Media General, owner of the Daily Progress, has announced that their February revenues were up 4.2% over February 2005. Unfortunately for them, it seems to be a one-time hit, courtesy of ads during the Olympics on their NBC affiliates. Their publishing division is up just 0.8% for the period, and their on-line division is up by 36%, but 36% of nothing isn’t much. Classified advertising was up 9.3%, but the Craig’s List effect doesn’t bode well for that as a long-term revenue source. The Progress‘ is said to have had a “high single-digit increase” in retail advertising. The bad news comes in their outlook, in which they report lower-than-expected growth for Q1 2006.
This means the same thing for the Progress that it meant six months ago, last time Media General reported bad financial news — cost-cutting. And there are only two way to cut costs at a paper — reduce pay or reduce employees. The Progress has instituted a hiring freeze, leaving two staff positions unfilled and the existing staff stretching to make up for the shortfall. I have to wonder if The Hook or C-Ville will be able to take some market share from the Progress (to the extent to which they compete) if the daily falls much further, or if the Progress, by virtue of being our only daily, can lower their standards all that they want and not take a hit in circulation or, consequently, ad revenue.