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May 14, 2008 / Toby Dayton

As The Titanic Sank, Some Chose To Play In A String Quartet…

First quarter earnings announcements are dominating the business news these days, and the results for the daily newspaper industry are just as bad, if not worse, than expected.

As reported by MediaPost, newspaper advertising revenue fell 10.6% at the New York Times Company, 15.3% at McClatchy, 11% at the Washington Post, 11.2% at Gannett, 5.7% at Lee Enterprises, 10% at E.W. Scripps, 12% at A.H. Belo and 19.1% at Media General.

Despite all of Sam Zell’s tirades, newspaper revenue at the Tribune Co. dropped 11%. Also in Chicago but across town, the Sun Times reported that advertising revenue dropped 12% and circulation revenue declined 8%, resulting in losses of $35.8 million for the quarter. The company, whose stock price dropped $.17 or 25% to $.52 a share in a single day last week, is at risk of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, and is, by all estimates, looking to sell itself to anyone for any price.

Said CEO Cyrus Freidheim, “We have done everything we think we can and should to improve the operation, to change the business model, change management, resize the cost structure, handle the legacy issues [former CEO Conrad Black is serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence for swindling shareholders of the former Hollinger International media empire] — all of which we think have resulted in a significantly stronger company. The problem we face is a [an industrywide slump].”

That’s pretty much throwing in the towel. It’s the equivalent of the guys in one of the final scenes of Titanic – the ones that decided to spend the remaining moments of their lives playing music on the deck of the sinking ship with their fellow string quartet members as the other passengers flailed around in a terror-induced panic.

[tags]Daily Newspapers, Newspapers See Declining Revenue, Has Any Established Publisher Ever Booked No Revenue In A Quarter?, Decline Of The Dailies, Horrendous Industries To Be In, Dying Businesses, Can It Get Uglier?, What Would You Do With A Dying Business?[/tags]