More tough revenue numbers for ProJo parent company

Advertising and circulation revenue continues to decline for the Providence Journal's Dallas-based parent company, A.H. Belo, according to a fourth-quarter earnings report released this week.

Advertising revenue was down nearly 10 percent from a year ago. Of the company's three major papers - the Providence Journal, the Dallas Morning News and the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California - the ProJo had the steepest decline, according to the regulatory filing. The report did not break out the precise decline for each paper.

Circulation was down almost 4 percent, versus a year ago, for A.H. Belo - a dip the company attributed primarily to a single copy sales decline for the Morning News.

Newspaper companies around the country are pushing to increase circulation revenue - through more digital subscriptions and increases in print subscription rates - as a counterweight to declining ad sales. Indeed, The New York Times Company's year-end filing shows the firm made more in circulation revenue than advertising revenue in 2012, a first in company history.

The New York Times is a unique paper, of course. But Times Company's New England Media group, which includes the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, appears to be headed in the same direction. In 2012, advertising revenue dropped 6 percent to $186 million, while circulation revenue ticked up slightly to $158 million. That's a 54 percent-46 percent split.

A.H. Belo hasn't moved as far in that direction. In 2012, advertising revenue dropped almost 9 percent to $258 million, while circulation revenue fell more than 2 percent to $136.5 million. That's a 65-35 split - just about halfway between the 80-20 rule of thumb that prevailed in the newspaper industry prior to the Internet Age and the 50-50 ideal now in vogue.

There was some good news in A.H. Belo's fourth-quarter and year-end reports. For the year, A.H. Belo reported earnings of $0.01 per share in 2012, versus a $0.51 loss in 2011. And in the fourth quarter, the company saw a 14 percent jump in its printing and distribution revenue versus the same period a year ago - due, primarily, to new printing and distribution contracts at the ProJo.

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