Earnings: Tribune, LookSmart, Ask Jeeves, Eyeblaster

Tribune’s Online Ad Revenues Jump, Unit Still in Red

Newspaper publisher Tribune Co. , whose stable of 12 newspapers includes the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, said on Tuesday that its online ad revenues continued to grow in the fourth quarter, although the interactive unit still lost money.

Reporting after a series of positive online ad news from competitors like The Washington Post and The New York Times, Tribune said revenues at its interactive unit were $19 million, a 17 percent increase compared to the same period a year ago. However, while the unit broke even on an EBITDA (earning before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) basis, it still recorded a $1.6 million operating loss. That’s down from a $5 million shortfall in fourth-quarter 2001.

Tribune said the revenue growth was most attributable to a 25 percent rise in banner ad and sponsorship revenues and a 13 percent rise in classified revenues.

LookSmart, Ask Jeeves Reach Profit Milestones

In a show of how hot the search sector is at the moment, paid-listings provider LookSmart and Internet search company Ask Jeeves reported their first profitable quarters.

LookSmart said on Tuesday that it took in $3.4 million of net income in the fourth quarter on $31.3 million in revenues. The company attributed its profits, in part, to strong growth in its paid listing business, which grew to $27.3 million — a 126 percent increase compared to last year. Paid listings now account for 87 percent of the company’s revenues.

Ask Jeeves reported a fourth-quarter profit of $2 million on $22.7 million in revenues. It was the first quarter the company was both profitable and cash-flow positive. Like LookSmart, Ask Jeeves said its results benefited greatly from the paid-listings fees from its partnership with Google. Ask Jeeves raised its revenue and profit guidance for the rest of the year, saying it expects revenue growth of 35 percent and pro forma earnings of about $10 million.

Eyeblaster Says It Keeps Growing

Rich media delivery and management company Eyeblaster said it had its fourth straight quarter of profitability in the fourth quarter, with revenues growing 38 percent sequentially.

The privately held company said its growth has been fueled by the increasing popularity of its rich-media platform, which Eyeblaster said served 980 million ad impressions in the fourth quarter — almost half of the entire rich media industry.

DoubleClick’s quarterly ad-serving trend report, released today, backs up the growing popularity of rich media According to DoubleClick, rich media, as a percentage of ad volume, grew from 17.3 percent in the first quarter to 24.9 percent in the fourth. The company forecasts a further 10 percent growth rate for the first quarter of 2003.

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