New York Times Co., Gannett Co., Media General , and McClatchy Co. have all reported profits in the second quarter and the results have led to share prices doubling and tripling.

The developments must come as a surprise to those who saw the poor performance of recent quarters and convinced themselves that the newspaper industry is dead and gone.

Admittedly, the positive results in the past 3 months were achieved through restructuring, reducing news staffs to their 1970s levels, heavy cost cutting everywhere, and postponing reinvestments. But it shows there is still life in the industry and that the industry can be expected to recover in the coming year if economic conditions continue their current rate of improvement. As I have said many times, a industry with $50 billion in revenue is not going to ignore that revenue, close the doors, and disappear overnight.

Many have viewed the poor company performance in the past 2 years and then mistaken the steep concurrent drop in advertising as evidence of a general decline caused by long-term industry trends. In doing so, they have disregarded the impact of the economy on newspaper advertising and mistaken the dramatic drop in advertising as being an indicator of the industry's broader condition rather than the shorter-term results of 4 quarters of negative growth that have affected the economy as a whole. Some have also ignored the effects of corporate debt problems had on the industry's overall condition.

In multiple blogs and articles journalists and editors have pointed out that newspapers have fared worse than other media in the recession and used that the fact as evidence that the industry is a death's door. Two decades of research on newspapers during recessions, however, has shown newspapers typically fare worse because retail and classified advertising on which the industry relies are more affected by downturns than brand advertising (See post “The Credit Crisis, Volatile Markets, and Recession and Media” and the articles below). Obviously a lot of newspaper managers and journalists don't pay attention to research about their own business.

If one looks at the newspaper advertising expenditures over time (see Figure below), one sees that they fall with recessions and then recover. This pattern was especially evident from 1991 to 1993 and 2001-2003 when short downturns pushed newspapers into decline.

If one considers different category of advertising, it is clear that the classified advertising—which was a driver of growth in the 1990s—was significantly troubled after 2000, but recovered and spiked in 2005 (Figure 2). Its relative decline by comparison to retail and national advertising is probably the result of some substitution with the Internet, nevertheless newspaper classifieds produced $10 billion in 2008—3 times that of online classified.

U.S. newspapers are in a mature industry with low growth potential once recovery from the recession occurs. Most companies will performance reasonably well after the recovery, but certainly some companies will have difficulties because of imprudent strategies and choices. Nevertheless, the industry as a whole will still remain in place producing revenue for many years to come.

It will do so because more than 45 million people are still willing to purchase a paper daily and retail advertisers still gain better results from newspaper advertising than from broadcast, Internet, and other forms of advertising.

Related Articles of Interest
Picard, R.G. & Rimmer, T. (1999). Weathering a Recession: Effects of Size and Diversification on Newspaper Companies, Journal of Media Economics, 23(4):21-33.

Picard, R.G. (2001). Effects of Recessions on Advertising Expenditures: An Exploratory Study of Economic Downturns in Nine Developed Nations, Journal of Media Economics, 14(1): 1-14.

Picard, R.G. (2008). “Shifts in Newspaper Advertising Expenditures and their Implications for the Future of Newspapers,” Journalism Studies, 9(5):704-716.

van der Wurff, R., Bakker, P. & Picard, R.G. (2008). Economic Growth and Advertising Expenditures in Different Media in Different Countries, Journal of Media Economics, 21:28-52.

100th Post - Import Export Business - Is It Really For You?

Why an international trade business offers import export training courses?

This is the 100th post to this blog - I am baring my soul (so to speak) as to why an international business offers import export training courses - I hope this post will help you make the final decision as to whether import export is for you or isn't and why it is important to make INFORMED decisions, both before, during and after starting your business.

In the learning phase of my own business in the late 1980's, I did not have the HUGE advantage that the Internet offers you. I had to make innumerable visits to the library which was about a 20 mile round trip.

I spent hundreds of hours there researching, reading, copying. I spent hundreds of dollars on training materials that were extremely outdated (that was the 80's and the materials were written in the 60's and 70's). I wasted thousands of dollars on postage sending inquiries to trade leads that were so outdated it was almost enough to make you want to quit.

I visited with international bankers, department of commerce personnel, actual live importers and exporters to gather as much information as I possibly could.

