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Though publicly traded publishers don't make it particularly easy to figure out how they're doing in the new media world, a perusal of the quarterly earnings reports released over the last two weeks indicates that newspaper-based web sites are seeing dramatic revenue growth, many in excess of 50 percent.

The only publishers that continue to report new media -- variously called "on-line" or "interactive" -- as stand-alone line items are Lee Enterprises Inc., Media General Inc. and Dow Jones.

Lee said that for its second quarter (which ended March 31), on-line revenue was up 28.4 percent, to $3.5 million, over the second quarter last year, and that on-line revenue for March was up 21.5 percent, to $1.3 million, when compared to the same month in 2004.

Media General said that at its Interactive Media Division -- which handles new media efforts for both its TV stations and its newspapers -- quarterly revenue was up 51.1 percent, to $4.5 million, over the same three months last year.

"The improvement is mainly attributable to continued strong classified advertising, up 52 percent, and higher local advertising revenues," the company wrote in its quarterly report. "The division's first-quarter loss of $826,000 was reduced by 50.7 percent from the first quarter of 2004."

Media General said that in March, "Interactive Media Division revenues rose 50.7 percent to a monthly record of $1.6 million. The growth was driven by a 45.4 percent increase in Classified advertising, reflecting continued strong liner upsell activity and special product revenue. Local advertising also was up significantly, reflecting continued success with new products."

DJ muddies the reporting waters somewhat in that it lumps revenue from its Newswires group -- which includes terminals placed on stock traders desks -- along with its Consumer Electronic Publishing revenue. Nonetheless, the company said its electronic publishing revenue was up 35.7 percent in the first quarter, to $117.2 million, though that number was driven by recent acquisitions (including

"Excluding acquisitions, revenue was up eight percent, operating income increased 12.4 percent and operating margin was up 90 basis points, to 22.2 percent," Dow Jones wrote.

At Belo Corp., the company has just completed moving all of its new media operations back into its "legacy operating companies" -- that's newspapers and TV stations -- and so the results data are no longer broken out as a line item.

The company did say in the narrative of its earnings release that, "Interactive revenues increased a healthy 26 percent for full-year 2004 and grew at an impressive 47 percent rate in the first quarter of 2005."

Similarly, though Knight Ridder continues to handle its new media functions under its Knight Ridder Digital operating unit, it does not report the results of that unit independently. Ad revenue results are rolled into those reported for specific newspapers.

The company did say in its earnings release, though, that new media-related revenue was up $12.7 million, or 52.8 percent for the quarter.

Knight Ridder also reported that revenue at its Classified Ventures LLC -- the web sites,, and Homescape, in which KRI is a one-third partner with Gannett Co. Inc. and Tribune Co. -- was up 88 percent, year-over-year, to $107.1 million.

In its quarterly report, Tribune said that interactive revenue, which is reported as part of the income of the affiliated units, was "up 39 percent to $40 million due to strength in classified and banner/sponsorship advertising."

Gannett wasn't quite so forthcoming. All it would say was that, "In February, Gannett's consolidated domestic Internet audience share was 18.7 million unique visitors reaching about 12.7 percent of the Internet audience according to Nielsen//NetRatings."

The New York Times Co. sent out a release separate from its earnings report that addressed only the usage of its web site:

"The New York Times Co. reported today that for March, achieved a traffic record of 555 million page views, a 17-percent increase from March 2004, according to internal data," the company said. "Unique visitors increased to 15 million in March, up 10 percent from the previous year."

One doesn't even need to squint to see that new media revenue is thriving. Though there may still be some publishers out there who "don't get it," it is clear that certainly many, if not all, of the publicly traded companies do and that they are leveraging more and more ways to make more and more money -- even as circulation and readership continue to decline.
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 25, 2005
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