scripps_logo.pngE.W. Scripps (SSP), despite posting a small profit last quarter, swung to a $3.5 million loss in the third quarter of 2009 on revenues of $186 million, the company reported today.

Year over year advertising revenue fell 27 percent, which the company called an “improvement.” How? Because in the second quarter of 2009, ad revenue fell 29 percent —so the decline is slowing!

Even online advertising was down, by 20 percent to $7.3 million, the company reported, because most online ad sales are tied to print ads. When you take print out of the equation, online ad revenue rose 38 percent to a whopping $3.9 million.

“As we head into the last quarter of this very difficult year, we believe the advertising and expense trends we experienced in the third quarter will continue,” said Rich Boehne, president and chief executive officer of the company, in a statement.

E.W. Scripps owns 14 newspapers and runs the Scripps Howard News Service. It just bought a 65 percent stake in the Travel Channel, beating out a bid from News Corp.