Whenever people think that things can get any worse for newspaper publishers, along comes more proof that it indeed can. The fall Fas-Fax report coming out Oct. 30 has more bad news for the beleaguered industry, showing a 2.5 percent decline in top-line daily circulation and about a 3 percent drop off in Sunday paper sales, according to Editor & Publisher. The trade publication says the declines for the six months ending September 2006 came “even after several periods of losses and easier comparisons.”
Newspapers have been relying on their online businesses to help offset the decline in circulation. To be fair, they’ve had some success. Gains in Web advertising have off-set declines in other types of advertising. E.W. Scripps today reported better-than-expected quarterly results thanks to the strong performance of its online businesses Shopzilla and uSwitch. McClatchy also said today that its online revenue jumped 20 percent in September and
20 16 percent for the third quarter, which included its acquisition of the rival Knight-Ridder chain. Gannett reported strong online sales earlier this month.
Online revenue will also no doubt be the focus of investors’ attention when Dow Jones and New York Times Co. report earnings on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19 respectively as Wall Street continues to fret about overall advertising spending.
— In other news, The Financial Times has an interesting story on the future of newspapers and how the innovative non-profit ownership at Florida’s St. Petersburg Times may serve as a model for others. Locals took over the Philadelphia Inquirer and are trying to buy the Los Angeles Times. Whether either will take root is difficult to say. Advertisers are interested in attracting consumers who spend little if any time reading a paper. Those people, of course, get their news online.