This morning’s coverage of A.H. Belo’s plans to sell The Providence Journal contains a few new nuggets.
First, from Sheryl Jean’s story in A.H. Belo’s own Dallas Morning News (emphasis added):
Jim Moroney, chairman, president and chief executive of A. H. Belo, thinks Providence will attract “several interested parties.”
“The Providence Journal is a powerhouse brand in Rhode Island and will attract a lot of buyers,” he said. “I think you could see some other newspaper companies that have been more acquisitive … and you could see some local people who might be interested in having a stake in the Providence Journal.”
A. H. Belo is not in talks with any potential buyers yet, Moroney said. A. H. Belo plans to separately sell several pieces of property in Providence, including the Journal’s building, he said.
Analyst Barry L. Lucas said the Providence Journal might fetch a higher price than Riverside because it is larger, with better financial performance. Lucas estimates Providence’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to be 5 percent to 9 percent of total EBITDA.
The big news in Rhode Island Wednesday is, of course, that A.H. Belo is putting the Projo up for sale.
The decision won’t surprise veteran Journal-watchers, particularly after Belo’s recent move to shed one of its other two papers – The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. – for just $27.3 million. It didn’t make much sense for a Dallas-based company that now owns only two big newspapers to have one of them be in its hometown and the other, much smaller one halfway across the country.
Back in 2010, I published a WPRI.com feature story about how much The Journal might fetch these days. On Wednesday I asked two top media analysts to weigh in about the question now, and here’s what they told me, from my updated WPRI.com story:
“I’m not surprised,” Ken Doctor, a media analyst at the research firm Outsell and the author of “Newsonomics,” told WPRI.com. “It’s clear that A.H. Belo is circling the wagons around its home base, Dallas. The Morning News has outperformed Projo and Riverside and has always been a more dominant player there.” …
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A.H. Belo, the Dallas-based company that has owned The Providence Journal since 1997, announced Wednesday morning it has begun seeking a buyer to purchase Rhode Island’s statewide daily, but cautioned that it might not find a suitable purchaser.
The Providence Journal’s advertising sales continued to decline by double-digits this past summer amid industry upheaval, but the impact was largely offset by a growing number of printing and distribution contracts.
The Journal’s ad revenue was down 10% between July 1 and Sept. 30 compared with the same period in 2012, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Quarterly ad sales fell to $9.4 million, a decrease of $1.1 million.
Total third-quarter revenue at The Journal from all sources was down just 1% from 2012, falling to $22.7 million. Circulation revenue fell 0.5% to $8.8 million. Printing and distribution contracts surged 25% to $3.6 million thanks to new distribution contracts for various other papers and magazines obtained in July from a settlement with another distributor.
The Journal’s average weekday circulation fell from 83,733 to 76,447 during the six-month period ended Sept. 30, according to the most recent report by the Alliance for Audited Media. The paper’s Monday-to-Friday circulation has dropped 47% over the last six years as Rhode Island’s economy struggled.
The paper’s Sunday print circulation was 104,010, down 13,774 from the same period last year, the Alliance for Audited Media reported Thursday. Sunday is the most lucrative edition of the week for most papers.
The Journal also sold an average of 76,447 traditional print editions on weekdays between April 1 and Sept. 30, a decrease of 7,286 since September 2012.
The Journal said its total average weekly circulation was 106,605 when “branded editions” are added, which would include its free ProjoExpress publication. The audit group changed its rules in 2011 to count those.
Saturday print circulation fell by 12,034 copies – from 106,775 to 94,741 – as of Sept. 30, the group said.
And then there were two.
The Providence Journal’s Dallas-based parent company, A.H. Belo, announced Thursday the sale of one of its three newspaper divisions: The Press Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., acquired for $27.3 million (including real estate) by Freedom Communications Holdings, owner of the Orange County Register.
The possibility has been floated for a while by A.H. Belo investors, who’ve noted how many different companies are currently operating in the Southern California newspaper market. Meanwhile, Freedom chief Aaron Kushner has aggressively doubled-down on the print side of the newspaper business at the Register.
