As third-quarter earnings continue to trickle in from newspaper publishers, the hit-and-miss results underscore the uneven nature of the recovery in advertising spending. Industry leader Gannett
This morning, Dow Jones
As more pieces of the newspaper publishing puzzle are put into place, the overall picture is becoming clearer. Small and mid-size markets continue to outperform larger markets, as national advertising has been choppy at best. While companywide ad revenues rose 4.3% in September, those generated specifically from the 18 smallest markets increased by 8%.
Knight Ridder's national ad revenues dropped 0.9% (the weakest of any component) and registered a decline in five of the company's nine largest markets. While a few sectors (such as telecommunications and pharmaceuticals) showed some strength, airlines, hotels, car rentals, autos, and entertainment were all weaker.
However, real estate and classified spending were cited as robust -- rising 9.5% and 15.6%, respectively -- echoing similar observations from Gannett. Knight Ridder is particularly reliant on the labor market, as classified ads represent a larger than average 36% of total advertising revenues.
Knight Ridder lacks the diversification of other media companies, and has no cable networks or television stations to help augment revenues. However, the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher does have an active online presence, with ownership in Internet-based properties such as RealCities and CareerBuilder.
The latter -- a joint venture with Tribune
Knight Ridder has done a good job of containing costs (resulting in sequential decreases each quarter so far this year) and growing earnings in spite of the erratic ad market. Though, with several rivals already guiding below next quarter's estimates, the industry isn't out of the woods just yet.
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Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.