Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gannett profits drop again, raising questions about Courier, Home News

A Gannett Company logo, irony unintended.
Bloomberg's BusinessWeek reports today that Gannett Company, the owner of Plainfield's Courier News and New Brunswick's Home News Tribune posted a 22% drop in profits in the second quarter, just ended (see story here).

At the same time, the company doubled its dividend to shareholders.

With 82 newspapers, including America's most widely circulated USA Today, the company continues to wrestle with reinventing itself as advertising revenues and print circulation continue to slide.

Newspapers everywhere have found their classified advertising seriously dented by the online giant Craigslist. At the same time, national advertisers have trimmed their newspaper placements.

Meanwhile, circulation of printed copies of newspapers continues to plummet. The Courier, which boasted a circulation of 44,000 when it was moved from Plainfield in 1972 (to
better its numbers by taking advantage of projected growth in Somerset and Hunterdon counties), is now down to 16,000, I was recently told.

The Home News Tribune has suffered similar declines.

Meanwhile, Jim Hopkins' Gannett Blog (see here) chases the inevitable next question: What does this portend for Gannett's reportorial and advertising staffs?

When quizzed by an analyst in yesterday's conference call, Gannett's chief operating officer Gracia Martore had the following to say -- we've said, we have currently no intentions of looking at further reductions. But obviously, that has to be driven by each individual business’s prospects and revenue opportunities going forward. But at the same time, we have been adding back in key Digital areas, as well as on the Broadcast division. We've been adding folks on the news side, as well as in the sales area. So it's really -- you can't just hone in on one specific division, you have to look at the company in totality and the varying performances in each one of our businesses. And even within U.S. Community Publishing, the varying performances of each of the individual units and the prospects for the economies in those particular markets.
I can't imagine how the Courier could take another hit like the one delivered by Gannett management in the previous quarter (four layoffs), but the weasel-words from Martore offer no comfort whatsoever.

Will the Courier and the Home News be folded into a single paper? Will Central Jersey news be relegated to merely a section of a more widely circulated Asbury Park Press?

Who's to say.

The only thing that seems certain is that more changes will be coming as Gannett tries to figure out how to get by in this brave new world.

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Jeff said...

I've said this all along, its time to consolidate into 1 Ledger style paper. They print the same info on the front pages already. Most of the interior content is also the same. Name it the Courier News Tribune and be done with it. Expand beyond the limited coverage area and cover most of the state. Cut advertising rates and see the ads start coming in again. They raised the rates to cover the losses and lost ad revenue too. With so many free venues, you dont need the papers anymore to sell your goods. Its time to revamp and think outside the paper.