Year-End review: Biz Turnaround Just Ahead?

By: Jennifer Saba

Newspaper executives were jubilant ? defiant, even ? during the annual UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York, in December. The annual event has been a dismal affair for the last two years, at least for the newspaper companies that still show up to present. But during this latest round, executives were upbeat ? projecting that a turnaround is just around the corner, if not already here.

Let’s hope so, because advertising revenue is still mired in double-digit percentage losses despite very easy comps. Year-over-year, many companies are still projecting losses in the low-to-mid-20% range, yet point out that the thumb-in-the-dike approach is working compared to the previous quarters. Of course, many companies are trimming costs like crazy ? that’s in the low-20 percentage range too, but there are signals that perhaps that may ease.

McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt pointed out that despite the company’s heavy load of debt, its newspapers are profitable. That cash is being funneled into pay down debt ? something that Pruitt believes is under control. He delivered a parting shot for the non-believers who predicted McClatchy would be bankrupt by now: “They were wrong.”

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