Ad spending down 14 percent – but it’s not getting worse!

Over the last few days executives at Goldman Sachs’ Communicopia have talked about a stabilizing — or even improving — advertising market.

It’s not the only time they’ve talked about stabilization. It was the watchword of investors calls as far back as last spring. And it appears they were right. New figures out from TNS Media Intelligence show the advertising market wasn’t any worse in the second quarter than it was in the first.

That’s cold comfort considering the data show that advertising spending in the second quarter sank 13.9 percent from a year ago. For the first six months of 2009, spending is down some 14.3 percent from a year ago, or more than $10 billion in lost TV spots, print ads and radio jingles.

Here’s how TNS research guru Jon Swallen described it in a prepared statement:

While it’s tempting to interpret this as a positive indicator that things aren’t getting worse, the fact remains that the market has been steadily tracking at around 14 percent declines for several consecutive months and this represents billions of lost revenue. Early data from third quarter hint at possible improvements for some media due to easy comparisons against distressed levels of year ago expenditures.

‘Marketplace’ scores ‘less happy’ music to match economy

Here’s a post from our San Francisco reporter Clare Baldwin:

Radio listeners are brooding as the world economy continues to falter, and American Public Media is rewriting its music to improve the mood.

Marketplace, American Public Media’s daily business and economics show, has rescored the music that accompanies “The Numbers” section of the program, which ticks off the ups and downs of the stock market.

The show plays “We’re in the Money” when the market is up and “Stormy Weather” when the market is down.

Did the watchdog forget to bark?

The opening panel at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers annual meet in Denver addressed an interesting question: Did 9,000 business journalists blow it when it came to ringing the alarm bells on the financial meltdown?

The five SABEW panelists — The New York Times’ business editor Larry Ingrassia, Columbia Journalism Review critic and former Wall Street Journal reporter Dean Starkman, personal finance columnist Jane Bryant Quinn, Emmy-winning former ABC News investigative reporter Allan Dodds Frank and Greg Miller, a professor at the University of Michigan — agreed that the financial press could have done more. Newspapers, wire services, magazines and television stations could have been more aggressive, and they could have taken more pains to explain why complex things like mortgage-backed securities might matter to the average reader.

But journalists can hardly be accused of “blowing it” when even doomsday pundits like Bob Shiller and Nouriel Roubini could predict only parts of the nightmare scenario that is unfolding in the U.S. economy right now, the panelists said.

Fox, New York Times sue U.S. government

The latest by-product of the financial crisis? Media lawsuits. More specifically: Government agencies deny or fail to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by media organizations, which then sue to force the government to own up.

The two latest cases are from News Corp’s Fox Business Network and The New York Times (both outlets’ complaints are pasted below). Fox sued for what it said was the government’s failure to respond to a FOIA request, filed on February 26, 2009, which sought records relating to information that the Securities and Exchange Commission received regarding the potential violations of the securities laws or any other potential wrongdoing by R. Allen Stanford, or Stanford Financial Group and its affiliates. This request included, but was not limited to, the SEC’s response to complaints, tips or information and any resulting audits, inquiries and investigations.

The Times’s complaint, filed by investigative reporter and Washington Post alum Jo Becker and her editor, chides the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Dept. for stalling or failing to disclose documents related to the financial crisis, including communications between some of the top dogs in the bailout program over the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP.

More Wall Street women, swimsuit-style

We made our share of waves when we reported last year that Playboy was recruiting women laid off from banking and finance jobs to pose nude in the adult entertainment magazine. The photos and accompanying article were supposed to hit in February, though we hear that it’s been pushed back to May.

Meanwhile, we got this press release from More magazine, published by Meredith Corp:


WHAT: Did you recently leave your Wall Street job and are curious to explore a new side of yourself? More magazine has an opportunity for you! More is giving all former Wall Street women ages 40-60 the chance to appear in its annual “Real-Women” June issue swimsuit feature. If you’re looking to trade your power suit for a swimsuit in the only lifestyle magazine for women over 40, this is your chance. Check out for more details.

