Saturday, January 29, 2005

If newspapers are in trouble ...

... why are so many companies buying them?
The Southern Newspaper Publishers Association weekly bulletin reports that newspaper deals hit a four-year high in 2004 -- 23 separate transactions totaling $918.1 million, according to Dirks, Van Exssen & Murray, a newspaper broker.

Quoting the brief:

The continued flow of private equity money into newspapers and strong purchase price multiples bode well for improved deal activity in 2005, even though publishers remain cautious about the advertising climate, said James Oldershaw, vice president at DV&M.

Other factors are bullish for mergers and acquisitions activity as well. Interest rates are edging up, but still are low in historical terms. Banks continue to be aggressive in lending to newspaper buyers.

Among the newspaper companies created this year were Heartland Publications and HarborPoint Media, according to the brief.

Now, the caveat is determining why these companies are so hot on small newspaper properties. A couple of possible reasons:
  • They see a lot more robust business than others have predicted, especially in community journalism, which is where many of these acquisitions have taken place.
  • Or, the hell with the journalism. They see a way to take properties that are in noncompetitive situations and not really likely to be threatened online anytime soon (despite all the ink about the citizens journalism evolution) and squeeze the cash flow even tighter.
Let's just say I hope for the first but, given experience, kind of lean toward the second. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
From the same newsletter, a link to a China Daily article about a study that finds journalism is hazardous to your health. Only 28 of 1,182 journalists studied were healthy. Many reported stomach problems (yeah, like trying to eat on a journalist's salary?). Take it with a grain of salt, but still ...


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