Publishers say ad trends improving

NEW YORK (AP) — The country’s biggest newspaper publishers say advertising trends continue to improve in the fourth quarter — even if they are still not ready to predict when or if traditional print revenue will start growing again.

Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today and other dailies, and McClatchy Co., which owns The Sacramento Bee and The Miami Herald, said Wednesday that smaller print declines and cost cutting will help results in the last three months of 2010.

Newspapers are struggling to arrest a nearly four-year slide in ad revenue as more advertisers turn to online destinations like Google and Facebook. Print circulation is dropping as well, as readers turn to the Web for news.

With the recession behind them, publishers are reporting smaller declines in print revenue. But they haven’t seen the kind of rebound that would make up for steep declines last year.

Gannett, the country’s biggest newspaper company, is benefiting mainly from its 23 TV stations, which have seen auto makers and other advertisers ramp up commercial spending coming out of the recession. Political campaigns also spent heavily on TV time during the midterm elections.

Gannett Chief Operating Officer Gracia Martore said the company is “comfortable” that its fourth-quarter profit will be at the high end of a range between 72 cents and 82 cents.

The forecast sent Gannett shares up 50 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $15.82 in trading Wednesday.

Investors also warmed to McClatchy, which does not own TV stations but has nevertheless seen newspaper declines slow.

The company said Wednesday that ad revenue in the first two months of the quarter slipped 5.8 percent compared with the same two months of last year. That’s an improvement over the previous quarter, when McClatchy’s ad revenue was down 6.4 percent from the previous year.

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