Hot on the heels of news that newspaper executives from across the country met secretly in Chicago yesterday, the Newspaper Association of America released troubling revenue numbers for the first quarter of 2009.
According to the NAA, total revenues for papers in the U.S. dropped 28.3 percent during the first quarter of the year, down to $6.6 billion from $9.2 billion during the same period last year. (For reference, first quarter revenue hovered in the $11 to $10 billion range for the five years prior to 2008.)
This precipitous drop is due to a 29.7 percent decline in print ad revenues (down to $5.9 billion from $8.4 billion in Q1 of 2008) and a 13.4 percent decrease is online advertising revenue (down to $696 million from $804 million last year).
Reportedly, executives at yesterday’s meeting discussed ways to monetize online content, but they have be careful in describing what the confab was about in order to avoid antitrust scrutiny. NAA president John F. Sturm told Nieman Journalism Lab that antitrust counsel was present at the meeting and noted that “the group discussed business topics such as protection of intellectual property rights and approaches to the Congress and Administration to address these and other issues.”
If the revenue numbers from the first quarter of 2009 are any indication, something needs to be done to ensure that newspapers will be around in the future — and fast. Otherwise, we’ll be seeing more papers go the way of the Rocky Mountain News in the near future.