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Media Outlook

Five States Face Public Broadcasting Cuts

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee’s proposed budget would zero out state funding to Rhode Island PBS by 2014, and two bills in Oklahoma would remove state funding either next year or over the next five years, Current reports.

Meanwhile, Idaho is recommending a “no-growth” budget for Idaho Public Television and is considering removing transmitters in sparsely populated regions, Kansas nixed a bill that would have increased its public broadcasting funding, and state cuts in South Carolina that went into effect last year have taken their toll.

It’s not a pretty picture out there for public radio and TV.

The Rhode Island plan, if enacted, would take away $933,000, or a third of the station’s budget. Discussions, Current reports, continue.

State funding in Oklahoma has already dropped from $5.2 million in 2009 to $3.8 million this year; state funds now make up 41 percent of The Oklahoma Network’s (OETA’s) budget. According to OETA executive director John McCarroll, the network has already had to cut back on news production.

None of these threats are real yet—they still need to be voted on, signed into law, and so forth—except in South Carolina, where the broadcaster closed its office in Beaufort Feb. 2 and laid off two staffers. The office closure will save $180,000 a year.

McClatchy Reports Larger Profit, Time Warner Has Record Year

The McClatchy Co. reported fourth-quarter earnings of $42 million, up from $14.8 million a year ago.

That includes a relatively modest $600,000 severance charge and a $3.4 million impairment charge.

Other highlights: Ad revenue was “only” down 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to double-digit declines for the preceding three quarters. The company is spending $20 million less on salaries than it was a year ago (thanks partly to all those layoffs). Digital ad revs now make up 15% of McClatchy’s total revenues.

Meanwhile, Time Warner Inc is reporting it had a record year, with $5.9 billion in earnings on $29 billion in revenue. Okay, so that money came from its entertainment arm rather than the publishing division but Time Inc’s magazines are still showing a profit, and a growing profit at that.

Time Inc reported a profit of $207 million for the fourth quarter, up from $171 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Print Is Alive…In China

Elle China has doubled its frequency to twice monthly, only the second Elle edition to do so, minonline reports.

The magazine was averaging 500-800 pages per month; the size will now be reduced to 280-400 pages and the cost will be cut in half.

In a perhaps related development, the magazine is hiring but unless you’re fluent in Chinese, we wouldn’t bother.

The only other Elle edition that publishes more than 12 times a year is the original Elle in France, which has been a weekly “for decades” and remains owned by Lagardère. Ownership of Elle China transferred to Hearst Corp on Dec. 6, 2011.

The NYT Company Has 406,000 Paid Digital Subscribers

And the Times company brought in an operating profit of $106.7 million, compared to $116 million a year ago.

The 406,000 figure includes the paywall at the New York Times but also subscribers to as well as the International Herald Tribune. The Globe by itself, the Times company reported, is drawing about 16,000 digital subscribers.

It’s still unclear how many of those subscribers have paid an introductory rate, which at both and is 99 cents for the first four weeks. Personal experience shows that the Times digital circulation department is willing to extend those 99-cent promotional offers at least once.

Even still, if that means the paywall is bringing in $400,000 a month, that isn’t bad.

On to the rest of the earnings report:

The Times’ ad revenues were down 7 percent overall, though up 5 percent in digital. Ignoring the About Group, where revenues fell 25 percent, ad revenues were down only 5 percent. Circulation was up, thanks to “an increase in new orders and improved retention following the launch of its digital subscriptions.”

Digital now makes up 14.8 percent of the Times’ overall revenue.

Gannett Reports Smaller Fourth Quarter Profit

Gannett Co, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, reported fourth quarter results Monday that delivered on Wall Street’s expectations but still showed a marked decline in advertising revenues.

The company’s total revenues for the quarter were $1.39 billion, down from $1.46 billion the year before, while net income was $116.9 million, down 32 percent from $174 million the year prior. Also, the company spent $40 million after tax on severance and other “workforce restructuring” initiatives, one reason why the company’s profits fell so dramatically.

Ad revenues at the company’s newspapers fell an average of 7 percent, while revenues at Gannett’s TV stations fell 13 percent, mostly due to a lack of political advertising.

Digital revenues, though, rose 9 percent, mostly due to growth at CareerBuilder. Digital now makes up 21 percent of Gannett’s revenues.

