Today just about anyone with the interest and a computer can label themselves a journalist. In the news media, the barriers of entry have fallen to a level of insignificance. Barriers to success are another thing altogether. Building and maintaining an audience and drawing consistent ad revenue are substantial tasks, especially in a weakened advertising economy. It’s an up and down process that requires constant attention. Even the biggest brands aren’t immune from the struggles. The New York Times proved that Tuesday with July results that showed weakness not just in print where it was expected, but surprisingly online too.
Tuesday, The New York Times announced revenues in July were down 10.1 percent year over year. Advertising was off 16.2% but most notably, Internet advertising revenues for the News Media Group were up only .9% year over year. As ad Ad Age notes in their coverage, the Times Internet ad revenue had been up 21.5% in June, 14.2% in May, 25.6% in April and 14.8% in March.
In a era where the print media business is widely struggling, the Time’s online growth had been a bright spot. July’s flat line performance (.9% growth) raises a question about the future. Was the July drop off is a one month anomaly? Or is it symptom of greater economic weakness that could plague the sector for the remainder of the year?
In the press release, the Time’s signaled all is well in August. They said the results were trending up "in the low double digits as display advertising at NYTimes.com has improved."
That should be the case between the Olympics and the ramp up of a presidential election year. But will it hold? Will the online segment rebound?
Winston Churchill once quipped that he avoided "prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place."
That’s probably sound advice, but a reading of these tea leaves would be interesting to see. It seems like there’s trouble ahead.
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