Smooth Failing: Newspapers To Sink Through 2010

newspaper crossout

The decline in newspaper ad revenues -- now several years old -- will continue for at least another year, according to Fitch Ratings, which issued the gloomy prediction in an overview of the media business released earlier this week.

According to Fitch's "Credit Encylo-Media," newspapers will not share in the recovery forecast for some other media in 2010, thanks to continuing downward trends in all three traditional mainstays of newspaper advertising: classifieds, local, and national ads.

Fitch also expects continued declines in overall circulation revenues as print readership contracts, despite moves by some big publishers, like the New York Times Co. and Tribune, to bolster circulation revenues by raising newsstand prices.

As Fitch notes in the survey's section on newspapers, the prospect of continued declines in 2010 is especially remarkable because comparisons with 2009 revenues should be relatively easy, following several years of consecutive declines.



Fitch, whose main business is credit ratings, also took stock of major newspaper publishers. Many have declared bankruptcy since last year's survey, led by Tribune Co. The list of newspaper bankruptcies also includes Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, Journal Register Co., and Freedom Communications.

In a separate forecast issued earlier this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers noted that most newspaper publishers do not expect a recovery in ad revenues to begin until 2011, but warned that even this may be too optimistic.

Globally, PWC expects incremental declines of 4.5% each year through 2013, adding that "mature markets... in North America face stronger declines in circulation and in advertising income in particular," with a cumulative annual growth rate of -5.8%.

In the first half of 2009, the newspapers' print and online ad revenues have totaled about $13.4 billion -- down about 29% from $18.8 billion in the first half of 2008, and 43% from their peak of $23.5 billion in the first half of 2006.

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