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Media General Posts Profit On (What Else?) Cost Cuts; Digital Revs Climb

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Media General followed the newspaper publisher trend of reaching profitability through cost cutting in Q4, as publishing revenues in general continued to decline, albeit more slowly. In part, the slowing decline can be attributed to the 11 percent growth in digital revenues, as local and national online ad dollars leaped 28 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from a year ago. But Media General (NYSE: MEG) gave credit where it is due, and once again, the Richmond, VA-based owner of The Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch and 20 other dailies, got a boost from its association with the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Newspaper Consortium. In terms of expenses, Media Gen cut costs by 22 percent in Q4, a figure that will be hard to repeat over the next few months.

Aside from the typical cost-cuts-to-profits path that newspaper publishers have been forced to take in the past year, Media Gen’s latest earnings suggest that the chill in online ad spending at newspapers is starting to thaw. Yesterday, The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) posted a 15 percent jump in online ad revenue, for example. However, there’s no trend yet, as Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE), one of the first newspaper publishers to report Q4 earnings, saw online ads slide 8.4 percent during that period.