Projo’s revenue grows, thanks to contracts offsetting lost adsMay 8th, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal’s finances brightened during the first three months of this year, as the paper used higher circulation revenue and more third-party printing work to offset another sharp drop in advertising.
The Journal’s revenue totaled $22.7 million in the three months ended March 31, up 3% from $22 million in the same period last year, according to a regulatory filing. That performance helped offset weakness elsewhere within its Dallas-based parent A. H. Belo, which said companywide revenue slid 7% in the first quarter.
The Journal’s first-quarter contract work nearly doubled to $2.8 million year-over-year as the paper distributed more national and local newspapers and landed new commercial printing jobs. The paper’s circulation revenue also posted a healthy gain of nearly 6%, rising to $8.6 million.
Advertising is no longer the bedrock of The Journal’s business that it once was, contributing only 49.5% of total revenue in the first quarter. Ad sales through March 31 fell to $11.2 million, down nearly 10% from a year earlier, with declines in all categories. Digital advertising on ProvidenceJournal.com slipped 7% to $1.5 million compared with 2011.
Howard Sutton, The Journal’s publisher, president and CEO since 1999, did not respond to a request for comment. He joined the paper in 1973 as a circulation statistician and has worked there ever since.
Circulation still in decline
The financial details emerged the same week the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported The Journal’s weekday print circulation fell to 85,496 copies a day in the six months ended March 31, down 7% from a year earlier. The paper, which put up a paywall in February after limiting its website to short news briefs, said it’s sold 273 subscriptions to its new electronic edition thus far.
“All in all, the first quarter was a good one for A. H. Belo,” CEO Robert Decherd told investors during a conference call last week, and he offered an upbeat forecast. “It looks like we will be on track for the second quarter,” he said. The company also said it cut 14% of its work force over the past year.
Decherd and other executives told investors little about The Journal, focusing instead on investments in their flagship Dallas Morning News, the nation’s 11th-largest newspaper by circulation. The Dallas paper accounted for 64% of the company’s first-quarter revenue, while The Journal made up 22% and The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., added 14%.
Decherd continued to emphasize all three papers’ importance to the company. Asked by an analyst whether he considered them all “core” to A.H. Belo, the CEO replied: “Yes. Yes. Definitely.”
Fountain Street HQ could sell
Decherd suggested that Dan Blizzard, a senior vice president at the company, may make headway in selling The Journal’s iconic headquarters on Fountain Street in Providence, which has been languishing on the real estate market for a number of years now.
“That market seems to be improving a little bit,” Decherd said of the Providence region. “That doesn’t mean that it’s gangbusters, but certainly it seems to be stabilized. There’s capital available, and we’re working that one really hard to see if there’s some viable options that could be realized in the next 12 to 18 months.”
“We’re not enamored of owning real estate – that’s for sure,” Decherd added.
The Journal’s five-story, nearly 200,000-square-foot building at 75 Fountain St. opened in 1934 and has an assessed value of $13.8 million. Two years ago, the company offered to sell the building to the city government for $9.75 million or lease it out for $1.17 million a year, but the Cicilline administration chose another bidder.
• Related: Projo hit by 61% drop in advertising since ’05; digital declining (March 14)