Pulitzer ( PTZ) reported a rise in first-quarter profit Friday, citing -- in part -- an increase in newspaper advertising spending.

The operator of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Arizona Daily Star reaffirmed its full-year 2004 guidance, which remains below the Wall Street consensus.

Pulitzer earned $8.1 million, or 37 cents a share, in the quarter ended March 28, compared with $7.1 million, or 33 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Excluding items related to certain investment losses, the company said it would have earned 37 cents a share, which missed analysts' estimate for a profit of 38 cents a share.

Operating income fell 4.2% to $16.2 million, and Pulitzer cited expenses from the launch of a new direct mail product, higher newsprint prices and increased healthcare costs.

The company said operating revenue increased 4.6% to $102.7 million. Advertising revenue in the quarter increased 5.6%, helped by an 11% increase in classified ads.

Recently, publishers such as the New York Times ( NYT), Gannett ( GCI) and Dow Jones ( DJ) also said quarterly profit was boosted by a stronger advertising market than last year.

Shares of Pulitzer were moving down 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $51 in early New York Stock Exchange trading. New York Times shares were also down 10 cents, or 0.2%, at $46.40, while shares of Dow Jones were moving up 14 cents, or 0.3%, at $47.90. Shares of Gannett were also up 40 cents, or 0.5%, at $90.05.

St. Louis-based Pulitzer acquired two weekly newspapers during the quarter, one in Coos Bay, Ore., and one in Bloomington, Ill.

In full-year 2004, the company still expects to earn at least $2.10 a share, while analysts are calling for $2.16 a share, on average.

Separately, the company said that sales in the four-week period ended March 28 rose 7.3% to $33.9 million. Advertising revenue increased 9.7% to $27.1 million at the company's 12 daily newspapers and its operations in St. Louis. Total comparable advertising revenue increased 8.6% for the four-week period.

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