McClatchy’s losses widened in the first quarter, the company reported Thursday, while seeing growth in its digital subscription efforts.
The publisher of 30 daily newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee, posted a $42 million loss or $5.34 per share – nearly an 8 percent increase from the same period the year before.
McClatchy reported $180 million in revenues, which was down 9 percent compared with the first quarter of 2018. Advertising revenue came in at $85 million – a 15 percent decline from a year earlier.
In a move to reshape its business, McClatchy has pivoted to digital-only subscriptions as income from traditional print advertising continues to erode. The company reported having more than 179,000 digital-only subscribers, a 60 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier.
“Our focus on paid digital subscriber growth is a key performance measure in our continuing digital transformation and a contributor to improving our audience revenue trend this quarter,” CEO Craig Forman said during a conference call with investors.
“We have tightened our paywalls, improved our ability to convert viewers to paid subscribers and sharpened our targeting for our digital products,” Forman said. “As a result, we achieved nearly 60 percent growth in digital-only subscriptions, reaching 179,100 at the end of the first quarter of 2019.”
The Sacramento-based company still carried about $745 million in debt by the end of the first quarter, which it said would be reduced by $32 million by the end of the second quarter thanks to the sale of a distribution center in Miami and another transaction.
McClatchy also started a voluntary early retirement program expected to result in $12 million in savings by the end of the year, company officials said. The program also reduced the company’s pension liability by 2 percent, down to $535 million.
McClatchy (MNI) shares closed Thursday at $2.85.