When times are bad, one of the first belt-tightening measures for many companies is slashing advertising budgets. Conversely, when a rebound seems near, you can expect ad spending to pick up. And thus it's interesting to look at recent earnings reports from the nation's largest newspaper publishers.

Today, Gannett(NYSE: GCI) matched estimates with a profit of $0.66 a share in the third quarter, with revenue rising 4.2% to $1.58 billion. The company publishes USA Today and 93 other daily papers and owns 22 television stations. Thanks to political campaigning in September, TV advertising was very strong during the quarter, rising 24%. Newspaper ad revenue, however, edged up just 2%.

Aside from the political spending, CEO Douglas McCorkindale indicated advertising was beginning to rebound across the board for Gannett's higher-rated television stations. On the newspaper side, local ad spending was up 3%, but national classified sales dropped 2%. And, if USA Today is any indication, some of the hardest-hit sectors aren't yet seeing daylight. The paper's third-quarter results "continue to reflect, in part, lower demand for financial and technology-related advertising."

E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP) , like Gannett, has a stable of television interests that helped boost its third-quarter earnings. Meanwhile, Knight Ridder(NYSE: KRI), the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher behind Gannett, saw a slight drop in revenue. Finally, Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones(NYSE: DJ), heavily reliant on financial and technology advertising, saw a sharp decrease in profits.

In summary, it appears smaller, localized businesses are beginning to accelerate ad spending, along with retailers and auto makers nationally. But while these areas see better times ahead, most of the tech and financial sectors don't, and are maintaining defensive postures.