Digital revenues in Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing unit, which houses the company’s 80 local papers, were up 10.2 percent in the quarter due to gains in virtually all ad categories. Meanwhile, flagship USA Today’s digital ad dollars jumped 35.1 percent reflecting the display ad recovery this past year. Even Careerbuilder, which has recorded repeated revenue declines as unemployment remains high, even posted a slight increase, suggesting the turnaround is extending to even the weakest areas.
Given the 5 percent decline in print — which was much improved from last year’s Q3 drop of 28 percent — the major restructuring for USAT seems increasingly justified in light of digital’s continued strong performance. The restructuring is intended to place more emphasis on mobile and digital news delivery, but it has resulted in a loss of 130 jobs at the paper.
Meanwhile, during the call, CEO and ChairmanCraig Dubow pointed out that the USAT iPad app has been downloaded 1 million times. During the last earnings call, Dubow said that the app would remain free through Q3, since advertiser demand remained high.
Considering how important digital ad revenues are becoming, the company’s sudden reluctance to embrace a paid model for the app — as opposed to Gannett’s paywall experiments at four of its local daily papers’ websites — is natural. But with the NY Post having debuted its paid subscription app yesterday, and the NYT offering a free teaser news app before its paywall comes down early next year, the trail for a subscription version is being blazed.