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At this writing, Idearc Media‘s stock was trading higher (up about 28 percent at noon Eastern) after an earnings announcement that shows the company has managed its costs well enough to grow EBITDA, while its revenues continued to slide.

Here are a few highlights from today’s earnings call (we will have a more detailed write-up for clients of The Kelsey Report):

  • Acting CEO Frank Gatto squarely blames the soft U.S. economy for continuing softness in ad sales. For the first quarter, “multi-product” ad sales were down 6.2 percent. On a reported basis, total revenues decreased 4.5 percent to US$770 million, with print declining 5.5 percent to US$696 million, and online up 7.4 percent to US$73 million.
  • First-quarter EBITDA was up 1.4 percent on a reported basis, though it declined 3.2 percent on an adjusted pro forma basis. The adjusted EBITDA margin grew slightly to 47.7 percent. The company cited tight cost management and lower traffic acquisition costs (some of which were related to the end of its MSN relationship, which wrapped up in mid-December).
  • The company blamed a shift from fixed fee to variably priced online advertising for the relatively anemic 7.4 percent first-quarter online growth rate. Idearc said it expects full-year online growth to be more in the 20 percent range. Idearc executives said demand is strong for performance-based advertising.
  • The company is rolling out a new packaged search program called Search Marketing Local that will enhance the value proposition Idearc can offer local advertisers.
  • Idearc executives adopted a friendlier tone toward the national sales channel on today’s call. Under former CEO Kathy Harless, the national channel was made something of a scapegoat for soft ad sales. Today, Idearc executives said national results had not improved from Q4 to Q1, but they added that the channel was working closely with Idearc and said they hoped to see results of this in the second half of the year.
  • Idearc leaders acknowledged that stand-alone local online sales channels like ReachLocal are increasingly a factor, but they were confident they could compete because it offers a broader package that includes print, IYP, SEM and SEO.

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