Because of all the expenses of trying to learn this business piece meal, an idea came upon me one day that some people might be interested enough to pay for reports that compiled all this research into a current newsletter and thus the information part of my business was born.

The newsletter drew the attention of a publisher in Washington DC (at the time) who published a newspaper filled with trade leads each month. I agreed to sell his newspaper along with our newsletter after I tested the leads.

The first lead was for Organic Fruit Juice. Although the lead was about 2 months old I called the buyer and he advised me that only one other person had contacted him. He was definitely still interested and asked for quotes.

Off to the library, I researched and found 6 companies that produced it. I contacted 5 and was rejected - they were not interested. The sixth and last was. I had to pay a local machine shop a dollar a page to send and receive each page of a fax (this was 1988 remember).

I faxed an agreement to the producer after we agreed to terms by phone, they signed and faxed the agreement back and I then put the two parties together. Only two sales ever resulted from that deal but I was paid approximately $1,000 for about 3 hours of work/research.

This does not mean you will make that much on your first deal or that little, it is presently purely to document our first export deal.

Our business evolved and about 1993 we were contacted by a publisher of an import and export business course. After having such a bad experience with those I had purchased, I wanted to review it before agreeing to sell it (this was ll by mail order at the time).

I was thoroughly impressed with both the course and with the publisher. Since 1993 we have been offered the chance to market just about every other export/import course there is on the market and after reviewing them, nothing comes remotely close to the vast amount of information presented in such a manner that it is easily understood.

Because of our experience in the industry, our publisher has implemented many of the suggestions that we provided. Many of the questions and answers that were received during these 16 years have been included in the updates made to the course materials which averages about every 2 years.

Quite frankly, the revenue from the sale of these courses only represents about 5% of our total annual revenue and if it were to end tomorrow, it would hurt but it could easily be replaced with other revenue streams.

So why do we continue to offer the courses? Several reasons:

  1. There are many people out there who are like I was 21 years ago - people who have a sincere interest in the international trade business but do not know how to go about getting it in a manner that is easy to understand and not go broke or spend hundreds of hours like I did.

  2. There has been a proliferation of offerings that are out there with the advent of the Internet - some ranging from as little as $10 to others ranging $8,000 or more and I know in my heart that the courses we offer are the BEST based on my personal review and 21 years experience.

  3. Many of the people described above will end up calling or emailing me and rather than taking trying to explain the same processes over and over and over, they have a comprehensive course that is not only training but a resource library for the entire term of their business.

  4. There has to be training available that is not too complicated like many courses are that will discourage you before you ever take the first step and a course that is not so outlandish in price that you have to take a 2nd mortgage (if you can get one) for the promises of some boiler room operator/trainer who has absolutely no real life experience in this business and in my 21+ years of experience I have yet to find any course that is better - if I did, it would be posted to our web site tomorrow.

The Import Export Business is just that - A business! It is NOT an OPPORTUNITY that will magically transform you into a super worldwide success. This is a REAL business that without the serious application of WORK by YOU will not provide you with anything by and of itself!

This business is NOT for everyone (bet the boiler room operators whose weekly commission check depend solely upon selling you their $8000 plus 'program' will never tell you that)!

Here is a list of people who will have a problem succeeding in this business:

  1. Those who cannot write a sentence or paragraph in basic English (sorry but English is the main language of international trade).

  2. Those who will not pick up the phone and call someone and be able to speak English well enough that the other party can understand them - if the truth offends you, then I have save you from a lot of wasted money and time.

  3. Those who need a coach or camp counselor who they can call and cry on their shoulders when they cannot get a buyer or seller to talk with them - when in reality the camp counselor/coaches by the $8000+ programs are nothing more than boiler room operators with the same printed material in front of them as you have in front of you - this is all part of business - the buyer or sellers in the world are not waiting for you with baited breath so you can tell them about the "certificate" you now possess as if that really means anything in this industry.

  4. Those who are unable to make a decision for themselves even after they have been provided with all the details and processes that are necessary for them to make an informed decision - they are not ready to be in business for themselves, they need a job where they have a boss who will tell them what to do for 8 hours.

  5. Those who think an exorbitant price somehow translates into something being better - they think well if it costs that much, it must be good, right?

