There's no denying that newspapers have seen better days. Circulations peaked years ago, and new media companies like Yahoo!
More than a year later, it's worthwhile to check in on these newspaper outfits. News at Tribune and Hollinger still looks pretty bad. Ad revenue for Tribune's publishing group was down 2.4% in November on a year-over-year basis, and a recent audit revealed that average week-day circulation at Hollinger's Chicago Sun Times was down 21% between March 2003 and March 2005.
But Belo appears to be bucking the group: November advertising revenue for the firm's newspaper group was up an impressive 6.6%. That gain came on top of smaller year-over-year increases in October and November. Clearly, Belo is doing something right. The question is, what?
One initiative that could be helping is the firm's drive to deliver content tailored to its readers. In May, Belo disclosed some new projects for its flagship newspaper, TheDallas Morning News. One of those projects included new "zoned" Metro sections that provide news specific to certain suburban communities. In addition, the company has launched neighborhood publications with articles and photos provided by local residents. The beauty of the new content is that it attracts new advertising from local businesses looking to tap particular audiences.
While Belo definitely seems to be on track with its newspaper side, unfortunately it's still not the perfect pick as an investment. Revenue performance in the TV group has been uneven, and at 17.5 times trailing earnings, the company's shares are more expensive than better-known names like New York Times
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article