[Chart shows changes in page counts and revenue]
Struggling to right itself, USA Today published 495 pages of paid advertising during the third quarter, according to Gannett's just-released quarterly financial statement. That is basically unchanged from a year ago, when the paper carried 493 pages.
This is good news because it doesn't show further erosion, and bad news because it also doesn't show improvement: 495 is the second lowest number of pages in nearly three years -- evidence of USAT's financial straits.
Unfortunately, we don't know what the new page count means in terms of advertising dollars. If pages are selling for less than a year ago, revenue would be lower even if the page count remains the same, or grows. That's what happened in the first quarter, when the number of pages rose 3%, but ad revenue fell 11%, according to that quarter's more detailed 10-Q report to federal regulators.
(We still don't know what happened in the second quarter, because GCI -- in a rare move -- omitted the revenue figure from that period's 10-Q. I've since estimated the decline as high as 20%, more than twice the first quarter's loss.)
A numbers maze
But without knowing the base for print or for digital, it's impossible to know how all this adds up.
What we do know is: Something happened during the spring to finally spook USAT Publisher Dave Hunke into ordering up about 130 more job cuts, and a still-evolving reorganization meant to re-emphasize a digital-first strategy. Hunke is expected to give more details on that reorg during a staff meeting set for 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday.