'Tampa Tribune' Parent Swings to Q4 Loss as Newspaper Ad Revenue Falls 20%

By Fitzgerald, Mark | Editor & Publisher, January 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

'Tampa Tribune' Parent Swings to Q4 Loss as Newspaper Ad Revenue Falls 20%


Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher


Media General Inc. reported a fourth-quarter loss of $85.5 million, or $3.86 a share, mostly on a big write-down on its broadcast division -- but also on a 20% drop in newspaper ad revenue.

The Q4 2008 loss compares to a profit in the fourth quarter of 2007 of $9.6 million, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding the pre-tax, non-cash $130.4 million write-down on the value of its network affiliate and other one-time charges, Media General had a profit from continuing operations of 39 cents a share, compared with 46 cents a year ago.

Most operating decreases came from its publishing division, the Richmond, Va.-based parent of The Tampa Tribune and Richmond Times-Dispatch said. Not surprisingly, Florida, with its collapsed housing economy, was the epicenter of Media General's Q4 troubles.

"The publishing division's lower fourth-quarter results were due to the continuation of the declining economic trends that we have experienced all year, particularly in Florida," President and CEO Marshall N. Morton said in a statement.

Publishing profit for the quarter plunged 57.2% from the year-ago period, with total publishing revenue down 16.8% and advertising revenue down 20.1%.

Take Florida properties out, and total publishing revenues decreased 14.8%, Media General said.

Newspaper and other publishing revenue fell 16.8% in Virginia, and 15% in North Carolina. In Alabama, revenues decreased only 5.2%, Media General said on a classified decline that was not as steep as other markets. In South Carolina, revenues declined modestly, just 3.9% helped by the acquisition of a weekly newspaper in March.

Classified ad revenue plummeted 37.6% in the fourth quarter, with the losses especially steep at its three metro dailies. In those markets, employment classified revenue plunged 60%; real estate 50%; and automotive 46%.

Legal classified revenues increased because of real estate foreclosure listings, Media General noted.

Publishing retail ad revenue was off 12% in the quarter, on what the company said was lower spending across most markets. …

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