The sale leaves A.H. Belo owning only two major newspapers: its flagship Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal here in Rhode Island. The Journal is a much smaller operation, contributing only 21% of A.H. Belo revenue during the first half of 2013; Dallas provided 66% and Riverside 13%. Here’s a chart:
There was no mention of The Journal in A.H. Belo’s press release about the sale, though A.H. Belo CEO Jim Moroney said the company would use the $27 million in proceeds “to continue to diversify its revenue streams and increase shareholder returns in the future.” The Journal’s union is currently bracing for more layoffs.
• Related: No reason for Belo to sell Projo with price at $51 million (Dec. 28, 2010)
A dozen members of the Providence Newspaper Guild have agreed to accept buyouts at The Providence Journal but layoffs are still expected to hit the newspaper later this month, a union official said Tuesday.
Guild President John Hill told WPRI.com 12 of his union’s members have taken the buyout, including nationally syndicated opinion columnist Froma Harrop, who serves on The Journal’s five-member editorial board. Harrop has been with the paper since at least the mid-1980s.
Harrop told WPRI.com she will continue to write her twice-weekly column, which is carried in more than 150 newspapers, for distribution by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate. The column will continue to appear in The Journal because the paper has agreed to pay to carry it, she said.
Two other newsroom veterans who took buyouts were Richard Dujardin, a longtime religion reporter, and Tracy Breton, a legal and investigative reporter. Dujardin has been with The Journal since 1966, except for a three-year stint in the U.S. Navy, while Breton has been with the newspaper since 1973.
Providence Journal executives told employees Friday they plan to cut roughly 30 jobs in the coming weeks through buyouts, and will resort to layoffs if too few workers choose to leave voluntarily, a union official said.
Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill said reporters, editors and other employees were informed Friday morning about the decision to downsize the staff.
“We were told today they’re looking for in the ballpark of 30 positions but did not have a specific number at this point,” Hill told WPRI.com. “They said the uncertainty is because they want to see how many people will put in for buyouts.”
The Journal’s management plans to get rid of both union and non-union jobs across the company, and Hill said they are “probably looking for more [cuts] from editorial than advertising.” The news was first reported on Twitter by Mike Stanton, who retired recently as The Journal’s chief investigative reporter.
When John Henry bought The Boston Globe for $70 million earlier this month, it got at least a few locals talking – once again – about the possibility that The Providence Journal could get returned to local ownership.
While anything’s possible, especially in this era of media turmoil, there’s been absolutely no signal that Dallas-based A.H. Belo, which owns the Projo, is interested in selling the paper – particularly since, just like The Globe, The Journal has probably lost more than 90% of its value since Belo bought it in the 1990s.
Nevertheless, it’s worth comparing how The Globe and The Journal have fared over the past few years as newspapers’ top lines have been battered by falling revenue and declining circulation. Here’s the year-over-change in advertising sales at the two newspapers from 2007 through last year:
And here’s the year-over-change in circulation revenue at the two publications:
(Note that The Globe’s figures are for The New York Times’ New England Media Group, which also includes the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.)
The patterns look pretty similar. The Projo’s advertising slide has been a bit worse than The Globe’s, though it started a little later. But the Projo has boosted circulation revenue at a faster pace. (Both papers have raised prices as readership fell, which is why a lower circulation hasn’t led to lower total circulation revenue.)
• Related: Spring ad sales down 14% at Projo; CEO blames RI malaise (July 30)
The Journal’s advertising revenue was down 14% between April 1 and June 30 compared with the same period in 2012, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Quarterly ad sales fell to $10.3 million, or $1.7 million below last year’s level.
Total second-quarter revenue at The Journal from all sources was down 8% from 2012, falling to $22.1 million. Circulation revenue fell 2% to $8.5 million. Printing and distribution contracts, which had been offsetting ad losses, fell 2% to $3.3 million.
