Alan Mutter lays it on thick in his latest post on Reflections of a Newsosaur about the latest financials from the U.S. newspaper business: revenues off some $2 billion in the quarter just ended, year over year, and a staggering 31-per-cent plunge in classified advertising. Even more troubling is the second straight quarter of online revenue decline.
Posted the Newspaper Association of America data about this yesterday, but Mutter has a pretty strong summary for those with strong stomachs.
A little-noticed Seattle Times piece this week on Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist raises the possibility of a relationship between the classified giant and the conventional news media.
While Newmark remains his typically self-deprecating self, he does think aloud about one day offering a geo-tagged service that would help people find high-quality news in their neck of the woods. He's waiting for something "mature" to emerge.
Services like newscred.com and newstrust.net are out there sussing out the audience on its views on news. Interestingly, Newmark doesn't have an answer to the more pressing journalistic issue: the loss of revenue thanks to his service draining classified advertising from newspapers. He suggests there needs to be more investigative and aggressive reporting done, but he'll "defer" to experts on how to pay for it in this new digital climate.
A plug for a new site from the distinguished newspaper/online columnist Steve Outing, www.ReinventingClassifieds.com, which engages us in a conversation about how to revive the most ailing part of the newspaper business.
The site has a fair amount of commentary already. It ought to be a valuable resource in the time ahead as organizations try to suss out the future of a once-weighty revenue stream that is under siege from the free kings like Craigslist and Kajiji and the tailored classified sites in automotive, real estate, obituary and other categories.
The world's biggest press baron is clearly sounding concerned about the U.S. economy. Rupert Murdoch is indicating the advertising picture for the Fox Network (now America's most-watched) is feeling the pinch. He suspects the downturn is going to be there for a year or so. Not surprisingly, he pulled News Corp. out of the running for Yahoo! He was quite clear: Microsoft has more cash.
But what he had to say Monday about newspapers and their classified advertising at the Bear Sterns conference was quite revealing. He believes in the future of newspapers (he should, after all), but thinks local classified advertising will pretty much move over to free vehicles. In his view the result will be fewer journalists (international bureaus, for instance, will disappear) in part because newspaper margins will decline.
More than anything, those were remarks of impact.