Improving Ad Picture Boosts Media General

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By: E&P Staff

A strong performance by its newspaper publishing business led diversified media company Media General to announced Wednesday a healthy fourth quarter in 2003, with income of $23.7 million, an 11.3% increase over the comparable period in 2002.

Profits for the publishing unit were $39.5 million, 6.6% ahead of last year’s fourth quarter, and revenues increased 4.3%, on a 5.1% bump in advertising revenue. Classified revenues were up 5.9%, retail climbed 3% and national ad spending was up 15.5%. Circulation dollars increased 1.7% in the period.

The company linked its improved advertising numbers primarily to its operations in Richmond, Va., where the corporation is based, and Tampa, Fla. Media General’s assets include The Tampa Tribune, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal and 22 other daily newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina. Media General also owns a 20% stake in The Denver Post.

Publishing expenses increased 3.1% over the fourth quarter of 2002, with newsprint costs rising 9.1%.

Overall, Media General’s revenues for the fourth quarter were down 1.2%, to $225.5 million. The company attributed this mainly to a near $15 million drop in political advertising for its broadcasting division.

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