MediaFile

Washington Post: the latest example of print ad plunge

Just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse for newspapers, it somehow manages to get even bleaker. Today’s example is provided by the Washington Post Co and its flagship paper (and the online site Slate). The company reported third quarter earnings including results from its newspaper division today.

Print advertising revenue fell 20 percent to $57.6 million — quite a stunning plunge even  as newspapers across the U.S. manage to post quarter after quarter of print ad revenue declines. Even more disturbing is that online revenue, which includes washingtonpost.com and Slate, plunged 14 percent to $23.3 million. Display online ad revenue dropped 17 percent.

The Washington Post is one of those curious oddities in the industry that manages to be extremely local — it’s market penetration of the D.C. area has always been one of the highest in the U.S. — and also draws the interest of a large national audience. So while it may compete with the “nationals” i.e. New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, on the news front,  it is very dependent on local advertising. The NYT, USAT and WSJ get a hefty portion of their advertising revenue through national advertisers.

The local advertising category hasn’t been holding up as well as national advertising. It’s taking it on the chin as the housing market struggles, unemployment remains high and retail outlets are going out of business or simply taking their advertising elsewhere.

That’s not to say that national advertising revenue isn’t hurting as well.  It’s more of a mixed bag. At the New York Times, for example, the division that mainly includes its flagship paper reported advertising revenue fell 6 percent to $156.1 million in Q3.

Wall Street Journal snags another hotel chain

DOWJONES-NEWSCORP/Under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch’s  News Corp, the Wall Street Journal has made no bones that the New York Times is enemy No.1. But that hit list doesn’t stop at the Gray Lady. From time to time, the Journal pivots to set USA Today in its crosshairs — and its latest actions mark a move in that direction.

The most recent flag the Journal captured involves Choice Hotels. Earlier this week, the Journal announced it will become the “preferred newspaper”  beginning in January for guests at more than 3,700 Choice Hotel properties including Comfort Inn, Quality Inn and Clarion Hotel. What was the “preferred newspaper” before the Journal swooped in? That would be USA Today.

USA Today begs to differ. A spokeswoman for the paper emailed the following: “USA Today remains a preferred vendor for Choice Hotels in 2011.”

New York Times introduces film club

Nothing else seems to have helped newspapers reflect the stronger economic recovery of the rest of media. Old films can’t hurt.

The New York Times forged another path to the club-based membership service — a trend that has grown in popularity among newspapers. Today the newspaper debuted the New York Times Film Club, created for “an audience passionate about movies,” according to the press release.

Membership to the club affords you two red-carpet screenings of remastered Hollywood classics as well as six preview viewings for upcoming releases. The yearly membership costs $100 for individuals and $175 to add another person.

WSJ defies newspaper ad trends

DOWJONES-NEWSCORP/Newspaper publishers are still laboring to reverse a massive decline in advertising revenue – the Newspaper Association of America reported that total industry ad revenue fell 6% in Q2 — but you sure wouldn’t know it over at The Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal Publisher Les Hinton sent around an email (posted on Romenesko) touting the paper’s eye-popping 17% increase in print and online ad revenue in the quarter ending September versus the same period a year ago.  Print advertising jumped 21% while online ad revenue advanced 29%.

Hinton notes that this is the Journal’s fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth and attributes the rise in ad revenue to the new products and sections such as Greater New York.

Newspaper circ slides — yet again

The organization that keeps up with newspaper circulation released another bleak round of numbers this morning. For the 602 daily newspapers that reported into the Audit Bureau of Circulations, total daily circ plummeted 8.7 percent while Sunday circ for 548 papers fell 6.5 percent for the six months ending March 2010 compared to the same period last year.

There is a familiar phrase echoed to explain the numbers, the same phrase used to describe advertising results: the declines are moderating! At least compared to the six months ending September 2009, when circulation was in a nosedive, with daily  down 10.6 percent  and Sunday down 7.5 percent.

Sure, some of that is self-inflicted by publishers weeding out certain types of circulation like those freebie copies you might pick up at a big box retailer. But a big chunk of the loss  isn’t by choice. The reality is that readers are choosing to go elsewhere.

