Media General Reports 14.9% Plunge In Newspaper Ad Revenues

By: E&P Staff Richmond, Va.-based Media General Inc. reported Thursday that ad revenues at its newspapers fell $6.1 million, or 14.9%, in May -- led by huge declines at The Tampa Tribune.

Media General President and CEO Marshall N. Morton said the economic downturn in Florida hammered results in Tampa, where the company owns the Tribune, WFLA-TV, and The company was also hurt by "significant weakness" in classified.

"We were very disappointed to see the retail category decline, a reflection of major retailers holding back on spending in virtually every market," Morton said in a statement. "We saw a few bright spots in May, including increases in real estate classified advertising in Richmond, a market that has not yet been severely affected by the national housing downturn. In addition, national revenues increased at The Richmond Times- Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal and in our community newspaper group."

Big declines at the Tampa Tribune, however, offset that growth, he added.

Newspaper classified overall fell $3 million, or 16.9% -- principally on a free-fall of 38.2% at the Tampa Tribune, Media General reported.

The Tribune's real estate linage, for instance, plummeted 46.7%.

Help-wanted linage at the company's three metro newspapers decreased 27.8% -- again pushed by Tampa, where recruitment fell 41.5%.

There were big drops in help-wanted as well at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, down 19.4%, and the Winston-Salem Journal, off 25.7%.

Automotive linage for the three metros decreased 18.8%, with the Tribune again leading the way with a 27.5% decline.

Overall real estate linage for the three metros was down 25.2%.

Retail advertising revenues in May decreased $2.5 million, or 13.1%, at the three metros. Tampa Tribune, and its associated newspapers fell 17.5% on weakened home improvement, financial, grocery store and medical advertising.

Retail was down 9.9% at the Richmond paper, on department store and drug store weakness. The Winston-Salem Journal reported a 17% decline on lower spending in the department store, grocery store and home improvement categories. Retail at General Media's community newspaper group fell 10.2%.

Media General said its total May 2007 revenues increased 2.8% to $75.4 million, including the revenues of four NBC television stations acquired June 26, 2006. Excluding the new stations, total revenues declined 7.8%, it said.

Overall publishing division revenues fell 12.8%, and broadcast, on a same-property basis, declined 1.9%.

Media General said its Interactive Media Division total revenues rose 43.1%.

The company set its outlook for the second quarter as earnings per share in the range of 20 to 25 cents, compared with 77 cents from continuing operations in the second quarter of 2006.


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