MediaFile

Look out: US online advertising seen down 5 percent

From the bearish forecast department: Screen Digest, a media research firm, issued an outlook today predicting a 5 percent decline in online advertising in 2009. Folks, we’re not talking about newspapers or network television or radio here. We’re talking about the Web.

Screen Digest put out the forecast in response to the IAB’s recent report on 2008, which showed Web advertising rose 10 percent. But the number that turned heads over at Screen Digest was IAB’s fourth quarter figure, which put online growth at a mere 2.6 percent.

Here’s what Screen Digest says:

Following the fourth quarter 2008 tipping-point, Screen Digest has revised its 2009-2010 forecasts for online advertising in the US. We now predict that all categories and subcategories except video will decline in 2009. Banner advertising (-8.8 per cent) will not be fully compensated by the double digit growth of online video, so that the Display category will be down 3.6 per cent. Search will shrink by two per cent and non-Display categories such as Classifieds will experience double digit falls. Overall, the total internet advertising market will shrink by five per cent (-4.8) in 2009 and only stabilize (+0.4 per cent) in 2010.

Still, some perspective… Screen Digest figures that even with a slump in Web advertising, it will still fare better than the broader market. It seen total US advertising spending down in double-digits this year, and some areas (like local TV) dropping by up to 20 percent.

Keep an eye on:

    Boston Globe employees reacted with a mix of resignation and anger on learning of the pay and benefit cuts and the lost job security that The New York Times Company wants them to accept as the price of keeping the money-losing Globe in business (NY Times) Nintendo Co Ltd said sales of its Wii game console have lost some steam in Japan, but it aims to boost demand again by launching a new version of its blockbuster “Wii Sports” software in June (Reuters) Three months after Democratic Presidential contender Barack Obama took the White House, Fox News is beating its rival cable news networks, General Electric Co’s MSNBC and Time Warner Inc’s CNN in the ratings game (Reuters)

(Photo: Reuters)

Comcast CEO Roberts makes the Top 15 on pay

While we were at The Cable Show last week, Comcast filed a documents with securities regulators detailing its 2008 executive compensation. The filing showed that Chief Executive Brian Roberts received $23.7 million in 2008 up from $20.8 million in 2007 but below his 2006 payout of $26 million.

Roberts, as the AP points out, has long been criticized by shareholders for the size of his pay package. His increase comes after Comcast shares fell some 7.6 percent in the calendar year 2008, but this outperformed most of the major market indexes, which fell between 30 to 45 percent last year.

In February Roberts and other executives agreed to forgo a pay rise in 2009 and cut back on personal benefits, including a previous agreement which had guaranteed the payment of his base salary and cash bonus to his heirs for up to five years after his death — a so called ‘golden coffin’ package.

You were expecting positive newspaper news?

A Facebook friend of mine chastised me on Thursday after reading my story about salary reductions at The New York Times and buyouts at The Washington Post. He wanted to know why I hadn’t found anything positive to write about newspapers in a while.

Watch me use the the Newspaper Associations’ fourth-quarter newspaper advertising numbers, released on Thursday, to dash my friend’s expectations.

Here’s the roundup:

    Print ad sales: Down 20.6 percent. That compares to down 11.6 percent in the fourth quarter a year ago. It also is a downhill slide from 19.3 percent in Q3 2008, 16.1 percent in Q2 and 14.4 in Q1. Online ad sales: Down 8.1 percent versus up 22.3 percent last year. It’s also worse than the previous three quarters of down 3 percent, down 2.4 percent and up 7.2 percent. Total print and online? Down 19.7 percent versus down 10.3 percent last year. Previous three quarters? Down 18.1 percent, 15.1 percent, 12.9 percent.

If there’s a positive story to write, it’s that the bleeding might slow once the economy recovers. But when will that be? I’m sorry,  but the beatings really will continue until morale improves.

Read The New York Times buyout memos (edited highlights)

As we reported earlier on Thursday:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two of the most respected U.S. newspaper publishers, The Washington Post Co and The New York Times Co, are embarking on new cost cuts in the face of dramatic declines in advertising revenue.