Asked Monday on an investor call to give an overview of the situation, A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd was blunt: “There’s really not much good news in the Rhode Island economy right now.”
• Related: Warwick’s Avedisian may run for lieutenant governor in 2014 (July 12)
The Journal’s advertising revenue was down 15% between Jan. 1 and March 31 compared with the same period in 2012, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Quarterly ad sales fell to $9.6 million, or $1.7 million below last year’s level.
Total first-quarter revenue at The Journal from all sources was down 9% from 2012, falling to $20.6 million, thanks to a 10% increase in its contracts to print and distribute other newspapers. Circulation revenue fell 7% to $8 million.
“In Providence we got off to a bumpy start for a variety of reasons,” A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd told investors in a conference call last week. He said some of The Journal’s promotional plans for the start of the year were hamstrung by the winter storms that hit Rhode Island.
The Providence Journal’s Sunday print circulation fell 10% during the six months ended March 31, figures released Tuesday showed, as the newspaper’s parent company reported a first-quarter loss of $8 million.
The Journal’s print circulation on Sundays – the most lucrative edition of the week for most papers – totaled 109,516 copies, down by 12,763 since March 2012, the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) reported Tuesday morning.
The Projo sold an average of 79,244 traditional print editions on weekdays between Oct. 1 and March 31, a decrease of 6,252 from a year earlier and 45% fewer than in September 2007.
Saturday circulation dipped below 100,000 for the first time, falling by 10,484 to 98,651. Weekday circulation fell below 100,000 for the first time in 2010. The overall pace of circulation loss has slowed since 2009-10, when the annual rate of decline on Sundays peaked at 17%.
The Providence Journal’s parent company gave its top executives pay raises and $1.7 million in bonuses in 2012 as they eked out an annual profit for the first time.
A.H. Belo awarded CEO Robert Decherd $1.9 million in 2012, up from $1.6 million in 2011 and $499,180 in 2009, according to a Securities & Exchange Commission filing.
Decherd’s compensation included a $567,692 salary, bumped up from $480,000 in 2011; $705,678 in cash bonuses; $487,500 in stock awards; and $127,139 in other benefits, including $7,920 for life insurance. Decherd is also A.H. Belo’s chairman and president.
In addition, the Dallas-based company said it paid Executive Vice President James Moroney $1.4 million in 2012, up from $1.1 million in 2011; Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel $805,490, up from $626,091; and Senior Vice President Daniel Blizzard $557,672, up from $424,991. Former executive John McKeon received $272,286 before his departure last April.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal’s revenue losses nearly stopped in 2012 as significant growth in the company’s contracts for printing and distribution helped offset dwindling advertising and declining circulation.
The Journal’s revenue totaled $93.8 million in 2012, according to an SEC filing by its parent company A.H. Belo. The 1.4% decrease compared with 2011 was the newspaper’s smallest in at least eight years. Total Journal revenue has plummeted 43% since 2005, when the paper pulled in $165.6 million.
The Journal said on its website 23 full-time workers lost their jobs Wednesday on top of the 11 who accepted a voluntary buyout in September. No reporters or columnists were laid off, and the paper said the cuts would have “minimal impact” on its news coverage. Three photographers reportedly lost their jobs.
Separately, Journal parent company A.H. Belo disclosed that the Providence paper’s total advertising revenue fell 13% compared with last year during the three months ended Sept. 30, to $10.5 million. The paper’s overall revenue rose 0.7% to $23 million as circulation and printing/distribution sales improved.
A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd told investors the Dallas-based company’s revenue picture worsened in October. “It’s been a little bit choppier in October and I couldn’t begin to tell you what will happen in November,” he said last week. “We’re definitely seeing a softer market in all three [A.H. Belo] markets – well, Providence and Dallas; Riverside is holding its own.”
The Journal sold an average of 83,733 traditional print copies on weekdays between April 1 and Sept. 30, a decrease of 6,352 from the same period a year earlier, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported Tuesday.
The Journal said its total average weekly circulation was 114,303 when “branded editions” are included, which would include its free ProjoExpress publication. The Audit Bureau changed its rules in 2011 to count those.
