Weekly Media Stocks Roundup: Gannett Rises on Q1 Profits

wall_street_cover03262010.jpg Shares in media companies ended the week mostly higher as the broader market stagnated. The S&P 500 finished essentially flat for the week at 1194, following Friday’s news that the Securities and Exchange Commission had charged Goldman Sachs with fraud.

Although rising profit from USA Today publisher Gannett dominated headlines at the end of the week, there was some muted positive news for the media space as a whole. Analysts at J.P. Morgan predicted a rosier future for newspaper publishers. Meanwhile, Scarborough Research and the Newspaper National Network on Friday released a study showing that the number of people who read a given newspaper has risen over the past three years. The same day, fatings firm Moody’s raised its outlook for the newspaper industry to stable from negative.

The big news for media companies this week came from Gannett, which kicked off the sector’s earnings season by announcing skyrocketing first-quarter profits that were far heftier than Wall Street had expected.

During the company’s earnings conference call, CEO Craig Dubow said USA Today iPad app, number one among news apps, would operate under a subscription model starting this summer. Shares in the company rose 2.5% to end the week at $18.04.

Weekly stock results for A.H. Belo, The New York Times, News Corp. and more after the jump.


Also reporting earnings this week was A.H. Belo, which publishes the Dallas Morning News and other papers. The delayed report was not as rosy as Gannett’s. On Thursday, the company reported that it has lost $107.9 million, or $5.25 a share, in 2009, despite eking out a $5.6 million profit in the fourth quarter. Shares nonetheless jumped 10% to close the week at $8.37.

In a slow week for News Corp., shares added 3.4% to $15.75. The company’s Wall Street Journal revamped its mergers and acquisitions team this week. Media observers continue to watch the paper as it pitches battle with The New York Times.

Speaking of, shares of The New York Times Co. rose 5.1% to $12.35. The company also had a ho-hum week of stock-related news. It re-launched its Business Day Web section (yawn). In news that’s almost certainly unrelated to any price action in the stock, columnist Paul Krugman got in a public spat with a fellow Times employee, DealBook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin. Oh, and the company’s namesake paper netted either two or three Pulitzer prizes this week, depending how you keep track.

Shares in Time Inc. parent Time Warner ticked up 1.1% to $33. On Wednesday, a Morgan Stanley analyst downgraded the stock to equal weight from overweight, citing limited growth opportunities.

There wasn’t much stock-moving news for The Washington Post Co., although the paper took home four Pulitzers this year, more than any other publication. Shares rocketed 8.9% to $535.70.

In other media company news, the Financial Times on Friday reported that Demand Media, which pays freelancers to generate masses of content to dominate the search market, is preparing an initial public offering.