Doing worse doesn’t mean
doing badly. Until recently, many newspapers had profit margins
exceeding 30%. By 2008, the industry’s average margin had fallen to the
mid-teens. The speed and magnitude of this decline have resulted in
wrenching changes in the way these historically stable businesses must
The continuing drama
shouldn’t distract from real earnings power. Many newspapers still have
almost double the profitability of other media sectors, such as movies,
music and books — which have long struggled to achieve margins of even
The article goes on to explore the ways in which various newspaper company executives basically took their businesses to Vegas and put everything on black. It also gives props to the local papers which, after all, get stuck supporting the fuckups made at companies’ marquee properties:
There are many newspaper
industries. The handful of national newspapers that garner the most
attention represent a tiny subindustry (about 10% of daily circulation)
within the overall sector. These papers, which include the New York
Times, the Wall Street Journal (published by News Corp., which also
ownsBarron’s) and USA Today, have long been among the industry’s least profitable.
USA Today, for example, took
a decade to attain profitability, and has continued to maintain much
lower margins than the small market local papers that filled parent
company Gannett’s coffers with the cash it spent on USA Today.
Seriously, in half these discussions you’d think the only newspaper that exists is is the New York Times. Not that big papers aren’t important; my eyes begin to glaze over when people talk about micro-local being the future of news. Sometimes you need the national conversation being driven by the national media. But the death of the Times (predicted to be in June 2010 by Patrick Spain, recall) would not be the death of newspapers, and to act like it would is to buy into exactly the narrative foolish executives want consumers to believe. Save us, save us!