Are the latest financial reports from the Journal Communications group – owner of the major radio, TV and print media outfits in Southeast Wisconsin – good or bad news? Depends on how you look at it I suppose.
On one hand there’s this headline from today’s Business Journal of Milwaukee:
Journal Communications’ net income drops 98 percent
Then there’s this piece from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel itself:
Journal Communications reports small profit
The bottom line is Journal Communications squeaked out a $120k net profit in the first quarter of 2009.
I’m not one of those who cheer the death of local media like it’s some kind of sick bloodsport. There are many people behind the scenes who are just trying to do their jobs, feed their families and who believe in the work their do, but after reading this article by journalist Jeff Jarvis, (Thanks Sonya for the link) I find myself with little sympathy for those who were actually in charge while the proverbial ship has been taking on water, and to boot are giving themselves raises and stock options for their shortsightedness.
Whether or not the industry is doomed is besides the point right now. There should be some serious questions asked of those in charge about why they were so slow to adapt to change, if in fact they could have even done so. I know the common bogeyman is the Web, craigslist, blogs etc. But those things didn’t just pop up yesterday, ya know?
It’s like the American car companies being shocked that the demand would drop for the gas guzzling SUV’s that were Detroit’s cash cows for so long. No one could have saw it coming, right? Except for the foreign car makers who were producing smaller, more efficient cars to anticipate market demand years in advance.
So what are companies like Journal Communications doing, if anything, even at this late hour to compete and change their business model? Putting annoying full page ads on your web site isn’t going to right the ship in the long term.
One interesting line from the Business Journal that caught my eye? The biggest loser in the Journal Communications trifecta of newspaper, TV and radio was it’s radio operations.
Revenue from radio stations was down 21.9 percent, to $13.2 million, from $17 million. Operating earnings from radio stations was about $800,000, compared with $3.5 million a year earlier.
Journal Communications owns many radio stations across the Country, but it’s flagship is the conservative right wing talk station here in Milwaukee: WTMJ 620.