Classified advertising sales slide 18.2%

On the heels of Tuesday’s shareholder’s vote approving the sale of the company, Tribune Co. on Friday reported July revenue figures that show continued weakness in its core publishing and broadcasting businesses.

Chicago-based conglom’s consolidated revenues for the four weeks ended Aug. 5 were down 5.9% year-over-year to $467 million. Publishing ad revenues took the biggest hit with a 10.3% decline to $247 million. The slump was led by a 6% decline in retail ad spending, particularly in the department store and home furnishings categories, though health care and restaurant biz was up slightly.

Publishing revenues from national advertisers dropped 3.7%, though gains from movie ads helped offset declines in auto, financial and resort categories. Newspaper classified advertising continues to take a beating from the digital likes of Craigslist and other online sources. Tribune said its classified ad biz sank 18.2% during the July period, led by declines in real estate listings for Tribune papers in Los Angeles, Chicago and Florida.

Tribune’s interactive classified ad biz was up 11% with growth on most categories, but it still only amounted to $22 million in revenue. Publishing circulation revenues dropped 5.4% during the period.

Revenues at Tribune’s 23 TV stations dropped 3.7% for the period on lower automotive, movie and political advertising, though there were some signs of life in the telecom/wireless and health care categories. Increased revenues from the Tribune Entertainment syndication biz and Chicago Cubs baseball team helped the company’s broadcasting and entertainment group stay even with year-over-year revenue for the July period at $147 million.

On Aug. 21, Tribune shareholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the company’s $8.2 billion takeover by Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell in a transaction that will take the company private under a complex employee-ownership structure (Daily Variety, Aug. 22). After spiking early last week in anticipation of the shareholder vote, Tribune’s stock was down 23¢ at the close of trading Friday to $28.75.

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