Milwaukee Journal Sentinel publisher Journal Communications Inc. reported a fourth-quarter profit of $7.2 million Thursday, reversing year-ago loss caused by accounting charges.
But the company, which also operates smaller community newspapers as well as radio and TV stations, continued to suffer from the industrywide advertising slump. The economy and the shift of advertising to cheaper venues on the Web has hurt almost every publisher.
Revenue at the Journal Sentinel, which also includes subscription fees and accounts for more than a third of the company's total, fell 15.7 percent in the fourth quarter versus a year ago. Classified advertising, once a huge profit center for newspapers, fell more than 35 percent.
Like other publishers, the company's revenue decline eased somewhat from earlier in the year. In the third quarter, the Journal Sentinel's revenue was down 23.4 percent year-over-year. But the decline in ad sales had already set in the year before, making for easier comparisons to year-ago figures.
The company's broadcast revenue dropped 13.3 percent.
Journal Communications said it expects to report more declines in its publishing division for the first quarter of 2010. Broadcasting revenue should post a gain, with advertising tied to political campaigns and the Olympics that was absent the previous year.
The company's fourth quarter earnings amounted to 12 cents per share, or 14 cents excluding one-time expenses. That compares with a loss of $223 million, or $4.46 per share, in the year ago quarter. The year-ago loss included $228.7 million worth of charges to account for a decline in the value of its assets.
Overall revenue was down 16.4 percent to $112.2 million from $134.3 million a year ago.
Full year earnings totaled $4.3 million, or 5v cents a share, versus a loss of $224.4 million, or $4.36 a share, in 2008. Annual revenue fell 20 percent to $433.6 million from $544.9 million a year ago.