Closings, consolidations, layoffs, the elimination of print editions on certain days of the week - those are the grim prospects for 2009, according to media watcher Alan Mutter. The financial picture is so bleak that newspaper executives aren't even bothering with full-year budgeting for 2009. Instead, they're preparing three-month forecasts. For now, the only bright spot is retail advertising, but only because merchants are so desperate to generate maximum sales during the holiday season. The problem, says Mutter at Reflections of a Newsosaur, is that come January, those ads will disappear.
With approximately $12 billion in ad revenues vaporized in just three years and no economic turnaround in sight, many publishers are no longer scrambling merely to sustain a certain level of profitability but are battling, instead, to keep their businesses solvent during the indeterminate time it will take for the economy to recover.
With the economy in turmoil, employers have stopped buying recruitment ads because they are not hiring, auto dealers are not advertising because no one is buying cars and real estate agents are not buying ads because they aren’t selling houses. Absent a miraculous turnaround early next year in the sectors that traditionally have generated 30% to 40% of newspaper advertising, the classified drought will continue into the new year as far as the eye can see.
As for specific cuts, there has been a lot of talk about the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday print editions of smaller papers being at the most risk. Other potential cuts: shuttering bureaus, tightening news holes, scrapping syndicated features and wire services, axing op-ed pages and book sections and eliminating classified ads on certain days of the week.