Annotating the New York Times Co.'s August NumbersJon Fine
I want to say that by not being a complete disaster, The New York Times Co.’s August results are actually pretty good. But that would be over-optimistic.
Nevertheless, said results neatly coincide with some of my current worldview for newspapers, so here goes:
News Media Group: Advertising revenues for the News Media Group decreased 4.6%.
Not good. But let’s get further into the details. All emphasis mine:
The New York Times Media Group - Advertising revenues for The New York Times Media Group increased 0.2%. National advertising revenues rose led by growth in international fashion, technology products, packaged goods, corporate and hotel advertising. Retail advertising revenues decreased mainly due to softness in national chain store advertising. Classified advertising revenues decreased because of weakness in real estate, help-wanted and automotive advertising.
This is encouraging. I still continue to believe—perhaps this is sentiment talking—that there is a kind of Times-exceptionalism, that the idea of the Times is valuable in ways almost all other newspapers are not. I may be crazy about this. But this idea of the Times does translate into a rich reader, which advertisers are still clawing to reach. Being able to sell your newspaper as the daily journal of the national and New York elite is pretty powerful, especially if you’re much less business-centric than the Wall Street Journal.
New England Media Group - Advertising revenues for the New England Media Group decreased 9.0%. National advertising revenues increased as strong growth in banking and technology products advertising offset softer studio entertainment and travel advertising. Retail advertising revenues decreased as weakness in the food/drug, apparel/footwear and retail services categories more than offset growth in department store and home improvement advertising. Classified advertising revenues decreased because of weakness in real estate, help-wanted and automotive advertising.
The Boston Globe remains a mess. The big-city metro dailies have gotten killed in the past two years, especially the ones in extra-competitive cities, and especially the ones that nurture notions of competing on the national scale for news. (Said competition is expensive.) Boston is one of the few places where all of those describers overlap.
Regional Media Group - Advertising revenues for the Regional Media Group decreased 11.9%. Retail advertising revenues decreased mainly because of softness in home furnishing, telecommunications and department store advertising. Classified advertising revenues decreased due to weakness in real estate, help-wanted and automotive advertising.
These are papers in places like Gainesville (Florida) and Santa Rosa (California)—the big towns and small cities of America—and they held up better than their big-city brethren for a long time. Until this year, really. Big question is whether there’s any end in sight to numbers like these. What’s going on with the real estate market is hurting these guys really badly. If the job market starts sputtering, too, this downturn worsens and continues.
The Internet ad revenues included in the News Media Group rose 28.2% in August due to growth in both display and classified advertising.
Right, yeah, Internet ad dollars are increasing, whatever. Except this is A. better than the online ad growth the overall newspaper industry reported in the second quarter (I know, I know, not apples-to-apples. But, still, it’s better to be on the “greater than” side than the “lesser than” side) and B. better than what some forecasters are predicting for overall online ad growth for ‘07.
Circulation revenues for the News Media Group grew 3.6% in August. Revenues were up at The New York Times Media Group, and were on a par with last year at the New England and Regional Media Groups. In July The New York Times raised its newsstand and home-delivery prices.
I’d be more impressed with this if the Times hadn’t just jacked up its prices, but it could be worse. What I want to know: rather than raise single-copy prices slightly (it went up a quarter), why not jack it up 50 cents? Can’t imagine Times partisans would flee if it cost another quarter. And $1.50 happens to be what the Wall Street Journal runs you now.
At least until Murdoch starts whacking the price.
On second thought: maybe it’s good they only raised prices at the Times a little.