Newspapers Evaporating At Tremendous Speeds

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

There are tremendous changes underway in the journalism industry of epic importance that effect your personal liberty and finances.  I do mention some of my competitors so obviously this article is biased.  Newspapers are like blogs except expensive, dirty and a less efficient form of information manufacturing.  It is difficult for them to ‘go viral’ and annoyingly hard to access while traveling through the backwoods of South America.

The Associated Press reports that the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer will end its physical newspaper circulation on Tuesday 17 March 2009 and transition to a web only operation.  In February the P-I website had about 1.8M unique visitors and the print circulation was about 117,000.  Managing Editor David McCumber thinks the P-I will need to trim down from 181 employees to 40 with 20 in the newsroom and 20 selling ads.

OUT WITH THE OLD

Old media such as magazines, book publishers and especially newspapers are facing tremendous financial headwinds.  The New York Times has been borrowing to pay the dividend while gross and net incomes decline resulting in their share price falling 80% in the last year.  In the last year stockholder equity has been cut in half and net tangible assets have imploded from $166M to ($209M).  The New York Times intend to implement 5% wage cuts for most employees.

Gannett, which offers 85 newspapers including USA Today, has fared worse with both revenue and net income falling for the past three years and the share price evaporating from $30 to about $2.50.  They have likewise seen their net tangible assets decline from ($1.75B) to ($2.4B).  But their net income performance is even more dire going from $1.1B in 2007 to ($6.6B).  The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild reports that Gannett is considering 15% wage cuts.

McGraw-Hill, which adopted digital platforms and products earlier, has fared slightly better with their stock falling only 50%.  Nevertheless, they face intense pressure on their revenues and net income.  In 2008 the stock of publicly traded newspaper companies declined 83%.  At least McGraw-Hill had positive net income but their net tangible assets are declining.

The formerly venerable magazine Newsweek, owned by the Washington Post Co., has a rapidly evaporating subscriber base.  As the International Herald Tribune reported, “Thirteen months ago, Newsweek lowered its rate base, the circulation promised to advertisers, to 2.6 million from 3.1 million, and Tom Ascheim, Newsweek CEO, said that would drop to 1.9 million in July, and to 1.5 million in January 2010.”  While the Washington Post Co. has been increasing revenues its net income has fallen by 75% since 2006 and the stock has plunged from 800 to 350.

Even book publishing companies like Pearson PLC, which owns the Financial Times and Penguin Books, is facing steadily declining net income.  Rupert Murdoch’s venerable media behemoth, News Corporation which owns MySpace and Fox, is down over the last year from $20 to about $7.

IN WITH THE NEW

News is a good or service and those both consuming and producing it must derive utility or it will cease.  The Internet is full; not the hard drives but people’s attention.  Information has two costs for the consumer:  time and money. I take no-one’s time or attention for granted.  RunToGold occupies at least thousands of hours per day of people’s attention.  The articles are written with precision, conciseness, and produced when there is actionable information instead of a deadline.  Unlike television with commercials that interrupt, annoy and disrespectful of the consumer’s time and attention the advertising on RunToGold does not interrupt your ability to consume the valuable free information and most importantly is done with your permission.

Blogs such as Seeking Alpha or Citizen Economists are more economical than either magazines or newspapers.  Creative destruction is taking place in the journalism industry at a rapid pace.  It baffles me that people are no longer willing to pay money to learn about Anna Nicole Smith only to have it interrupted by some totally irrelevant and often times inappropriate commercial about treating certain bodily functions with a pill when they could read for free about the problematic ETFs GLD and SLV or Silver In Backwardation for Five Weeks (now nine weeks but climbed out for the first time on March 27).  I guess people are passionate about different topics.

As Minyanville recalled, “One thing we’ve learned while trying to build a financial media platform at Minyanville: Advertisers don’t like it when you say negative things about them.  Several months ago, Washington Mutual pulled an advertising campaign from us after we published a story saying the former banking giant was dangerously close to tipping over the edge and collapsing. Then, they tipped over the edge and collapsed.”

Tom Ascheim said, “If you can’t get people to pay for what they love, we’re all out of business.”  I and millions of other bloggers disagree.  Many, if not most, bloggers generate news and content in unlimited niches as a hobby or for fun.  Generally blog enterprises operate at a loss or are barely profitable.  Without an editor to silence or at least muffle the criticisms when one launches repeated volleys, like the Single Digit Midgets, Problems with the GLD and SLV ETFsFinancial Professionals Infected With Financial Insanity Virus, etc. at potential mainstream advertisers it does not bode well for gross revenue.

While many blogs lack formal editors it may be only grammar and not content that is found lacking as editors censor material issues along with dangling participles.  Why has GATA been almost completely ignored for over a decade by the financial press, newspapers and other heavily censored media?  Consequently, why believe or trust them?

I think a significant portion of the rise in gold’s price over the last decade has been a direct consequence of the rise in the amount of truth in the public zeitgeist.  With real gold there is no way to lie; gold is either in physical possession or not.  Consequently, gold loves truth and fiat currency loves lies.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

In Kazakhstan Currency Goes Poof I reported even Putin’s amazement with the degree of censorship.  ”I was in Beijing at the time.  I looked through the world electronic media.  Complete silence.  As if absolutely nothing is going on.  It was as if somebody ordered everyone to keep their mouth shut. To those who organized all this; I can only say congratulations.  Congratulations.  You did an excellent job.  The only problem:  your results were poor and this will always be the case because the work you do is unfair and immoral.  In the long run immoral policies always lose.”

But this type of censorship behavior is not new.  Decades ago President John F. Kennedy expressed outrage regarding this topic.  Now the truth is coming to light at a rapid pace causing the evaporation of the derivative illusion and everyone seems to be either upset or completely stunned.

The press is one of the few businesses given specific absolute protection under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  ”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”

When those petitions for redress of grievances are met with further violations then another business given specific absolute protection becomes important.  ”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It is common for government officials to perpetuate lies.  For example, Section 132 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 is titled “Authority to Suspend Mark-To-Market Accounting” and restates the SEC’s authority to suspend the application of FAS 157.  But make no mistake about it:  Both gold and truth will cleave their own way with indivisible justice.

CONCLUSION

Th

The Great Credit Contraction is grinding down the top lines of almost all businesses.  There is no bottom line without a top line.  While the costs with operating a website are generally lower than manufacturing a newspaper I think the Intelligencer will have a difficult time operating profitably with 40 employees.  I wonder if these rapidly evaporating state organs will likewise receive bailout funds?

Do not be like the Intelligencer employees and wait for either a pink slip or bailout.  The newspapers need a more profitable business model or risk complete evaporation.

You can hasten this transition and support the vitally important free press.  For example, begin ignoring the old media with its disrespectful advertising by canceling your newspaper subscriptions and redirecting those funds to your trusted friendly neighborhood bloggers or by purchasing some firearms and lots of ammunition.  After all, if you do not know what The Great Credit Contraction is and how it will affect your lifestyle or wealth then you may want to find out as the institutions and organizations, including governments, continue evaporating.

Disclosures:  Long physical gold and silver with no position in the old media companies and is a direct competitor of NYT, WPO, PSO, GCI, MHP, NWS, for advertising dollars.

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