For the media business, the next couple of days will likely set the tone for the remainder of the year. Why? Because just about everyone who is anyone will be speaking at a Merrill Lynch conference out in California.

We’re talking about CBS, News Corp, Liberty Media, Time Warner, NBC Universal, etc. You get the picture.

We suspect the catchphrase of the conference will be something like “cautious.” It’s highly unlikely that executives will tell us the media industry is awful, terrible, or horrible.

But please don’t try to tell us that all is well. After all, shares of CBS and Viacom are down more than 30 percent this year; News Corp is down about 25 percent.

We recently talked to media-watchers about the outlook of the media business, and nearly all of them sounded worried about advertising — the key reason for the stock drops.