In reporting quarterly results last week, the company recorded a quarterly loss of $6.5 million, or $0.27 a share, compared to income of $6.7 million, or $0.28 per share, for the first quarter of 2006. Factors in the drastic decline included severance costs from staff cuts at the Tampa Tribune, acquisition costs related to four new NBC stations, and higher interest expense.
In the company's publishing division, revenues slid 5.7% year over year. In addition to the Tampa paper, Media General's largest daily newspapers include The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Winston-Salem Journal. The company also publishes daily and Sunday papers in a variety of southern states, including South Carolina and Alabama.
Conversely, the broadcast division saw revenue grow by 30.5%, to $84.3 million. However, excluding the new NBC stations, the unit's same-station total revenues "decreased by a small amount," according to the company. Media General's broadcast segment operates 23 network-affiliated television stations.
In announcing his company's results, Marshall N. Morton, the company's president and CEO, said:
We are disappointed that 2007 has started out much weaker than anticipated. The slowing pace of economic growth in the U.S. has affected all our operations because of its impact on advertising spending. Growth of the Internet ... is having an effect, however, and we are aggressively creating a dynamic online presence in all markets.
The fundamental difficulty, however, continues to be the half-century of declining newspaper readership among U.S. citizens and many of their European counterparts. That that trend has only accelerated during the past decade, in concert with the proliferation of the Internet. In addition to Media General, this basic -- and seemingly inevitable -- movement is clearly harming major publishers such as New York Times
Despite their current troubles, I believe that both newspapers and the companies publishing them will survive, albeit in very different forms. Therefore, I'd continue to urge Fools to direct their investments elsewhere.
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