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While avoiding predictions of a full recovery, Dave Swanson, CEO, DexOne (formerly known as R.H. Donnelley), said on this week’s first-quarter 2010 earnings call that the company does expect the rate of decline in ad sales to improve sequentially throughout 2010, ending in the range of a 12 percent to 15 percent decline in ad sales this year, compared with a 20 percent drop in the abyss that was the year 2009. Ad sales for the first-quarter declined 19 percent, a sequential improvement over the 22 percent drop in Q4 2009 ad sales. Reported revenues were down 22 percent

Amid worries that the media landscape has shifted so much that traditional media players will recover little of what they lost because of the downturn, the industry will seize any sign that things have bottomed out and may be on the mend.

Swanson said so far, larger advertisers have come back into the fold faster than smaller accounts. He attributes this to bigger companies having more cash reserves and better access to credit. He cited a recent study from the National Foundation for Independent Businesses showing confidence among SMBs at an all-time low.

Yet looking at number of indicators, Swanson concludes that “conditions seem to have bottomed.”

Among the positive indicators that give DexOne executives hope are improving bad-debt levels among its customers, growing print and IYP usage metrics (citing research commissioned by the Yellow Pages Association and conducted by Burke) and at the macro level, a rise in consumer confidence and spending.

CFO Steve Blondy asserted to the investors on the earnings call that DexOne is a solid “late cycle investment opportunity.”

When asked during questions and answers if the competitive environment has changed, Swanson said digital remains competitive as ever, while print competition has abated somewhat as the economy has “weeded out some of the smaller, less well-capitalized publishers.”

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