‘Leadership Vacuum’ At NY Times As Company Prepares To Announce Earnings

nyt_logo.jpgThe New York Times Company is still seeking a replacement for CEO Janet Robinson who departed last month, and Wall Street isn’t too happy, reports Bloomberg.

A new leader is needed to bring up revenue, shore up profits and restore the Times Company’s dividend, Bloomberg writes. The company, which announces fourth-quarter results next week, is projected to report that its 2011 revenue was $2.33 billion, a decline from 2010 and the sixth straight year of declining sales.

“The stock is kind of stuck in no-man’s land,” and the absence of a CEO is part of what’s keeping it there,” one analyst told Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Janet Robinson’s parting pay package is actually going to be around $21 million, more than previously reported.

Media General, Hit By Severance Costs, Reports Loss

Newspaper publisher and broadcast station owner Media General today reported a Q4 2011 loss of $3.3 million on revenues of $168 million, as the company’s severance costs and impairment charges overwhelmed its operating income of $27 million dollars.

Without the special charges, the company would have reported $4.5 million in income, less than half the income from the fourth quarter of 2010. Those $168 million in revenues were $22 million lower than the revenue from a year prior.

Partially offsetting the decline in revenues was an 8.6 percent decrease in operating costs, the company said.

Digital revenues, a closely watched line item for media companies, made up just 5 percent of the company’s revenue.

Media General owns the Tampa Tribune, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 19 other newspapers and 18 TV stations. In mid-December, the company laid off 165 at the Tampa Tribune, costing $3.5 million in severance costs.

The Washington Post To Shrink By 100 Positions?

Outgoing Post managing editor Raju Narisetti apparently gave a presentation to the DC chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists earlier this month in which he said the Post would likely eliminate 100 positions over the next two years.

“The cuts do not necessarily mean layoffs and could come from buyouts like ones the Post has done in the past,” a reporter covering the meeting wrote.

Despite the downsizing, Narisetti told the assembled journos that “You’ll be surprised to hear this, but there has never been a better time to be a journalist.”

At any rate, Narisetti is leaving the Post on Feb. 1 but it’s not inconceivable at all that a staff reduction plan he put into place would go into effect after his tenure was up.

According to Jim Romenesko who had this first from a tipster, this few-weeks-old tidbit is “causing an uproar in the Washington Post newsroom.”

Meredith Reports Declines In Profit, Revenue

Meredith Corp (MDP) today reported earnings of $31.5 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 on revenues of $328 million.

The quarter for the womens’ media company covers the three months ended December 31, 2011.

The company was able to lower expenses and keep circulation steady, but wasn’t able to counter the downward slide of advertising revenues, just like most media companies struggling to take in advertising dollars from an increasingly fragmented media world.

While $21 million of Meredith’s $30 million advertising slide was from a lack of political advertising (as expected in an off year), the remaining $9 million came from a lack of ads in the food and consumer packaged goods categories, whose producers have been “particularly impacted by higher commodity prices,” and pharmaceutical companies, who brought fewer new drugs to market.

“We are seeing gains in food-related advertising in early calendar 2012, and we believe overall advertising performance will improve as calendar 2012 progresses,” Meredith CEO Stephen Lacy said in a statement. “While the advertising market remained challenging for our National Media Group, we’re seeing an improving trend as we look to early calendar 2012, particularly in the food and home advertising categories.”

Meredith also announced today that it would acquire from the Reader’s Digest Association for an undisclosed sum.

Not Too Many People Use QR Codes But They Wish They Did?

While the “real world” of average people who buy products hasn’t really caught on to the idea of QR codes, they (along with other “real-world-based tools” like augmented reality) are exciting to a lot of marketers.

In a nonscientific poll from SmartBrief’s “SmartPulse”, nearly a quarter of marketers said they were most excited about these technologies, choosing them over location-based social networks, niche social networks, and mobile support for social networking.

Smartbrief is careful to point out that “this poll isn’t so much about what our readers expect in the new year, so much as what they’re hoping to see in 2012.” So there may be a reason—whether technological or otherwise— that explains why it may be unrealistic for QR codes to take off.

Or maybe they’re just waiting for the right implementation…got any ideas?