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US newspapers in flux

News, 05 May 2017
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NEW YORK: Two Pulitzer prize-winning newspapers find themselves on different ends of an industry in transition, as declining print advertising revenues threaten bottom lines.

In the first of the financial year's quarterly earnings calls, both the New York Times and tronc, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, executives described a positive landscape for an industry at the sharp edge of the internet.

Yet, Chicago-based tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing, acknowledged significant pressure in print advertising, as total advertising fell 16% during the quarter.

CFO Terry Jimenez put this decline down to broad challenges in the retail sector. "I think what we're seeing there is just [the] pure volume of stores that are coming out of the market," he told investors on an earnings call, adding that "announced store closings in Q1 of this year was among the highest that's been in a very long time".

This spells problems for a publisher still reliant on print retail advertising for around a quarter of its overall revenue stream. More broadly, this has hit tronc's bottom line, as total revenues fell 8.1% from the same period last year.

However, CEO Justin Dearborn remains positive, as total paid all-access subscribers grew to exceed one million, an increase that he described as "a milestone."

Meanwhile, over on the Atlantic coast, the New York Times Company saw an increase in total revenues of 5.1%.

Despite the Times' financial resilience, however, print advertising – the backbone of the company's revenue – has declined by 17.9%.

Mark Thompson, president and chief executive officer, The New York Times Company said the results showed continued strength in reaching large audiences. "We added an astonishing 308,000 net digital news subscriptions, making Q1 the single best quarter for subscriber growth in our history," he reported.

But, vitally, the paper is also delivering revenues. "Digital advertising revenue grew 19% year-over-year," said Thompson, "a vindication of our decision to pivot towards mobile, branded content and a broader suite of marketing services, and to focus on innovation."

The increase in digital advertising revenues was, however, "partially offset by a decrease in traditional website display advertising," the company said in a statement.

Data sourced from Seeking Alpha, tronc, New York Times; additional content by WARC staff

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