As he said at the UBS media conference in December, AH Belo (NYSE: AHC) (NYSE: BLC) CEO Robert Decherd touted the publisher’s membership in the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Newspaper Consortium as the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal advertising season and outlook. In particular, Decherd is particularly hopeful about the full use of Yahoo’s behavioral targeting tools. The company generated $1.2 million in revenue last year directly related to beta testing of Yahoo’s behavioral targeting offerings. About 80 percent of those revenues were at the Dallas Morning News. Surprisingly, the paper saw auto ad revenues spike as a result of Yahoo’s behavioral targeting assistance. “AH Belo was the first member of the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium to use all of Yahoo’s behavioral targeting offerings,” having implemented Yahoo’s APT ad delivery and targeting system throughout all its papers since last month.
— APT’s difference: During the call, Decherd didn’t offer revenue projections from APT. “You’re going to have three newspapers using this tool on our sites, but I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the $1.2 million is the most we expect to realize out of this deal. That was mostly one paper and was a test. We’ve now got APT at all our papers and we’ve got the ability, thanks to Yahoo, to sell behaviorally targeted ads on our own sites. This will make significant difference for us this year.”
More on meeting Yahoo’s Carol Bartz and online revenues after the jump…
— Meeting with Bartz in Las Vegas: Asked if AH Belo had any concerns about the changes at Yahoo, which include the departure of Yahoo President Sue Decker — who was a driving force behind the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium and APT — and the hiring of Carol Bartz as CEO, the Dallas company’s execs said they were hopeful about the state of the Newspaper Consortium under the new regime. Yahoo will be hosting a Newspaper Consortium meeting in Las Vegas next month. Decherd: “We don’t know any better than the next [Consortium] partner. Generally, the consortium is a source of revenue, so I wouldn’t expect them to cast it aside in some way. The fact that Carol Bartz is meeting with all of us in Las Vegas next month… that’s encouraging. We’ll know soon. There’s clearly fine-tuning to be done to APT and the Consortium, but we’ll wait and see what Yahoo has to say. Donald “Skip” Cass, Jr. added: “If this were two years ago, this management change would cause me more concern. But now that the technology has been rolled out makes us more comfortable. The costs of developing the technology have already been borne, so I don’t expect Yahoo to cut from that area. But as Robert said, we’ll know more next month.”
— Online revs down 16 percent in Q4: Despite the needed boost from Yahoo, it wasn’t enough to balance out the wider economic pressures that have been bearing down on all online advertising. CFO Ali Engel said that online contributed $11.1 million in Q4 revenues, 16 percent lower than the same period the year before. Online was down 12 percent for the full year. Banner and contextual advertising were up somewhat, but were offset by declines in classifieds.