As the New York Times Co., McClatchy and Media General are bellwethers for the industry overall, their weak results suggest that newspapers will see a year-over-year fourth-quarter revenue decline in the double digits, possibly exceeding 20%.
On Wednesday, the NYTCO said total advertising revenues were down 20.9% in November, compared to the same month last year, led by significant drops in classified advertising and national ad spending. This follows a 16.2% decline in October, and quarterly declines of 9.2% 10.6% and 14.4% in the first, second and third quarters, respectively--indicating that revenues losses are accelerating.
Online revenues, previously the sole bright spot on the books, slipped 2.6% in November. Overall, this year's declines have compounded a trend that started last year. In 2007, total advertising revenue fell 4.9% compared to 2006, making 2008 the second year of losses in a row.
McClatchy's results were roughly the same. Total ad revenues fell 22.4% in November compared to last year--although unlike NYTCO, online revenues rose 7.5%. However, this could not offset much larger losses in print ad revenue. Overall, in the first 11 months of 2008, total ad revenues have decreased 17.8% in comparison to last year. Like its peers, this year's losses are compounding last year's--when total advertising revenues fell 8.6% on a pro forma basis, taking into account its purchase of Knight Ridder.
Finally, Media General reported that November's publishing revenues were down 17.9%, while broadcast declined 10.7%. Media General's interactive division saw revenues increase 7.4%. But growth in interactive--and the boon of political advertising in an election year--were unable to make up for losses resulting from the secular shift in advertising to the Internet, coinciding with a sharp economic downturn.
As with NYTCO and McClatchy, Media General said classified revenues were the single biggest area of revenue losses, with the meltdown in the housing market now joined by a plunge in recruitment ad revenues.