The Projo’s print circulation on Sundays – the most lucrative edition of the week for most papers – totaled 117,784 copies, a drop of 11,240 since the September 2011 report. Saturday circulation fell by 9,117 copies, from 115,892 to 106,775.
ProvidenceJournal.com had 1.2 million unique visitors as of March 31, up from 868,693 in the six months ended March 31 and matching the audience for the old Projo.com a year ago, the Audit Bureau said.
The Journal reported 4,224 subscriptions to its e-edition, broken out as 1,398 on weekdays, 1,411 on Saturdays and 1,415 on Sundays.
The Providence Journal’s executives are seeking about $1.2 million in concessions from their workers to deal with falling advertising revenue, a person familiar with the matter told WPRI.com on Thursday.
It’s estimated reaching that level of savings would require around 15 layoffs, but it’s unclear whether those will be ordered or if the paper’s union will get the chance to make an alternative offer, the person said.
Messages were left with Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill seeking more information. The Journal’s work force has shrunk by a third since 2008 to an estimated 468 employees, about 220 of whom are members of the Providence Newspaper Guild.
Update: The Providence Phoenix’s Dave Scharfenberg has more information.
• Related: Union: Providence Journal to disclose plan for layoffs Tuesday (Oct. 5)
The leader of The Providence Journal’s largest union hadn’t heard anything as of late Tuesday afternoon about whether the company will order layoffs or take other action to deal with falling advertising revenue.
Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill told WPRI.com he hadn’t been contacted by the company’s executives as of 5:15 p.m. Last week, Hill said Journal executives told him they’d disclose today how many employees they’re looking to lay off.
Asked if he still expected to receive word on Tuesday, Hill said: “I don’t expect anything one way or the other. I don’t know what to tell you.” Journal employees have been anxiously awaiting news, and Hill’s union has asked to discuss other concessions that could be made to avoid layoffs.
• Related: Union: Providence Journal to disclose plan for layoffs Tuesday (Oct. 5)
Dallas-based parent company A.H. Belo has valued The Journal’s “non-core” real estate holdings in Providence at $18.85 million, executives said last Thursday in a presentation at its annual investor day.
The Journal currently occupies the entire five-story 75 Fountain St. building, which was built in 1932 and has 160,000 square feet of space that could be rented. The company wants to sell the building for about $10 million, then lease half of it to run the newspaper.
“A recent space-planning study confirmed that The Journal could fit on the top two floors, thereby freeing up the lower two floors for redevelopment,” Dan Blizzard, A.H. Belo’s senior vice president, told investors. “The building is currently being offered for sale on a sale-leaseback basis to a select group of potential buyers.”
The Journal is also trying to sell three parking lots worth a combined $4.85 million and a vacant inserting facility worth $4 million. Blizzard said the paper’s production plant is not for sale. In 2010 the company tried to get the city to buy the Fountain Street building for $9.75 million or lease it for $1.17 million annually.
Separately, Journal publisher Howard Sutton briefly summarized the paywall system the paper launched last February, noting that it differs significantly from that of sister paper The Dallas Morning News.
Sutton said the strategy has three goals: to “stabilize print circulation; increase value for subscribers by launching the e-edition and other value-added products; [and] maintain a vibrant online community.” He didn’t offer any details on the impact of the paywall thus far.
• Related: Union: Providence Journal to disclose plan for layoffs Tuesday (Oct. 5)
(photo: A.H. Belo)
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described The Journal’s building as four stories.
The Providence Journal’s top executives will disclose on Tuesday how many employees they’re looking to lay off to deal with its falling advertising revenue, according to the president of the paper’s largest union.
Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill told WPRI.com he’s been told management will call him Tuesday and provide the number of layoffs it’s expecting to order to reach a certain level of savings.
“And the question will be, how do we achieve those savings?” Hill said. “Do they achieve it by laying people off or do they achieve it by bargaining concessions?” Hill has said repeatedly he wants to sit down with the paper’s management to discuss alternatives to layoffs before they make a move.
