Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Is the Newspaper Ad Slump Ending? No. But It’s Looking Less Lousy.

upposterBe very careful about reading too much into this. But for what it’s worth, several newspaper publishers are now announcing that things are looking…“up” is the wrong word. Let’s try “less bad.”

Last week, Gannett (GCI) said national ads had only dropped 12 percent in June, compared to a 24 percent slide the previous year. Yesterday, McClatchy (MNI) said that while ad revenue was down 30 percent in the last quarter, this figure was at least stable compared to the previous quarter, and that things were picking up, just a bit, this summer. And today Media General (MEG) said its declines had also become a bit less severe.

Tomorrow we hear from the New York Times (NYT), and if we use the the very low bar set by its peers, there’s a decent chance the publisher will have a not-terrible story to tell.

That’s because the Times had previously warned that its Q2 would look as unpleasant as its Q1, when its ad sales dropped 27 percent; anything less lousy will constitute a win. Investors seem eager to hear about it: NYT shares are trading up today along with many other newspaper publishers.

And again, be very wary of overvaluing these numbers, particularly as we get farther along into summer and fall. At that point, the comps will be measured against last year’s black hole of an economy, and any company that can’t show an improvement against that performance will likely be DOA.

Still. It’s a very nice day in New York, and newspapers deserve a shot of good news. Enjoy.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald