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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Newspaper Execs Whistling in the Dark on Future Prospects in Mid-Year Media Review for Wall Street

Knight Ridder honcho Tony Ridder thinks his business has a "bright future." Judging from this quote in The Wall Street Journal, I wonder if he also still believes in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus: "On any given weekday, Knight Ridder newspapers reach nine million readers. When people are reading newspapers, they're not multitasking as so often happens with electronic media."

Somebody should tell Ridder that most of those non-multi-tasking nine million readers won't be around in a few more years and neither will his business when he realizes those who replace the lost readers are multi-tasking. But they won't be reading words printed on dead trees.

The same WSJ piece quotes The New York Times' CFO Len Forman indirectly acknowledging that the salad days are over because it's no longer possible to maintain the 10-15 percent profit margins of the past decade and a half that did so much to ruin a once-great industry. Forman predicts five percent will be enough ... if the newsroom and other expenses are cut enough. Sheeshhh.

WSJ reporter Janet Whitman ends her piece on the Mid-Year Review with this telling paragraph:
"The Times, blaming 'uneven' advertising, last week cut its forecast for full-year ad-revenue growth and said it expects second-quarter earnings to decline from a year ago amid charges for stock compensation and job cuts.
"For the full year, the company expects ad-revenue percentage growth to be in the low- to mid-single digits, down from an earlier projection of mid-single digits. It expects second-quarter earnings of 38 cents to 42 cents a share, down from 50 cents a share a year earlier."

Read the whole WSJ piece here. And a tip of the editorial hat to Mr. Romanesko.