McClatchy Ad Revenue Down Double Digits
The executives at The McClatchy Company, which owns major newspapers across the US like The Miami Herald, The Lexington Herald Leader, and the Charlotte Observer, didn’t utter the names of their digital demons in their latest earnings report. But it’s funny sometimes how there’s a defining echo between the lines.
In this instance, perhaps if you had an EVP recorder in the room, you would have heard these names whispered up the nape of your neck: craigslist (or maybe, craig’s stupid list!); Monster.com; Google.
Total net loss in 2007: $1.27 billion. Advertising revenues were down 8.6%; circulation revenue was down around 5%. In the fourth quarter 2007, the biggest losses came from print classifieds, which declined by 20%, automotive, down 13.3%, employment falling 24%, and real estate crashing by 30.9%.
Lots of reasons are listed for the trouble: higher cost of circulation; operating expenses; a deeply discounted fire-sale of the Minneapolis Star Tribune; the selling off of eight Knight Ridder newspapers; a bad call on investing in newsprint and, specifically, the Seattle Times Company.
(FYI, says the voice on the EVP recorder, there’s a lot of internet companies in Seattle.)
And the biggest, meanest, gnarliest culprit: the Economy, and the housing bubble that popped over its head.
"The economic downturn led by real estate continued to impact our advertising revenues in the fourth quarter," said Gary Pruitt, McClatchy chairman and CEO. "California and Florida have been particularly hurt by the real estate downturn, so even though they represent only about a third of our total revenues they account for a majority of our advertising revenue declines."
"These two regions accounted for 58% of the decline in advertising revenues in the fourth quarter, and on a pro forma basis accounted for 67% of the revenue loss for all of 2007, clearly pointing to the cyclical factors impacting our business throughout 2007. In fact, advertising revenue in our other regions declined only 4.5% in 2007 compared to a 15.3% decline in California and Florida."
Pruitt believes that once the economy rights itself, all should return to normal as the company focuses on reducing costs and expanding in the right direction.
"Recessions by definition are followed by economic expansions, and we are working hard to position the company to benefit from a stronger economy once it turns."
(Hey, he said ‘recession.’ I thought we weren’t supposed to use the R-word. Didn’t he read The Secret?)
Though the c-word, the M-word, or the G-word weren’t mentioned in the earnings report, McClatchy said last year’s losses in no way reflected the long-term health of the newspaper industry, and that there would be a greater emphasis of expanding online revenue.
"We continue to produce strong cash flows and are quickly moving to become a successful hybrid print and online media company," said Pruitt. "We are focused on four major areas: driving new revenues, with a particular emphasis on online advertising; focusing on growing total audience; providing high quality public service journalism; and reducing our cost structure."
Hmmm. Expanding online presence and reducing costs. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah.