March 4, 2016

A.H. Belo achieved one of its financial goals for 2015, the company reported today, generating enough revenue from its digital marketing, printing and events businesses to avoid any significant decreases in revenue.

Bottom-line, however, the publisher of The Dallas Morning News was in the same boat as other publicly traded newspaper companies. It posted a small net loss for both the final quarter of 2015 and the whole year.

The revenue growth came in part from three marketing companies acquired at the start of 2015. And its publishing and printing units benefited from a decline of nearly 20 percent in newsprint prices — unlikely to be duplicated in 2016.

CEO Jim Moroney, in a conference call with analysts, characterized the company as at a midpoint in trying to “rebuild a business model that is sustainable.” Having shed papers in Providence, Rhode Island and Riverside, California, Moroney continued, Belo now is focused on just the one “great market” of Dallas.

“I’m not saying we’ve declared victory by a long shot,” he said, and he conceded that there are cost disadvantages in not being able to spread overhead around to multiple properties as most regional publishing companies do.

But Moroney said that businesses acquired for diversification should grow at a healthy rate this year even without further purchases. And he hopes to improve the “reach and engagement” of digital editions.

Circulation revenues at the Morning News and its sister paper in Denton were flat for both the quarter and the year compared to 2014.

Because one staff handles both advertising and digital marketing sales, the company reports the two together and no longer breaks out publishing ad revenue declines. For the year, revenues for the two decreased by about 1 percent compared to 2014.

Belo shares were up a little less than 1 percent in midday trading.

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Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years. His commentary on…
Rick Edmonds

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