaper ads.

TV advertisers “in a number of cases” canceled ads that were scheduled for the second part of March. As a result, actual and expected bookings for ads with Gannett’s TV stations ended the month down mid-single digits, despite being up in the low single digits in mid-March.

The same skittishness is also affecting newspaper advertising, particularly at USA Today, as advertisers canceled or postponed, the company said.

Gannett expects to report first-quarter earnings April 15.

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