Americas Extra: Viva Periodicos!

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ latest report on the newspaper industry worldwide contains the usual bad news for North American papers. Ad revenue that’s plunged 38% at U.S. and Canadian papers since 2005 will fall another 16% over the next three years before turning up ever so slightly, PwC estimates. And the Big Four auditing and professional services firm flatly predicts North American newspapers will never again see the levels of print advertising revenue they once enjoyed.
 
But PwC is much more upbeat about newspapers in Latin America. Newspapers in the region actually grew revenue by 0.5% 2009, and the growth is even higher if Mexican newspapers, which lost almost 15% of revenue last year, are taken out of the calculation.  Where PwC sees North American newspapers losing revenue over the next five years at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.9%, it expects Latin newspapers to grow at an annual rate of 5.1%.
 
Latin newspapers have one competitive advantage that’s disappeared in North America: Broadband penetration was low until very recently. But PwC notes that advertisers that have viable Internet options are still sticking with print because Latin newspapers are actually growing their print circulations. Circ zoomed 21% between 2005 and 2008.
 
Latin America is also proving to be a more hospitable market for free newspapers, which flourished in Europe three or four years ago but are now folding at a furious clip. At the same time Metro International was pulling out of several European markets in 2009, it launched free papers in Mexico and Brazil. Mexico City, in fact, now has three free dailies, as does Caracas.
 
Demographics are also on newspapers’ side, the firm says. The prime newspaper-reading population aged 45 and older will increase by 16.4% in the next five years.
 
“We expect continuing growth in free circulation as well as larger gains in paid circulation once the economy improves,” PwC says. Its prediction: Overall circ will increase at a CAGR of 1.9% through 2014. “Those gains will make newspapers an appealing medium for advertisers,” the report adds.
 
Indeed, PwC expects overall print advertising to increase at a CAGR of 6.0%, with Argentina alone expected to race at a rate of 11.5%, although it cautions this rate will be fueled by inflation.
 
Right now, newspaper advertising in Latin America is all about print, with digital accounting for just 1.9% of total newspaper ad revenue. But broadband penetration has quadrupled in the past four years, and digital advertising is poised to zoom from its very small base. PwC expects Latin papers will post a 28% CAGR from now through 2014. By that year, the firm says, digital will still be a minor revenue factor, representing 4.8% of total newspaper revenue. But PwC forecasts that will rise to 12.5% during the next five years.
 
And up north? PwC expects U.S. digital newspaper advertising to remain virtually flat for the next four years, with a CAGR of just 0.1%. 
 
PAN-AM HIGHWAY
 
Mexico: Two armed men went to the home of journalist Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos and his wife María Elvira Hernández Galeana, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reported, citing local reports. Rodríguez, 49, was a correspondent for the newspaper El Sol de Acapulco. No suspects have been arrested.
 
Argentina: In an unusual protest, 15 homemade banners reading “J.C. Sanz is a mule and slave of Clarín” appeared in the hometown of the newspaper’s editor, Juan Cruz Sanz. The Peronist party government has escalated its fight with Clarín, Argentina’s biggest newspaper, in recent years. The governor of Sanz’s home state denied the party had anything to do with the banners, which were signed with the party’s name.
 
Panama: Not forgotten nor forgiven: Authorities arrested 70-year-old Panamanian journalist Carlos Jerónimo Nuñez López June 26 in connection with an allegedly libelous story published 12 years ago, according to the newspaper Hora Cero and the National Journalists Guild in Panama. Like a few other Latin American nations, Panama recognizes “criminal libel” punishable with prison. Nuñez has been sentenced to a year in prison for the old story in the weekly La Crónica, which is no longer published, that said a businessman had polluted a river in Bocas del Toro.

Jamaica: Jamaican journalists protested that police prevented them from covering the arrest of Christopher Coke, the alleged drug kingpin who touched off weeks of violence in Kingston as he eluded authorities. “While journalists were being blocked, hindered, deceived and restricted in filming and photographing this process, we were a few hours later embarrassed to see how U.S. media were able to freely photograph, shout questions and get an answer from Christopher Coke,” Gary Allen, chairman of the Media Association of Jamaica, wrote in the Jamaica Observer.

Colombia: Authorities ordered a former deputy director of the national Colombian intelligence service known as DAS, who was in prison on his arrest in another, held for masterminding the 1999 murder of journalist and satirist Jaime Garzón, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported. Three former paramilitary leaders implicated José Miguel Narváez in the murder, which was shocking even for a nation that had seen so much political and criminal bloodshed. Narváez is awaiting trial on charges of spying on judges, opposition politicians, journalists and human rights groups including CPJ.

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