Domino dancing with Conde Nast

April Fool’s Day is still a few months away, giving magazine publisher Conde Nast some time to pull a few practice gags. The latest is its decision to kill Domino magazine — days after appointing a new chief to run it.

Here’s the press release, sent on Wednesday:

Domino magazine will cease publication, it was announced today by Charles H. Townsend, President and CEO of Condé Nast. The final issue will be published in March 2009.

“This decision to cease publication of the magazine and its website is driven entirely by the economy,” Mr. Townsend said. “Although readership and advertising response was encouraging in the early years, we have concluded that this economic market will not support our business expectations.”

CBS wants to talk about your money

The financial crisis might have sapped more than its share of 401(k)s, but it’s providing the news business with all sorts of programming ideas.

The latest is a new personal finance website from CBS Interactive., which officially goes live on Wednesday, will provide the following things, according to the press release:

    The site will translate the latest financial headlines and break down how they directly impacts the readers’ and their pocketbook. MoneyWatch will provide a bird’s eye view into how the latest financial news affects their salaries, mortgages, 401Ks, and their overall finical well-being. With the support of CBS, MoneyWatch experts will react quickly to translate the news on a broadcast level, from national and local TV and radio stations including CBS Early Show and local CBS news affiliates. Unlike other personal finance sites now available, MoneyWatch will have a life across multi-platforms, across the web, TV, and radio, and reach a massive audience. Led by Eric Schroenberg, former managing editor of Money Magazine, MoneyWatch will help people who feel responsible about their money and believe that making the right decisions about what they have and what they earn is profoundly important. If the crash taught us anything, it’s that the penalty for not knowing what to do with your money has never been higher. is spin-off from its sister site, BNET, one of the fastest growing business sites on the Web.

The announcement comes on the heels of Fox Business Network’s announcement that it will start a Saturday morning four-hour call-in program for folks worried about their money, and joins a host of other “what it means for you”-style sites dealing in personal finance, such as

Lee joins newspaper privation train

Lee Enterprises, publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and owner of a bunch of small U.S. daily newspapers, is learning the public relations benefits of making its executives do without.

The Davenport, Iowa-based Lee released its annual proxy filing with the U.S. government on Monday, in advance of its annual meeting. I was expecting to see the usual details buried deep within about the pay raises, bonuses and other monetary rewards that executives tend to earn even when times turn tough.

I was wrong. Here is what I found instead (the following are “named executive officers” or “NEOs,” including Chief Executive Mary Junck:

Tax breaks (not bailouts) for newspapers

I ran a story on New Year’s Eve about the opportunities and perils that could face struggling newspapers if they end up surviving because of government help. I opened the story with the tale of Connecticut state lawmakers and a state commissioner who are trying to find someone to buy two Journal Register-owned dailies and several weeklies that are going to be shut down in January if they can’t be saved. From there, I explored the ramifications of government aid to newspapers.

The story got plenty of attention, though it looks like misinterpretation was rife. Many bloggers and news sources portrayed the Connecticut situation as a bailout, leading to plenty of ire directed at the lawmakers and the story. (Some conservative bloggers hinted that we deliberately omitted the lawmakers’ affiliation. For the record — they are Democrats. Also for the record: I had that in there, then deleted it, intending to put it somewhere else in the story. Then I plum forgot. No hidden agenda.)

So here’s what I’m expecting next and here’s what I still don’t know or understand. I’m eager to hear from folks who care about the future of newspapers in the United States to add their thoughts in the comments section.

Watch Gannett layoffs in slow motion

It’s layoff week at Gannett — even the second N and T might be redundant.

The largest U.S. newspaper publisher and owner of USA Today, the nation’s biggest-selling daily paper, is slashing payroll just in time for the holidays. We read about layoffs everywhere these days, but if you want to see the slow-motion car crash version of how Gannett is doing it, look to Gannett Blog, run by former company reporter Jim Hopkins.

With no newspaper job to keep him busy, Hopkins chronicles nearly every event that he hears about Gannett. That includes a dose of rumor, but much of what he reports is more right than wrong.