Can Classifieds, Online Ads Save McClatchy?

Reporting its fourth quarter and year-end earnings report today, newspaper publisher The McClatchy Co. seemed optimistic about the future of classified and online advertising.

Although the company reported declines in revenue for the quarter and the year — down 16.5 percent for the fourth quarter compared to last year and down 22.6 percent for the year — circulation revenues actually increased by 6.6 percent during the last quarter of the year, along with online advertising revenues, which were up 14.9 percent for the quarter. Circ revenues grew a total of 4.8 percent year over year.

CEO Gary Pruitt pointed to the uptick in digital advertising as an important growth point for the company, and added that classified ads seem to be making a comeback:

“We’re seeing some evidence of a recovery in classified advertising. It’s typically the first area of our business to suffer in a downturn — and also the first to rebound when the economy improves.”

McClatchy is also workoing on a “transition to a successful hybrid print and online company,” as its online audiences and Web advertising continues to grow. In fact, the company’s online advertising across its papers’ sites make up 16.2 percent of its total advertising revenue for the year.

Added Pruitt:

“Conventional thinking holds that newspaper companies are being left behind as advertising migrates from print to the Internet. But that is not true at McClatchy. About one-third of our classified advertising now takes place online. More than half of employment, one-third of automotive and a quarter of real estate advertising is digital.”

Although advertising revenues are still expected to decline in the coming year, Pruitt seemed hopeful:

“While we are seeing improving advertising revenue trends, we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us as we weather the current economic environment. We will remain vigilant in realigning our costs to focus on our core competencies: high quality journalism, advertising sales and digital media.”

Separately, McClatchy today made a number of financial announcements, including plans to refinance its debt.

Previously: McClatchy Poised For Turnaround In 2010?