If I were in a shareholder of a newspaper or any print based media company, I’d be demanding that financial reporting breakout the absolute amount of print and online revenue, rather than concealing the actual amount by which increasing online ad revenue is offsetting decreasing print ad revenue — or rather the degree to which it’s failing to.
Here’s what the New York Times reported for May 2007:
Advertising revenue for the New York Times Media Group dropped 9.1 percent as national, retail and classified advertising all declined. Ad revenue for the New England Media Group fell 8.8 percent. The Regional Media Group saw the largest decline, with a 14 percent drop in sales.
Internet ad revenue for the New York Times, New England and Regional media groups surged 21.4 percent as display and classified advertising increased.
And here are the detailed numbers:
It’s clear from the net 9.9 percent decline in total ad revenue (excluding About.com — and NOT 9.1 percent as reported in the press release!) that increasing online ad revenue is nowhere near making up for declining print ad revenue — but how much is the print ad revenue actually declining? For all investors know, it could be declining by 20%.
Let’s do some investigative math and see if we can figure it out. In the transcript of the New York Times Q1 07 investor conference call, you’ll find this:
About.com had another strong quarter. Total revenues grew 24% to $23 million
In total, our digital businesses generated about $74 million, or nearly 10% of the company’s revenues in the first quarter. Last year, our digital businesses accounted for 8% of the company’s revenues.
Let’s take that data, the May 2006 and 2007 numbers above, the $483,594,000 in total News Media Group ad revenue from the Q1 07 10K and see what we can figure out:
So if this is right (feel free to check my math), then May 2006 to May 2007, print ad revenue for the News Media Group decline $19.2 million or 14.4%, dwarfing the $2.8 million increase in online ad revenue. Not a great advertising trend ratio.
I’m picking on the New York Times because they are among the most savvy newspapers online, and it’s still not enough to compensate for the decline in print. The New York Times was also pretty forthcoming with information in their conference call — but they’re not about to do the math for you. Nor is any print publisher.
But inquiring investors should want to and deserve to know.