“If it’s a number that’s worth five jobs or if it’s a number that’s worth 35 jobs – that’s a completely different conversation,” he said. “We don’t know what we can or should do until we know what that is.” The Guild is surveying its members to see what they would be willing to give up to forestall layoffs.
Hill described the mood inside the newsroom as anxious. “Everybody’s stretched like a snare drum on this,” he said. But he also expressed hope that this morning’s better-than-expected employment report could be a sign the national recovery is picking up steam, which will eventually boost Rhode Island as well.
The Journal’s work force has shrunk by a third to an estimated 468 employees since 2008.
• Related: Projo union may offer concessions to avoid newspaper layoffs (Sept. 14)
More than half a dozen Providence Journal employees are ready to accept a buyout offer from the company and depart their jobs on Sept. 30, according to the newspaper’s largest union.
Journal management has informed the Providence Newspaper Guild that four of the union’s members requested buyouts – two editorial staffers and two advertising staffers, union president John Hill told WPRI.com. The deadline to apply for a buyout was 5 p.m. Monday.
Management also said more than four managers who aren’t Guild members requested buyouts, but the company won’t release the number until Tuesday morning after taking time to review whether any of them are essential to the paper’s functions, according to Hill.
Though no specific target was set, Journal management told the union earlier this month the paper needed “significantly more” than eight employees to volunteer for the buyouts in order to avoid layoffs.
The union isn’t releasing the names of which employees took the buyouts, and Hill cautioned his colleagues about what they’re hearing. “Until things are officially announced, they’re not official – there’s a lot of rumors going around and a lot of them are not correct,” he said.
The Journal’s work force has shrunk by a third to 468 employees since 2008.
• Related: Projo union may offer concessions to avoid newspaper layoffs (Sept. 14)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal will cut an undetermined number of employees this month through buyouts or layoffs, according to the largest union at Rhode Island’s statewide daily.
The Providence Newspaper Guild said Friday management has told union officials the paper will offer “a new round of buyouts, and warned layoffs are possible if enough employees don’t accept them.”
The deadline for workers to request a buyout is Monday, Sept. 17. Eligibility will be determined by seniority, though exceptions may be made for workers in key jobs. The Journal’s work force fell by a third to 468 employees between 2008 and 2011.
Union president John Hill told WPRI.com he’s pressed executives to put a specific number on how many staff members they need to shed, but Journal management has only told him they want “significantly more” than the eight cuts they targeted in last December’s buyout round.
That “is making it difficult for us,” Hill said. “A number would help us communicate the seriousness, the magnitude of what we’re confronting.” Journal publisher Howard Sutton did not respond to a request for comment.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A growing number of contracts for printing and distribution gave The Providence Journal a slight bump in revenue during the first half of this year despite a deep drop in springtime advertising revenue.
The Journal’s total revenue rose to $46.7 million during the six months of 2012, an increase of $597,000 or 1.3% compared with the first half of last year, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week by its parent company A.H. Belo.
The share of total Journal revenue that came from advertising fell below 50%, a symbolically important milestone in light of newspapers’ historic reliance on advertisements to pay the newsroom’s bills. Printing and distribution contracts’ share of revenue jumped to 13% and circulation accounted for 37%.
The Journal is one of many papers with a changing revenue mix, said Ken Doctor, a media analyst with Outsell. “All are seeing rapidly increasing percentile contributions from circulation – or what we should call reader revenue,” he told WPRI.com. “Projo is at the leading edge of change, probably due more to ad decline than [its] digital circulation program.”
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal’s finances brightened during the first three months of this year, as the paper used higher circulation revenue and more third-party printing work to offset another sharp drop in advertising.
The Journal’s revenue totaled $22.7 million in the three months ended March 31, up 3% from $22 million in the same period last year, according to a regulatory filing. That performance helped offset weakness elsewhere within its Dallas-based parent A. H. Belo, which said companywide revenue slid 7% in the first quarter.
