In Gannett’s first earnings call without CEO Craig Dubow, who’s out on medical leave, EVP/CFO Gracia Martore said she has some seen some encouraging signs for stanching the advertising decline in some (unspecified) regions and categories. National ads declined only 12 percent in June, compared to 24 percent the year before. Also strong growth in telecom, pharmaceuticals and entertainment, she said. Retail and employment ads, however, remained weak last month, Martore said. As for managing its huge debt burden, Gannett (NYSE: GCI) ended the quarter three times more leveraged than it was a year ago, Martore said.
—June and July: Asked how the July numbers are trending, U.S. Community Publishing President Bob Dickey said that July’s ad numbers are trending along with June, with 24 percent declines, excluding Newsquest. It fell 29 percent with Newsquest included.
On the digital side, Chris Saridakis, SVP, chief digital officer, said that brand managers can’t go a full year without advertising. Therefore, Gannett has a positive outlook for the next two quarters, he said, as even the auto category is showing signs of loosening its grip on spending budgets. Meanwhile, in the community-publishing end, Dickey said that national retailers are starting to commit their spending, after six months of negotiating. The local side has been a little slower, but the unit is starting to book some business the past few weeks. Martore warned, however, that there is no monolithic U.S. economy, and ad sales commitments vary from state-to-state.
—Check in time: While travel has diminished with the economy, Gannett flagship USA Today has seen its distribution cut at many hotels. Last quarter, Martore alluded to the company’s work on getting another hotel agreement. While no deal has been signed yet, Gannett said it’s currently in discussions with the Marriott chain about a new deal.
By David Kaplan