Gannett, which owns USA TODAY and 109 local news properties, said Tuesday continued challenges to print advertising and circulation led to a net loss for the fourth quarter of 2017.
The McLean, Va.-based company reported a net loss of $13.6 million, or a loss of 12 cents per share, compared to net income of $24.6 million, or 21 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.
On an adjusted basis, Gannett reported a quarterly profit of 55 cents per share, compared to 50 cents a year ago. The result beat Wall Street’s expectation of 46 cents per share.
Gannett’s stock (GCI) fell 10%, or $1.14, to $10.12 in afternoon trading. Shares had risen 36% over the last six months; during that time the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen 10%.
Total operating revenue for the quarter declined 1.5% to $854.2 million from $867 million in the prior-year and exceeding the $848.7 million expected by analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Revenue included about $49.1 million from a 53rd week included in the period.
The results included a $42.8 million tax expense from the recently-passed tax reform law and $27.6 million in after-tax restructuring, asset impairment charges and other costs.
Revenue from digital advertising, marketing and subscriptions all showed growth in the fourth quarter, but not enough to offset declining print advertising and circulation revenue.
“Beyond our solid financial results, we are proud of the progress we have made on our journey to become a next-generation media company that is the daily destination for consumers and a top performer for our marketers,” said Gannett president and CEO Robert Dickey in a conference call Tuesday with investment analysts after the company released the results.
Unique visitors to the USA TODAY NETWORK’s online properties, comprised of USA TODAY and more than 100 local newsrooms, hit a new high of 125.3 million unique visitors in the month of September, achieving the No. 2 ranking behind CNN.com in the news/information category.
Overall, the NETWORK’s online unique visitors were up 6% on average in 2017, compared to the previous year, according to comScore data.
Digital revenues for the full year grew to $1 billion and now represent 31.6% of total revenue. “We are well on our way to achieving our target of having more than 50% of our advertising revenues (come) from digital in the next 12 to 18 months,” Dickey said.
Total digital revenue for the fourth quarter increased to $272.3 million, or about 32% of total revenue. Digital advertising revenue rose 7% to $118.9 million, compared to $110.8 million a year ago.
Digital-only subscriptions rose 50% to about 341,000.
Revenue from ReachLocal, a local online marketing firm focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses connect with customers, rose 35% to $101.4 million. Subtracting the 53rd week, ReachLocal revenue rose 25.6%.
Total publishing revenue declined 3% to $764.8 million, compared to $790.5 million in the same period a year ago. Print advertising revenue declined 12.2% to $293.6 million, compared to $334.4 million a year ago.
Circulation revenue rose less than 1% to $299.4 million. When factoring in the extra week, currency impact and acquired revenue, circulation revenue fell 6.7% to $277.8 million.
For 2018, Gannett forecast full-year revenue of $2.93 billion to $3.03 billion. The company reported 2017 revenue of about $3.15 billion.
“Looking ahead to 2018, we remain focused on growing our marketing solutions and consumer businesses, while driving additional operating efficiencies,” Dickey said in a statement accompanying the company’s earnings release.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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