It's become accepted that the younger you are, the less apt you are to be a regular reader of newspapers. That's been an escalating trend since back in the 1960s, but only recently has it begun to affect newspaper advertising seriously. This trend was demonstrated yet again last week when the New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) released its revenues for October. The company reported that advertising revenues from continuing operations dropped 4.9%, and its total revenues -- essentially those from advertising, circulation, and other areas, such as commercial printing -- were down 2.9%. The company's advertising revenues from its New England operations, primarily the Boston Globe, plummeted by nearly 12%.
Where, then, is Times likely to wind up, say, two or three years into the future? The only apparent answer is that the company as we know it seems unlikely to continue to exist. Media companies have, of course, become subject to increasing attention from private equity types of late. Tribune (NYSE: TRB) continues to be pored over by those considering private equity purchases, and a similar fate appears possible for Dow Jones (NYSE: DJ). And last week, radio giant Clear Channel (NYSE: CCU) received its financial marching orders when a private equity buyout was announced.
Interesting that Clear Channel also was in trouble and is going private. Not unlike newspapers, radio is growing to be a thing of the past among young people. I know that among my friends, who are in the 20s and 30s, few of us listen to radio. The only radio I listen to is talk radio on the AM dial, and I could get that on satellite or on the Internet. For music, I listen to the stuff I have in iTunes and if I want new music, I listen to Internet radio on iTunes or AccuRadio or another site recommended by a friend. There is nothing at all that I miss about radio. In fact, I don't even own a stereo. The only radio in my house is a small clock radio that can be operated by battery in case of an emergency.
So it looks like the M.O. for these old media companies is to break up and sell off the small parts to try to save themselves. That seems to me to indicate companies in a sinking industry reaching for a life preserver. As does this story in today's New York Times.