The Gannett Company, the USA's largest newspaper group in terms of aggregated circulations, on Tuesday revealed a three percent fall in first quarter income, posting earnings of $265.7 million (€206.4m; £141.01m).

This compares year-on-year with $274.4m - or in terms of earnings per share, $1.05 versus $1.00. A consensus of analysts' crystal balls had predicted $1.06.

The group's flagship newspaper USA Today, boasting America's highest daily circulation at around 2.3 million, kept the Gannett standard fluttering with a 4.8% year-on-year increase in advertising revenues. Commented ceo Douglas McCorkindale: "USA Today was the bright spot."

Less luminescent was the 21-TV station broadcast division, which struggled unsuccessfully to overcome the evaporation of 2004's torrent of political ads. The division's operating cashflow slumped 13.8% to $66.4m.

Floundering like a medium seeking non-forthcoming messages from the spirit world, McCorkindale tried to explain away the adspend shortfall.

He fingered the automotive sector which, traditionally in presidential election years, restricts its advertising while the politicos conduct their media warfare - then accelerates strongly after the voting is over.

It seems, however, that the ignition key went missing in Q1 2005.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff