Friday, December 05, 2008

For sale: thirty papers

Thirty newspapers around the country are up for sale, with apparently few if any buyers. Denver's Rocky Mountain News is the latest to go on the block.

The newspaper industry has been caught in a tailspin for three years, a trend variously blamed on plummeting ad revenues, declining readership, growing competition from the Internet and a deepening national recession.

On Thursday, Colorado's oldest newspaper joined the growing list of dailies on the market. E.W. Scripps Co., owner of the 149-year-old Rocky Mountain News, offered to sell it after reporting an $11 million loss through the first nine months of this year.

"It's a terrible time to put the Rocky Mountain News up for sale, clearly," said John Morton, a veteran newspaper-industry analyst in Maryland. "Whatever price they might attract probably will be quite low. I think it's going to be very difficult to find a buyer."

The RMN is the #2 paper in Denver, and there are few markets that can support two papers anymore. Here in Chicago, the Sun-Times has been reported to be up for sale for a while. Worse, now there's a report by an industry analyst saying that some markets may end up with no papers at all:
Newspaper and newspaper groups are likely to default on their debt and go out of business next year -- leaving "several cities" with no daily newspaper at all, Fitch Ratings says in a report on media released Wednesday.

"Fitch believes more newspapers and newspaper groups will default, be shut down and be liquidated in 2009 and several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010," the Chicago-based credit ratings firm said in a report on the outlook for U.S. media and entertainment.
I wonder if we will end up with a few national and/or regional papers, supplemented by hyper-local sections; e.g., the Dallas Morning News and Houston Tribune being pretty much the only newspapers in Texas, but being distributed in Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi with local sections (much as metro papers today have neighborhood sections).

Update, Sunday 12/7: It appears we can add the Miami Herald to the list. McClatchy took on a lot of debt when they bought Knight-Ridder two years ago, which is weighing them down now, and the Herald is one of their more valuable assets.

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