A new study reemphasizes that in the troubled newspaper industry small and large circulation dailies have gone in different directions. The Inland Press Association says that of the more than 120 papers whose confidential financial data it analyzed, none of the papers with a circulation of over 50,000 have been able to increase their profits over the last five years. By contrast, 19 papers with circulations under that level boosted their profits during the period (Ten of those papers had circulations under 15,000). No word on whether any were flat. As for revenues, only the under 15,000-circulation category managed to eek out any increase in revenue since 2003. Another positive indicator for small papers: On average, classified sales were actually up.
The group says that overall most papers still managed to post profit margins of between 8.5 percent to 13.6 percent of revenue—which the Inland Press Assocation’s Ray Carlsen says is “encouraging,” adding that “it means that newspapers are still a good business when compared to the results of other industries.” Over at the Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, Alan Mutter emphasizes that those figures represent the average profits over the last five years. Thus, it’s likely that average margins for most papers are lower than that now—and rapidly declining. As noted yesterday, for instance, The Tribune Company is still making money but has seen its profits fall significantly over the last six months. (Mutter says that the Inland Press Association won’t give out the figures for 2008).