Book publishing gives an unexpected silver lining to dismal media earnings

Media and newspaper companies have had dismal fortunes last year, and book publishing is no exception. Layoffs, mergers of imprints, declining sales, rising costs -- all put the biggest publishing houses deep in the red in the last two quarters of 2008. But the latest quarterly numbers coming in tell a more optimistic story for their massive parent conglomerates.

Lagardere's (LGDDF) preliminary Q1 earnings report, released Wednesday, won't have anyone popping Champagne bottles. Consolidated revenues for the first nine months of 2009 fell 3.7% (or 3.9% on a like-for-like basis) to €5.8 billion ($8.6 billion); the magazine and broadcast divisions alone fell 19.1% for the first quarter. But the publishing division, including Hachette Book Group USA, has been a rock for Lagardere -- thanks to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novels, which have been a rock for Hachette.