Monday, October 19, 2009

(More) signs of the times

Tough times at the New York Times today, with the company announcing it will jettison 100 newsroom jobs (8 percent of staff) by year's end, either through voluntary buyouts or involuntary layoffs.

Having gone through the latter over the summer, I can sympathize.

The news didn't dissuade Times management from bragging that "These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world."

Are you sure? After 200 cuts in the newsroom in two years? Remember the other recent nip-and-tuck, one among many moves commonly made to cut expenses without paring essential services to the bone.

FishbowlNY has the full Times memo here.

Meanwhile, Gannett Co. Inc. -- publisher of USA Today -- this morning posted a dramatic 53.3 percent drop in third-quarter profit as revenue sagged 18.4 percent to $1.34 billion from $1.64 billion in the year-ago quarter. Diluted earnings per share were 31 cents, down by more than half from the 2008 quarter's 69 cents.

But MarketWatch reported shares (NYSE: GCI) rose by day's end.

Company officials said they were encouraged that "core revenue comparisons were better in the third quarter than the second quarter." But a look at the release on earnings still shows the weakness in advertising sales: retail down 22.4 percent, national off 25 percent, classified down 36.9 percent.

Advertising revenue totaled $699.6 million in the quarter, a 28.4 percent drop from the year-ago quarter. (Gannett publishes 84 U.S. daily newspapers and more than 700 magazines and other non-dailies. It also has newspaper holdings in the United Kingdom.)

Revenue from the company's broadcasting operations -- 23 television stations in 19 U.S. markets -- was also off: $151.5 million in the quarter vs. $197.0 million a year earlier. (The Olympics and the 2008 election boosted ad demand in the quarter last year.)

Only the company's digital segment -- which includes operations like CareerBuilder and ShopLocal -- showed positive results, with revenue nearly doubling to $143.0 million from $77.6 million in the 2008 quarter.

A transcript of Gannett's morning conference call with analysts is posted at SeekingAlpha.

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