‘Publisher Confidence Survey’ Shows Brightening Mood

By: Mark Fitzgerald

A survey of mid-sized and small-market newspaper executives finds increasing optimism about the business, with seven in ten expecting advertising revenue and profits to be up next year.

The Publisher Confidence Survey April 2010 by the Bozeman, Mont.-based brokerage firm Cribb, Greene & Associates also found that — in contrast to the prevailing thinking among metro papers — these smaller publishers expect their traditionally high profit margins to return with a recovering economy.

“Newspaper executives clearly feel that the industry is improving quickly,” said Cribb, Greene principal John Cribb.

Of the 160 respondents, 71% said they believe their advertising revenue will be up in 2011, with another 25% expecting revenue to be about the same as this year.

Only 4% think next year’s ad revenues will be down, the survey found.

By nearly the same margin — 68% — the executives believe their profit margins will be up in 2011. Some 69% believe their margin will be the same or better than in past years.

The executives are divided, however, about whether this is a good time to buy a newspaper, with 53% responding no. Financing continues to be a stumbling block with just 54% confident that bank financing is available at reasonable terms. That’s a slight improvement form the 49% who said that in the Cribb, Greene survey last fall.

But more publishers now say that the newspaper industry is a good place for future generations. Last fall, just 33% of respondents said they would recommend a newspaper career to their children. The number this time around was 39%. A total of 77% would or might recommend a newspaper career against 23% who would not.

Of the 160 survey participants, 36% have daily newspapers, 19% have both daily and non-daily newspapers, and 45% have non-daily newspapers, most of them weeklies.

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