Saturday, February 16, 2008

MediaNews sales decline -- even online

MediaNews Group reports that its profits rose in the fourth quarter, but its sales dropped — even from its Internet operations.

The company, headed by Dean Singleton (left), also noted that it has been repaid $3.8 million in legal fees following its suit against a publisher who left one of its papers for a competitor, taking a laptop full of advertising data with him.

Perhaps the most startling news in the company's fourth-quarter report appears on page 24, where it says revenues from its Internet operations decreased 8.3% in the quarter (as compared to the same quarter in 2007). Singleton has repeatedly stated that the Internet is the future of MediaNews, and the company has been diverting its resources to its online operations.

The report has more bad news. The company's total revenues shrunk 7.3% from $372.5 million in Q4 06 to $345.2 million in Q4 07 on a same-paper basis, excluding papers acquired during the year (see page 20). Retail was down 16.0%, national 18.8%, classified 30.3% and pre-print inserts 4% (page 24).

While sales dropped, profits jumped 33.9% compared to the year-ago quarter, from $12.9 million to $17.35 million (also page 20).

On page 23, the quarterly report notes that in December the company recovered legal fees of approximately $3.8 million associated with its lawsuit against Par Ridder (right), who quit as publisher of the company's St. Paul Pioneer Press and went across town to head the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ridder, son of former Knight Ridder chief executive and chairman Tony Ridder, took with him a couple of the Pioneer Press's key employees and a laptop loaded with financial information about the MediaNews paper. Singleton sued, saying "In Par's world, he could get away with anything because daddy would always take care of him." A judge removed Ridder from his job as publisher, citing his "cavalier" behavior.

While MediaNews Group is privately held, it posts its financials on the Security and Exchange Comission's Web site as if it were a public company. That may be due to the large number of parties that have lent MediaNews money over the years and want to see how the company is doing. MediaNews owns most of the paid dailies in the Bay Area including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal and Palo Alto Daily News.


Anonymous said...

It is about time for all news orgs and newspapers to go out of biz because they no longer report news. It is all tabloid and propaganda stuff today.

Want proof ? Watch TV news and front page of the Merc and Chron. Instead of writing and reporting news, they all invent bogus propaganda for their own agenda.

I hope they all go down SOON. and please print my comment.

Anonymous said...

And how do you propose to be informed moron?

People like this scare should scare the hell out of everyone. Without an informed public, democracy will fail.

Anonymous said...

it's obvious why MNG's websites are doing so poorly -- they're essentially a rehash of the company's papers, which are uninspired, boring and clueless ... the websites aren't much different though they let a few reporters have blogs and sometimes they post video if it's easy to obtain (like an editorial board meeting or something where it's simple to set up a camera) ... no thought is given to creating unique internet properties that would attract new, younger readers ...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1 makes a good point -- newspapers have quit printing the news, or at least shoved the news into their back pages. The Oakland Tribune on Sunday ran a piece on carnivorous plants as its front-page lead. The Chronicle's centerpiece was about an organization that helps women develop their businesses -- a good piece for the business section but not very gripping on page one. And their lead about Obama's shaking up the political landscape: Well, duh!

Anonymous said...

As a media analyst, newspapers are in steep decline thanks to the Internet. Most young people ages 18-40 get their news from the Internet. Few read actual news papers. One good example is the fact people reading this comment are reading it online. Newspapers should cut their losses and focus their attention on Internet
E Anderson

Anonymous said...

I work for an MNG paper, in the online division, and I don't see much diverting of resources toward us. I see resources disappearing entirely but not being replaced elsewhere. I see us being mandated to do video and then our capital requests turned down outright when we ask to purchase cameras to do it.

The only diverting of resources I see is into Dean Singleton's pockets.