The Journal’s first-quarter contract work nearly doubled to $2.8 million year-over-year as the paper distributed more national and local newspapers and landed new commercial printing jobs. The paper’s circulation revenue also posted a healthy gain of nearly 6%, rising to $8.6 million.
Advertising is no longer the bedrock of The Journal’s business that it once was, contributing only 49.5% of total revenue in the first quarter. Ad sales through March 31 fell to $11.2 million, down nearly 10% from a year earlier, with declines in all categories. Digital advertising on ProvidenceJournal.com slipped 7% to $1.5 million compared with 2011.
The Journal sold an average of 85,496 traditional print copies on weekdays between Oct. 1 and March 31, a decrease of 6,311 from the same period a year earlier, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported Tuesday.
The Journal said its total average weekly circulation was 114,013 when “branded editions” are included, which would include its free ProjoExpress publication. The Audit Bureau changed its rules in 2011 to count those.
The Projo’s print circulation on Sundays - the most lucrative edition of the week for most papers – totaled 122,279 copies, a drop of 8,380 since the March 2011 report. Saturday circulation fell by 7,676 copies, from 116,811 to 109,135.
ProvidenceJournal.com had 868,693 unique visitors as of March 31, down from 1.2 million for the old Projo.com in the six months ended Sept. 30, the Audit Bureau said. That echoes other estimates showing traffic down by about a third.
A.H. Belo awarded CEO Robert Decherd $1.6 million last year, down 14% from $1.9 million in 2010, and up 222% from $499,180 in 2009, the filing said.
Decherd’s pay included a $480,000 salary, $899,997 in stock awards, a $168,474 cash bonus and $61,441 in other benefits. Decherd’s salary rose to $600,000 a year effective this month, a separate filing said.
The Dallas-based company awarded Executive Vice President James Moroney $1.1 million in 2011, down from $1.3 million in 2010; Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel $626,091, down from $800,001; Senior Vice President Daniel Blizzard $424,991, down from $575,000; and departing executive John McKeon $891,788, down from $1.3 million. The first three executives’ base salaries also increased this month.
A.H. Belo posted a net loss of $10.9 million in 2011, compared with a net loss of $124.2 million in 2010, as revenue fell 5% to $461.5 million. The company’s stock is down almost 3% this year based on Tuesday’s closing price of $4.62 a share, after declining 45% in 2011.
• Related: Projo parent AH Belo’s board awards big raises to top bosses (March 20)
If you’re like me, you may be having a little trouble keeping straight all the twists and turns of the scandal engulfing the Institute for International Sport.
I mentioned Wednesday that the Hartford Courant has all its institute stories in one place. A Journal tipster reveals our paper of record now has a special page of its own with direct links to the full print versions of its staff’s institute stories (as opposed to the truncated blog posts), which is great news.
Check it out here - if you scroll down to the “Stories from The Journal” area you can get the institute stories that ran in the paper from Feb. 10 through March 12. This may be a sign of flexibility in Projo management’s back-to-print strategy, as well, though it doesn’t appear Google can spider the eEdition.
Top executives at The Providence Journal’s parent company, A.H. Belo, are getting big pay raises despite a 45% decline in the publisher’s stock price during 2011, the fourth straight year it lost money.
The compensation committee of A.H. Belo’s board of directors awarded the largest increase to CEO Robert Decherd. His annual base salary will jump 25% to $600,000 in April, the Dallas-based company said in an SEC filing. Decherd is chairman of the board.
In addition, A.H. Belo said Dallas Morning News publisher Jim Moroney’s base salary will increase 15.5% to $540,000; Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel’s will increase 8.3% to $325,000; and senior vice president Daniel Blizzard’s will increase 12% to $280,000. Their total compensation for 2011 will be reported later this spring.
John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild union, said the four executives “should be ashamed of themselves” for taking more money less than a year after laying off and buying out Journal staffers. The paper’s work force fell by a third between 2008 and 2011. The Guild signed a new contract in February 2011.