* Q1 adj EPS 34 cents vs 31 cents Street view
* Total revenue down 2.6 pct in line with analysts' forecast
* Publishing advertising revenue down 8.4 pct
* Shares down 8 pct
(Adds executive comment from call, updates share price)
By Jennifer Saba
April 16 Gannett Co (GCI.N) reported a decline
in total revenue in the first quarter as advertisers fled the
pages of newspapers and instead shifted spending to digital
The largest newspaper chain in the United States by
circulation said on Monday that total revenue fell 2.6 percent
to $1.22 billion, roughly in line with analysts' average
expectations of $1.24 billion, according to Thomson Reuters
Gannett's shares were down 8.1 percent to $13.82 in late
Gracia Martore, Gannett's chief executive, pointed to an
"industry-wide slowdown" in January advertising sales.
"Improving advertising activity in February and March, while
encouraging, did not overcome the slow start to the year," she
said in a statement.
Advertising revenue at its publishing division dropped 8.4
percent to $551.4 million in the first quarter.
Benchmark analyst Edward Atorino said Gannett's newspaper
advertising revenue was worse than he expected. "What's to talk
about? Newspapers are still deteriorating," he said.
As a bellwether, Gannett's results show that the industry's
problems are more structural in nature -- mainly a dependence on
print ad sales -- and they do not bode well for other companies
slated to report.
The New York Times Co (NYT.N) will announce first-quarter
results on Thursday.
National advertising at USA Today fell 13.3 percent as
entertainment, telecommunications, automotive and financial
advertisers dropped their spend. USA Today is searching for both
a publisher and editor.
During a conference call with analysts, Martore mentioned
that the national newspaper historically made up less than 10
percent of the company's revenue. "We are working to more fully
realize its potential as we approach the brand's 30th
anniversary in September," she said on the call.
Gannett is attempting to move past the negative headlines
dogging the newspaper industry by placing an emphasis on its
digital and marketing efforts. During its investor day in
February, executives laid out plans that included a dividend
increase, a share buy-back program, and a digital pay model
roll-out to its 80 papers. [ID:nL2E8DM9DD]
Yet those efforts that Gannett announced at its investors
day will take some time to show results, Martore said on the
call. "We are working to stabilize our publishing businesses,"
she said adding there is no "quick fix."
Digital revenue at Gannett increased 8.2 percent to $272.8
The company, which also owns several television stations,
said broadcasting revenue rose 7.5 percent to $176.2 million.
Excluding special items including staff cuts, Gannett
reported first-quarter earning per share of 34 cents, beating
the analysts' forecast of 31 cents.
(Reporting By Jennifer Saba; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and
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