Newspaper ad sales still falling in US and the UK, says Gannett

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The Independent Online

Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the US and owner of the UK's Newsquest, said advertising revenues are still skidding downwards on both sides of the Atlantic. But the group highlighted a modest slowdown in the rate of decline, and said that lay-offs and other cost-cutting had kept the company in the black over the past three months.

Gannett's 950 US titles include USA Today, while Newsquest owns The Herald in Scotland and more than 200 other publications.

"We finished the quarter on a stronger note with better than anticipated results due primarily to better trends in advertising and greater efficiencies," Greg Dubow, the chief executive, said. "Although recessions in the US and UK continued to temper ad demand and revenue growth during the quarter, we are encouraged by the revenue trends."

The year-on-year comparisons are becoming easier, now that the anniversary of the post-Lehman Brothers panic has past, but the declines revealed yesterday continue to be ugly. Newsquest advertising revenue in the three months to the end of September was down 28.7 per cent in sterling; ad revenue in the US was down 26.0 per cent. Sales of classified advertising, which faces increasing competition from free local websites, were down a little over one-third on both sides of the Atlantic.

Gannett shares, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, jumped on news that its profit decline in the third quarter was limited to 53 per cent. It posted net income of $73.8m, compared to $158.1m in the same period of 2008.

The company laid off another 1,400 staff over the summer – 3 per cent of the workforce – on top of a 10 per cent staff cut less than a year before. Newsprint costs have also tumbled.

Circulation wars: USA Today challenged

*Expect an entertaining media catfight when the Audit Bureau of Circulations releases its six-monthly figures for the US next week, when Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is expected to overtake Gannett's USA Today as the country's No 1 newspaper. The Journal's circulation is expected to clock in at an average 2.02 million, against USA Today's 1.88 million, which has fallen about 17 per cent. But the figures will be open to argument, because the Journal includes website subscribers in its circulation numbers, while USA Today rivals have traditionally questioned the value of the large number of copies it gives out free in hotels, which have been less full because of the recession.