  6. Those who are too lazy to perform due diligence (read our company page for instructions) - if you are going to invest $8,000+ in the belief a company is what they say they are, spend a couple of hundred and fly out to their location, see their "warehouses" (I find it amusing that some people expend more time checking us out for an investment in a course that is less than 5% of the $8K+ program)

  7. Those who, even after they perform 'in-depth' due diligence, still foolishly throw their $8K+ at a dream that is sold to them by a commissioned salesman/woman with absolutely no experience in the industry.

I wish everyone who purchases a course from us would be an incredible success, but the sad fact is probably less than 5% ever follow through and take the first step of action necessary to achieve any success.

If you think the $8K+ programs offer you a better chance, give me a call during normal business hours at 717-292-5763 - if I am in the office I will gladly tell you how to do a very simple google search to find the thousands of now inactive web sites that others who have taken the $8K+ path have followed. I just did this search today and quite frankly I was amazed at how many there are but before you call me - DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE and if you are really cut out to be in business for yourself, you will not need to bother calling me because you will have already made the right decision.

The courses we offer will provide you with everything, step-by-step instructions on how to succeed in both importing and exporting - the success factor is what looks you in the mirror each morning.

If any of the above has offended you, well let's say in this area of Pennsylvania, we have an old saying the goes "if the shoe fits, wear it!" If it took this as a slap up along the side of you head and you are offended and you forget about this business all together, then I have accomplished my goal as you simply are not ready for this business.

If however, you are the type of person who says, great, finally someone who tells it like it is, no bull shit, someone who not only talks the talk but who has walked the walk, well then you are ready for our course and for being in business for yourself (as long as you can handle the oral and written communications).

Bottom line, we offer the courses we do because our experience tells us that they are the best - we could earn 10 times what we do if we opted to sell the $8K+ program (and believe me they would love to get exposure to our 53,000 monthly visitors) but quite frankly, I would rather lose that 5% of income and not replace it with anything if their program was the only choice available. That would free up more time for me to spend with our rapidly growing grand child.

That is it for my 100th post to this blog - I hope you have found it to be both helpful and enlightening, comments, criticisms are "always" welcome (you do have to register with to comment, however).

Thanks for visiting and taking the time to read what I hope is one of, if not the most, thought provoking post since we began this blog.

Ron Coble


Google, MSN, and Yahoo and other aggregators are cited by newspaper executives are harming newspapers. But what have they actually done? It is important to have a realistic understanding of their effects if one is to fashion strategies for the future of newspapers and news organizations.

Aggregators carry news stories from major news services and thus make international and national public affairs, entertainment and sports news widely available. The headline news on the aggregators’ home pages is becoming the primary news provider for those less interested in news and the online sections are well-used by news consumers who want more news or more timely news than appears in their daily newspaper.

Aggregators and others sites carrying content from news services are now contributing about 20 percent of the revenue of Associated Press, for example, taking some financial pressure off newspapers to fund the cooperative on their own. Other news services are also gaining income from online operators, thus helping them keep prices lower for newspapers as well.

So how do aggregators news harm newspapers? They harms papers to the extent that some less committed newspaper readers are willing to substitute their local paper with a news sources that don’t cover their cities. Some are willing to do so and this is taking some subscribers and single copy purchasers away from newspapers. U.S. newspapers have lost approximately 6 million circulation since 2000, but about half of that was circulation of the 70 competing newspapers or second editions papers that have been closed since the millennium. So one can thus say that at least 3 million people have decided to use other news sources.

Aggregators are also accused of STEALING value through their search functions and links to newspaper sites. Certainly the aggregators are CREATING value with the technique but are they taking value in violation of copyright or norms of content use? The answer is “no” because they do not represent the material as their own and direct those searching to the newspapers own sites, where they are exposed to advertising sold by the online newspapers.

Newspapers are now getting between 7-10 readers online for every reader they have in print. This plays an important role in making their sites attractive to advertisers, a development that generated the $3.2 billion in online advertising revenue that newspapers received in 2008.

Newspapers, of course, could stop the aggregators from linking to their content by putting it behind walls and charging for its use. If they did so, the aggregators could not link to it legally or technically without users encountering a pay or registration wall. So why haven’t newspapers done this until now? Frankly, because they get more readers and more advertising income by offering the material free.

