Newspapers Still Profitable; Wall Street Still Greedy

Media writer Nat Ives (AdvertisingAge.com, 2/23/09) throws some cold water on overheated reportage of “all the apocalyptic news about newspapers”:

Even as they take blow after blow from recession and digital media, newspapers themselves still earn decent profits….

“Not a lot of papers are operating at a loss,” said John Morton, the veteran industry analyst. “There are roughly 1,400 daily newspapers. We only hear about the top markets. That leaves at least 1,300 papers out there.”

Publicly owned newspapers averaged an operating profit of 10.8 percent in the first three quarters of last year.

In fact, Ives tells us that, despite “rolling in layoffs,” if you don’t count “one-time charges such as severance and write-downs,” the “country’s biggest newspaper publisher, Gannett… produced an 18 percent operating profit margin last year”–proving that “there’s no reason for newspapers themselves, whoever owns them, to stop the presses. Most operations are plenty profitable.”

The problem with newspapers, as the late Molly Ivins noted, is not how much money they make–it’s how much money Wall Street expects them to make.