Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers

tribune3.jpg The publishing side of the LAT's parent company reported a 4 percent drop in third-quarter operating revenue compared with a year earlier. Operating profit for the July-September period was $45 million, up from $1 million a year earlier, but factoring into that number could have been the elimination of 230 publishing positions (the company did not say where the cuts were made). Additional staff reductions, including some at the LAT, are expected in the fourth quarter. The big story continues to be a degradation of ad sales, which fell 7 percent from a year earlier (Tribune's publishing revenues tumbled from $4.1 billion in 2006 to $2.0 billion in 2012.) Retail advertising was down 7 percent, national down 12 percent, and classified down 2 percent. The company cited a decline in revenues from pre-print advertising at the LAT and Chicago Tribune. (Pre-prints are those inserts that get stuffed into the paper, often on Sunday, and which have bolstered overall sales in the wake of declines in display advertising in the main sections.) Circulation revenue was up slightly in the third quarter, but the extra $3 million was not able to offset the $18 drop in ad revenue. All told, this wasn't a bombshell quarter, but more of the drip-drip-drip declines that Tribune has seen for several years. That said, the publishing side has been delivering margins that are at least as strong as other newspaper companies. Tribune's next major step comes early next year when the company discloses its plans for splitting off the newspaper assets into a separate entity. The spinoff plan effectively suspends any prospects for selling off the newspapers, but for how long is not clear.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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