Publishers are increasingly arguing that they should turn newspaper sites into paying sites and they have been holding joint discussion about how that might happen and whether it would be beneficial to do so simultaneously. This has raised some antitrust concern, but it raises real and significant questions of what such a strategy would accomplish.

In my estimation it is not as easy answer to the challenges newspapers face and has some elements that put its effectiveness in doubt. This is primarily because it is uncertain what existing readers will do. Will they subscribe to print AND online? Will they stay with print only? Or will they drop print?

The first option would be financially beneficial, but is likely to attract a limited number of readers unless the joint pricing is so attractive that it produces little new income for the newspaper firm. If that is the case the benefit of the strategy is reduced. The latter option would be very damaging to papers because print advertising creates more value than online advertising and prices for print ads would decline more than would be gained online.

It also needs to be recognized that people who do not currently buying newspapers are unlikely to buy subscriptions to online news sites. Thus, creating a paid model will likely reduce the boosted audience that free online news currently provides. This would have a negative effect on online audience and the increasing revenue that is being obtained from online advertising.

But what of heavy news users? As I have written in other entries in this blog, heavy users tend to be promiscuous and move between many online news sites. A commonly used system for micropayments would be necessary or these heavy users will reduce their use of multiple sites if each requires separate payment registration. Even with such a system in place, it is unlikely that more than 5-10 percent of the newspaper purchasing population would regularly use such a system.

Moving to a paid online model will not be as easy as agreeing that everyone should switch to paid on January 1 next year. It will require considerable strategic thinking and providing new types of value for consumers if it is to be successful. Even then, the benefits for newspapers will vary significantly depending upon the size, location, and competitive situation of individual newspapers.


Self deception is more damaging than lies told to us by others because it more strongly affects our perceptions and decisions. One of the biggest self deceptions in the newspaper industry today is that the Internet is striping newspapers of advertising dollars and is a primary cause of its economic woes.

There is no question that Internet is increasingly attracting advertising revenues. They reached $23.4 billion in the U.S. in 2008. Looking at the numbers more closely, however, one sees a different story. About half those expenditures are search and lead generation fees that don’t compete with traditional newspaper advertising. Search payments alone are the single largest category of Internet income and represent 40% of total online fees.

Internet classified advertising—the direct competitor to newspaper classifieds—has never exceeded 20 percent of online advertising revenues and it is declining as a percentage of the total. Online classified advertising was $3.2 billion in 2008, about one third of the classified advertising expenditures in U.S. newspapers. Nevertheless, some newspaper executives and industry observers act as if all the online classified revenue has been diverted from newspapers, but the evidence of that is not very persuasive. As this figure shows, between 2003 and 2006, Internet classified grew considerably, but newspaper classifieds not only held their own but increased as well. Clearly there has been a significant decline in the past 2 recession years, but there is no evidence it is shifting to online classified advertising.

If one considers annual gain or loss of classified advertising in the two media one sees that the patterns do not indicate any substantial demand side substitution (advertisers switching from one to the other) because the figures do not rise and fall in the same patterns or in somewhat similar amounts.

So why does the Internet constantly get the blame for newspaper woes? I believe it is because of it is just the newest in a series of threats to newspaper revenue. The Internet certainly is taking some money from newspapers, but it isn’t the worst culprit. The real competitor is direct mail and home delivery advertising that have taken much preprint and display advertising from newspapers in recent decades by delivering better household reach. That was compounded by the significant reduction in the number of large retailers in the late 1990s and 2000s. The development of the recession in 2007 and 2008 is currently playing the major role because newspaper advertising—especially classifieds—is more strongly affected by recessions than other types of advertising. But recessions come and go and there is no reason to believe that an advertising recovery will not accompany an improvement in the economy.

I don't mean to say that some former classified advertisers are not shifting to online sites, or starting their own company sites, allowing allows them to market more inexpensively. But newspapers can strive to get them back and to keep others from leaving by aggressively marketing to those people and firms and by creating effective print and online newspaper classified packages that provide more effective advertising responses for them.

The end for newspapers is not in sight and those who think that the $50 billion industry is going to collapse and disappear within a year or two because of Internet advertising are just not paying attention close enough attention to what is really happening across media industries.