Oil market stabilizing?: The conventional pipe is that Saudi Arabia does little to bring down prices by promising a small increase in daily production. Perhaps, but oil prices this morning are fairly steady (they're running around $135 a barrel). There's speculation that while prices won't tumble anytime soon, they could settle into that $130-$140 range. (AP)
Worst year for newspapers?: It's not just the LAT or Tribune. Industry-wide ad revenue is plunging by double digits, and analysts are expecting both bankruptcies and consolidations. From the NYT:
“Never in my most bearish dreams six months ago did I think we’d be talking about negative 15 percent numbers against weak comps,” said Peter S. Appert, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. “I think the probability is very high that there will be a number of examples of individual newspapers and newspaper companies that fall into a loss position. And I think it’s inevitable that there will be closures in this industry, and maybe bankruptcies.”
“It’s going a lot worse than anybody predicted, and if we have double-digit ad declines for two years, some newspapers will be in real financial jeopardy,” said Edward Atorino, an analyst at the Benchmark Company. Even with less severe losses, “You’re going to see structural changes: papers could drop a day or two per week, they could outsource printing.” He said that he expected the decline in ad sales to slow, with 2008 producing a 10 percent drop for the year, but he cautioned that, like other analysts, he had not been pessimistic enough so far.
About that redesign: The Orlando Sentinel’s drastic makeover is getting lots of attention because it could provide clues as to what the bigger Tribune papers might look like. The Chicago Tribune plans to unveil its new look in September; no word yet on plans at the LAT. Thing is, redesigns rarely result in any significant circulation gains (a point that the company’s chief “innovation editor” will soon discover). From the WSJ:
After the Bakersfield Californian underwent a drastic redesign two years ago, the 60,000-circulation paper in California's Central Valley saw a small initial jolt to circulation and revenue, sparked by the brighter look and expanded coverage of hot topics like immigration. But the gains have been erased as the area economy struggles. Bakersfield Californian Chief Executive Richard Beene says the steps were necessary to keep the paper relevant, but he has advice for others considering a similar redesign: "Don't expect it to turn around circulation or revenue overnight. It's not a magic bullet."
Tom Hanks supports AFTRA deal: He’s among the actors who are encouraging the union's 70,000 members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to ratify a new contract with the media companies. Hanks' signature is on a letter that blasts SAG for opposing the AFTRA deal and clinging to unrealistic demands involving its own contract talks. "AFTRA has made a good deal," the letter said. "In fact, under the circumstances, it's a very good deal. As did the DGA, WGA and AFTRA net code deals, the AFTRA Exhibit A deal establishes important new principals and even improves on those deals." The majors are expected to make SAG a last, best and final offer as early as this week. (Variety)
Americans give more, but...: The 3.9 percent increase in donations last year is way down from 10 percent in 2004 and 13 percent in 2005. The weak economy is probably behind the slower increases and the prospects are even worse in 2008, what with higher gasoline and food prices. That said, Americans topped the $300 billion mark for the first time. From the WSJ:
Every subsector covered by the report except giving to private foundations grew in nominal terms, the first time that has happened since 2001. Researchers cited a healthy stock market in the first half of 2007, measured economic growth and increases in corporate and personal income as factors that kept giving up. Donations accounted for 2.2% of U.S. gross domestic product, the report said.
Live Nation chairman resigns: As expected, Michael Cohl is leaving the L.A.-based concert booking company after a dispute with the CEO Michael Rapino over strategy. At issue are "360 deals" under which Live Nation signs major name artists to cover everything from recording musci to concert dates to merchandising. Cohl wanted to pick up the pace on the dealmaking, while Rapino preferred to slow down the signings. The stock has been way down. (Reuters)
Carlin remembrances: There are lots of them this morning, but check out one of his classic routines on Silicon Alley insider.