Newspaper publishers are reporting some good news at last, although how good it is depends on your perspective. Speaking to the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in Chicago this week, executives from Gannett, Media General, McClatchy, the New York Times Company said revenue is showing signs of bouncing back.
Gannett’s Bob Dickey said the industry is emerging from a “cyclical downturn” and that Gannett is positioned to take advantage of new revenue opportunities and an improving climate. Executives said they were comfortable with the high end of Wall Street’s earnings estimates for the quarter. However, that doesn’t mean growth is back. Gannett is still planning to trim expenses by single-digit percentages during the next year and it started with the announcement last week of further cuts at USA Today.
Media General said it sees signs of ad spending “firming,” and that aggressive cost cuts of the past two years have stabilized the company. Media General has whittled $200 million off its debt load over the last three years, although the total debt still stands at a daunting $700 million.
The New York Times Company has also been cutting its debt — from $1.1 billion-$800 million — and sees the slope of decline in advertising revenues beginning to flatten. It expects print advertising revenue to be down 25% in the fourth quarter, but that’s compared to inflated election-year spending in 2008. CEO Janet Robinson said it looks like online advertising will actually increase 10% in 2010.
McClatchy says it’s lifting a pay freeze that’s been in effect for over a year but don’t break out the champagne just yet. Revenues were still down 23% in the third quarter although CEO Gary Pruitt said McClatchy is “successfully navigating through these difficult economic times.”
Newsosaur Alan Mutter isn’t buying any of it. He says newspaper executives are whistling past the graveyard when you look at the magnitude of the industry contraction over the last four years. According to his projections, “classified advertising in 2009 is likely to total no more than $6 billion, or fully 65% less than the $17.3 billion in sales booked in 2005.” He also points out that the recession took a particularly heavy toll on retail and automotive companies, which are the backbone of newspaper revenues. Most of that business will never come back, he says.
Meanwhile, new figures from TNS Media Intelligence show the media industry is far from out of the woods. Advertising expenditures slipped 14.7% in the first nine months of 2009, with traditional media leading the downward spiral. Newspapers and radio posted identical declines of 22.8% in the period. Business-to-business magazines fared the worst, with revenues down more than 27%.
That brightening at picture at the New York Times Co. won’t stop it from continuing to cut costs at its flagship. The newspaper will be forced to resort to layoffs after it failed to meet its target of cutting 100 positions through a voluntary buyout offer. The Times isn’t saying how many people stepped up to take the severance package, but speculation is that about 50 union and nonunion jobs will be cut to layoffs.
The news is better at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, which the Times Co. has pulled off the auction block. The T&G was offered for sale early this year almost as an afterthought when the Times Co. put the Boston Globe up for sale. The company later canceled the sale, reportedly because bids weren’t high enough. While the Globe has been in a downward cost-cutting cycle this year, its sister 30 miles to the west has apparently been focusing on remaking itself. The reason cited for the cancellation of the Worcester paper was a transformation of its “journalistic and business operations.”
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 at 9:53 am and is filed under Advertising, Business News, BusinessModel, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.