Thanksgiving: Cook a turkey, buy a newspaper

Thanksgiving thank-you lists can get pretty lengthy. This year, add a newspaper to the things you’re thankful for. That, more or less, is the message that the Newspaper Association of America is delivering in an advertisement that it hopes daily papers will run this coming Monday. The ad will appear a week before the Audit Bureau of Circulations publishes its latest circulation statistics for North American newspapers.

As USA Today has already said, and other insiders have told us, circulation is going to fall compared with last year — and those declines at many papers likely will be worse than usual. That’s the kind of thing that advertisers don’t like to hear, and one of the reasons that they are devoting their dollars in increasing amounts to other media. But as the NAA will remind people, some of that sentiment might be misplaced. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the ad.

Wall Street Journal vs USA Today — Part II

Earlier this week I brought you the brewing circulation tussle between USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and which paper will be able to claim to be the largest one in terms of circulation. You can read that here, but for the recap, here are the main points:

    Editor & Publisher reports: USA Today was set to report that circulation fell “17% to 1.88 million for the six months ending September 2009, a drop of about 390,000 copies. The decline could also threaten USA Today’s position as the No. 1 newspaper in the country by circulation.” The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press report that the Journal would be the largest paper by circulation, according to the Journal. USA Today responds, “We are confident that even with this latest economic impact, USA TODAY will remain the nation’s number one newspaper in total print circulation when the ABC statements are released October 26th.”

As I wrote at the time, it seems that the Journal is counting print and online subscriptions together, and why not? Both are made up of paying subscribers. USA Today, of course, is counting printed newspapers.

We won’t know until their circulation numbers are published on October 26 what the final, comparable figures would be. But today, the Journal revealed its latest numbers:

WSJ vs USA Today: Who has the biggest paper?

USA Today and The Wall Street Journal aren’t waiting for Oct. 26, the day North American newspapers report their latest circulation numbers, to begin tussling over which one has the biggest paper.

Editor & Publisher made the first move on Friday when Jennifer Saba reported that USA Today was set to report that circulation fell “17% to 1.88 million for the six months ending September 2009, a drop of about 390,000 copies. The decline could also threaten USA Today’s position as the No. 1 newspaper in the country by circulation.” The news came in a memo from USA Today Publisher, David Hunke, to his workers.

Spicy stuff, considering that when we write about its owner, Gannett, we say it is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher that publishes USA Today, the largest newspaper by circulation.

Wednesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories about the media industry:

Recession sends Americans to the Internet (Reuters)
S. John Tilak writes: “More than two-thirds of American adults — or 88 percent of U.S. Internet users — went online for help with recession-induced personal economic issues and to gather information on national economic problems, a study released on Wednesday said.”

BBC and Government Fall Out Over Financing Plan (NYT)
“The BBC and Britain’s Labour government, which has a history of support for the “Beeb,” have fallen out over a government plan to share some of the broadcaster’s £3.6 billion in public funding with its commercial television rivals,” writes Eric Pfanner.
Weisberg: Big news orgs have a stake in web-only papers not working (Economist.com|Romenesko) “Web advertising may well end up supporting big newsrooms if they can escape some of their legacy costs,” says Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. “The test I’d most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only ‘newspaper’ with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organizations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.”

USA Today introduces Newsdeck site for top headlines (Editors Weblogs)
“To give visitors another way to view the news, USA Today has introduced a site it calls Newsdeck that compiles the top headlines in an easy-to-read format. Users can scroll through stories in eight categories, including News, Money and Sports, with the ability to switch back and forth between the latest news and the most popular articles.,” writes Liz Webber.

Hangin’ with USA Today’s new masthead

Gannett Co Inc has not been too generous lately with making its executives available to media reporters. And why would it? Few newspaper publishers have because there’s little good to say about the business.

Ad sales are tanking, as usual. Debt is looming (what else does it ever do?). Lots of self-styled media experts can’t let a day go by without writing a few blog posts telling publishers that they brought it on themselves and they deserve to die.

With that merry backdrop, I was surprised to get invited to a press conference and an interview with Gannett’s latest picks for editor (John Hillkirk) and publisher (Former Detroit Free Press Publisher David Hunke) of USA Today. Gannett brought them to New York to meet the insular Manhattan media world, which is responsible for writing all those obituaries that you’ve been reading about newspapers lately.