Smaller newspapers were the last to be brought down by the Great Recession, and now a report from a brokerage firm specializing in community papers suggests they may be the first to find the
bottom to the industry's misery.
Cribb, Greene & Associates surveyed dozens of owners or top executives of mid-sized and small newspapers in May, and went back to them in July, asking if conditions had improved or worsened. "Most papers say revenues are down 10%-15%, and they are making expense cuts to compensate," says a report by the brokerage. EBITDA margins are generally 5%-15%. "These are ugly numbers compared to what newspapers are used to, but they are not disastrous," says the report.
Comments from newspaper executives in the survey, taken as a whole, suggest faint optimism mixed with fear. Says one: "We experienced a modest profit in the second quarter of '09 as a result of focusing intensely on both revenue generation and cost control, like never before."