As you may have noticed, newspapers have had a rough 2009. But you may not quite appreciate the magnitude of the collapse.
So far this year:
- 105 newspapers have been shuttered.
- 10,000 newspaper jobs have been lost.
- Print ad sales fell 30% in Q1 ’09.
- 23 of the top 25 newspapers reported circulation declines between 7% and 20%.
The economy collapsed and advertising budgets went with it, accelerating a process already underway: the Internet’s erosion of the entire newspaper industry. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle explains:
For most of history, most publications lost money, or at best broke even, on their subscription base, which just about paid for the cost of printing and distributing the papers. Advertising was what paid the bills. To be sure, some of that advertising is migrating to blogs and similar new media. But most of it is simply being siphoned out of journalism altogether. Craigslist ate the classified ads. eHarmony stole the personals. Google took those tiny ads for weird products. And Macy’s can email its own damn customers to announce a sale.
This perfect storm hit four major newspaper conglomerates — the Gannett Co. Inc., GateHouse Media Inc., The Sun-Times Media Group and The Journal Register Company — especially hard. Together, they’ve closed 61 newspapers this year. (See the full list here)
Gannett Co. Inc.
- Revenue fell 34.1% in Q1 ’09.
- It has laid of more than 10,000 employees since 2007.
- At least 90 employees were laid-off in the beginning of 2009 and 1,400 more will be laid off by July 9.
- Detroit Free Press delivery cut to three days a week, from daily; The Tuscon Citizen went online.
- Most employees have been forced to take two weeks of unpaid leave.
- Revenues declined by 15% this year and losses increased $3 million.
- It cut 10.5% of its workforce since Jan 2009 and cut pay 7%-15% for the rest of its employees.
- Though local advertising revenues sank 13.4% in 2008, CEO Mike Reed says the company plans to focus more on local publications: “We view our exclusive local content as our greatest asset and as our sustainable competitive advantage. We are working diligently to intensify our local news coverage to further solidify these advantages.”
The Sun-Times Media Group
- Filed for bankruptcy in April 2009.
- It has until July 29 to sell or reorganize its operations, though it has asked for an extension until October.
- Court documents show that the company bled $4.5 million a week between Jan and March 2009.
- The company initiated pay cuts of 15%, up from 7% in January.
The Journal Register Company
- Filed for Chapter 11 in February, with an overhanging debt of $692 million. Court papers show the company claimed “advertising revenue had been driven lower by the housing downturn, declining automotive sales, the retail sector slowdown, a slow labour market that has hurt employment classifieds and a shift to online media.” But the company’s downfall began in 2004, when it bought several newspapers in Michigan for $415 million.
Number of newspapers closed in 2009: 7
The Gannett Co. Inc. publishes more than 900 daily and non-daily newspapers. Though the paper announced five closings in May, it gave one paper - The Birmingham Eccentric- a second chance. The Detroit Metro Times says, 'there was an outpouring of protest at the decision to close the Birmingham paper, and so it was granted a stay of execution. It will keep publishing, but as a weekly. Strings are attached: The staff has been given until July 1 to sign up 3,000 new subscribers, and get 2,000 more by October.'
Number of newspapers closed in 2009: 12
Arlington Heights Post
Elk Grove Times
Hoffman Estates Review
Rolling Meadows Review
Des Plaines Times
Mount Prospect Times
The Sun-Times Media Group owns 61 newspapers in Illinois, including the Chicago-Sun Times. In a letter to local readers announcing the closings, publisher Larry Green explained how newspaper publishing was not only a public service, but also business that had to be profitable. 'In the current economy, it is not,' he said, adding that 'subscribers will soon receive a letter explaining circulation options including an opportunity to receive the Chicago Sun-Times.'
Number of newspapers closed in 2009: 34
Windsor Locks Journal
East Hartford Gazette
Mount Airy Times Express
Harlem Valley Times
Millbrook Round Table
Hyde Park Townsman
New Hope Gazette
Parkesburg Post Ledger
Solanco Sun Ledger
Pawling News Chronicle
Putnam County Courier
Quakertown Free Press
The Town Meeting
The Journal Register Company owns 163 daily and non-daily newspapers in the U.S., including the New Haven Register and the Oakland Press. It put up many of its newspapers for sale after being de-listed from the NYSE in 2008.
The closings have affected many local communities. Residents of Millbrook bought the last ever issue of The Round Table on February 12, 2009. The Round Table was the only local newspaper in the village. A Deputy Clerk at Village Hall was left trying to figure out where to print legal advertisements and communicate with residents the following week.
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