US Newspaper Bosses Downbeat Over Adspend Recovery

27 June 2003

America’s newspaper executives remain cautious over prospects for an advertising recovery this year. A trio of senior managers this week unveiled their crystal balls, all seemingly adopting the Sorrell maneuver [under-promise/over-deliver].

Addressing analysts at the Mid-Year Media Review …

Tribune Company’s president of publishing operations Jack Fuller bemoaned the dearth of ‘help-wanted’ [situations vacant] classified revenues in his stable of twelve newspapers – among them the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Newsday. In 2000 help-wanted ads alone generated $600 million in revenues; in 2002 this had fallen to $300m, sagging a further 15% in the first half of 2003. However, a vestige of silver lined the cloud with overall ad revenues for the first half of this year rising 2% despite the ‘help-wanted’ decline.

Douglas H McCorkindale, chairman/ceo of Gannett Corporation, added that “the bounce” of recovery had yet to show its face. Although “the worst is clearly behind us,” he opined, the way out of the wood “will be uneven” with ad revenue projections “all over the lot”. Despite such mixed-metaphor Sorrellizing, Gannett’s Q1 EPS [earning per share] rose from 91 cents to 93 cents while aggregated ad revenues – excluding national daily USA Today – were up 2.2% in the year to date.

• “I’m optimistic,” declared Robert W Decherd, chairman and chief executive of Belo, owner of the Dallas Morning News and three other daily newspapers plus 19 television stations. He nevertheless expects second-quarter earnings to come in around 33 cents a share, both below Wall Street estimates and year-earlier results (36 cents). Higher costs and the effects of the war in Iraq on advertising had hurt the company.

Data sourced from: and Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff