McClatchy Beats Earnings Forecasts, Touts Digital Investments

McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) Company’s fourth quarter operating earnings beat analysts’ predictions, while the newspaper chain also reported an overall boost from investments in online properties like and

In figures released this morning, McClatchy announced earnings of $0.49 per share which surpassed analyst predictions of $0.35. Total operating income for the quarter was $90.3 million, compared to $89.3 million a year ago.

Overall, it appears McClatchy’s deep cost-cutting and ongoing debt reduction have resulted in a stable business operation that is being supplemented by successful online investments. Dividends from these investments, which also include, together contributed $28.8 million to McClatchy’s net income in 2011. The company also reported strong growth in its daily-deal product.

Despite this good news, McClatchy faces the same race against time as other newspaper chains which are losing print revenues faster than they can grow digital ones. While the bottom line of papers like the Miami Herald and El Neuvo Herald are improving and circulation has stabilized, print advertising fell by about 5% in the quarter.

Another sign of concern for McClatchy and other newspaper chains is sluggish growth in digital advertising. Sales in the category actually declined 2% in the quarter for McClatchy but this reflects the fact that many digital ads were sold as a bundle with print ads. McClatchy said pure digital sales increased 7.5%. Overall, though, digital still accounts for less than a quarter of the company’s ad revenues.

McClatchy’s share price was up 15% to $2.59 in mid-morning trading.