Lamar Advertising Co. reported a second-quarter profit of $11.4 million, or 12 cents per share, handily beating the 8 cents per share projected by Wall Street analysts.

While the Baton Rouge outdoor advertiser’s revenue rose 2.4 percent to $293.9 million, that was short of the $295.9 million forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. And the revenue forecast for the third quarter, $293 million, is also lower than the $300.3 million analysts projected.

Lamar reported its earnings before the markets opened, and investors wasted no time in hammering the company’s stock. Lamar fell below $21 per share in early trading, before bouncing back to close at $22.11, down $2.79, or 11.2 percent.

It was Lamar’s lowest closing price in 23 months. Some 6.3 million shares were traded, eight times the normal daily volume.

During a conference call with stock analysts and investors, Lamar Chairman Kevin Reilly Jr. said the company wasn’t helped by the 0.8 percent growth in the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“But you can’t sugarcoat weak performance and weak guidance,” he said.

Reilly said the company’s challenges, especially with its smallest customers, leads him to believe that local businesses aren’t sold on the economy’s recovery.

Still, Lamar’s second quarter was far better than the same period in 2010 when the company lost nearly $9 million, or 10 cents per share. Those results included a $17.1 million charge related to refinancing debt.

Lamar President Sean Reilly said Lamar’s sales to national advertisers were down 1 percent and that sluggish performance carried into the third quarter. He expects national ad revenue to be flat or down slightly during the third quarter.

Sean Reilly said Lamar’s digital billboard business continues to grow.

The high-tech billboards now account for 13 percent of Lamar’s book of business, he said, and the digital boards’ revenue was up 15 percent during the first half of the year.

“That indicates to us that we need to keep pedal to the metal when it comes to growing our digital footprint,’ he said.

In November, Lamar announced plans to install 300 new digital billboards by the end of 2011.

The company has installed 134 of the billboards since then and expects to put up 250 by the end of the year, Sean Reilly said. Poor weather in late 2010 and early 2011 slowed the work.

Lamar spent $11.7 million on digital billboards during the second quarter, compared with $2.9 million a year earlier. During the first half of the year, Lamar spent $20.1 million on digital billboards, compared with $4.7 million during the first half of 2010.