Good news from Gannett - really

Shares of Gannett Co. (GCI), the world's largest newspaper publisher, rose more than 16 percent in pre-market trading after the company reported better-than-expected second quarter results.

Net income at the McLean, Virginia-based parent of USA Today was $70.5 million, or 30 cents a share, compared with a loss of $2.29 billion, or $10.03 per share. Revenue plunged 17.8 percent to $1.41 billion.

The bottom line figures include loads of gains and charges related to the publisher's debt exchange, laying off worker and consolidating facilities and writing down the value of assets. Excluding these items, profit was 46 cents, beating Wall Street consensus estimates of 36 cents.

Even so, the numbers themselves were bad in many ways.
Publishing segment operating revenues were $1.1 billion, a 25.8 percent decline from the same quarter a year ago.
Advertising revenue plunged 32 percent were $753.1 million. The company's digital business, which includes CareerBuilder, and its broadcasting division showed double-digit revenue declines. Profit rose on a pro-forma basis by 84 percent in the digital business. Meanwhile, the broadcast business continued to suffer along with the rest of the industry.

"We continue to position the company for the eventual rebound in the economy and the evolving media landscape as we navigate through this unprecedented economic storm," Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore said in the press release. "The economic headwinds, which continued to constrain advertising demand, masked several important achievements."

Even when newspapers were not in such dire circumstances, Wall Street had a pretty dim view of the industry. Gannett was the exception. Former CEO Douglas McKorkindale was viewed as an efficient and savvy manager. But that was then and this is now.

The same shorts that are getting crushed in today's rally will be back with a vengeance in the coming days. Gannett continues to face an uphill battle to regain credibility on Wall Street because the newspaper industry's prospects are so dire.
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