You can read most of The Washington Post memo on MediaFile, as well as the juicy parts of what Washington Post Chairman Don Graham wrote to shareholders on Wednesday about the state of the company. Here, meanwhile, are the edited memos sent by New York Times executives to employees:

From Times Publisher and Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr, as well as Times Co Chief Executive Janet Robinson:

New York Times *still* thinks about charging

Editors think it’s the kiss of death to include words like “still” in headlines and “continued” in first paragraphs. It’s like admitting to readers that you didn’t have anything new to report. So why do I say that The New York Times is still thinking about making people pay to get news on its website? Because Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told readers on Tuesday that the Times is still thinking about doing this — and that made for a lot of news.

Here are the headlines:

    Times executive editor hints at online access fees. (The Associated Press) New York Times Considers Charging for Its Web Site (Bloomberg) Bill Keller Examines the NYT Business Model (Portfolio.com) Should the New York Times Charge for its Website? (Gawker)

Of the four, I like Portfolio’s best. Felix Salmon hits on a key point, the very one that I was thinking after reading these headlines Tuesday night: This is not news. Salmon writes:

Bill Keller’s musings about online subscriptions are causing something of a storm in the blogosphere, and even making the MSM. But I’d highly recommend you read the long version of Keller’s comments, rather than the soundbite version. Keller spends 2,164 words on what he calls “navel-gazing”, and the overall impression is twofold. Firstly Keller does not think that he has any answers to the questions posed by falling circulations and ad revenue. [Emphasis ours -Ed.] He’s thinking about all the options, in quite a sophisticated way — as he should be.

New York Times — Profit sliding, Red Sox stake up for sale

The New York Times confirmed this morning that it’s looking to get rid of its stake in the Boston Red Sox baseball team, something previously reported by a number of news outlets.

The Times could raise at least $200 million selling its stake, analysts have said, though it should be noted that selling anything these days — even part of a first class baseball organization — is no easy task.

Check back to MediaFile for more on the sale shortly.

Meanwhile, here’s a recap of the New York Times decline in quarterly results:

Bartz’s idea of a joke: Yahoo could buy New York Times

Wall Street analysts pestered new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz with all kinds of questions during her first quarterly earnings call, and she answered as candidly as she could, frequently pointing out the fact that she’s still learning the ropes and getting to know the business.

But Bartz couldn’t resist the chance to crack a joke when Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster asked her about Yahoo’s roadmap for 2009, and whether investors can expect any guidelines about when things might start rolling.

“Well, Gene, I thought I’d buy The New York Times tomorrow,” Bartz said.

Ad market finds the upside of down

There have been plenty of doomsday forecasts about 2009 advertising spending, brought on by the financial crisis. Especially when online advertising, so long on the rise even as print ad revenue fell, started falling too.

Now, Adweek threatens to mess up the picture:

So far, the first months of 2009 aren’t looking as dire as once predicted for the online ad market, according to buyers and sellers. However, many report that business has slowed down, resulting in intensifying pressure on pricing, particularly in the ad networks space.

But the abysmal first quarter that many anticipated — one in which shell-shocked clients either delayed all decision making or went into budget-slashing mode — hasn’t happened, said many industry insiders.

Step aside, here comes Google

Google just keeps on truckin’. The Internet powerhouse posted results yesterday that show advertisers haven’t completely cut their spending — at least not on search.

Excluding one-time charges, profit was $5.10 a share, beating the average analyst forecast of $4.95 according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $5.7 billion — a shadow of the 50 percent growth levels that Google used to enjoy, but considered by analysts to be a robust performance given the weak economy and corporate cutbacks in advertising spending.

Allan Sloan spots New York Times tax genius

The New York Times might not have figured out its long-term strategy to survive just yet, but Fortune columnist Allan Sloan discovered that someone working for the company is a genius when it comes to taxes.

The Times this week said it will borrow $250 million from companies controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, also the world’s second-richest man. Slim also is getting warrants that he can convert into stock, something that will make him one of the company’s largest shareholders. Aside from questions about whether he will take over the TImes, the aspect of the Slim deal that turned business reporters’ heads was the crazy interest that the Times will pay — 14 percent.

Sloan has a way of explaining how there is a way around this. Here are some excerpts, but for the full effect, go read his column. While Sloan is a master of converting complicated financial practice into plain English, this one is pretty tough for the layman.