Community Newspapers — The Sweet Spot of the Industry

SNA Announces Quarterly Financial Reporting for Suburban & Community Media

Suburban and community newspaper executives report optimism and growth. This is the finding of a beta report that included financial and other data from many of the largest members of the trade association Suburban Newspapers of America. The beta companies represent total circulation of 12.5 million and approximately $2 billion in annual advertising revenue. These newspapers provide much needed hyper-local news and information — typically not found anywhere else — to the communities that they serve.

The beta results showed that 2007 was a growth year for the community newspaper industry with advertising revenue up .5%, as compared to the overall industry decline of 7.9% reported by the Newspaper Association of America.

First quarter 2008 results reported a decline in advertising revenue of 2.7% — primarily related to economic factors influencing the real estate and automotive industries, two of the largest categories for community newspapers. In most cases, local revenue was up for the companies represented. This 2.7% decline for the quarter compares to double digit decreases reported by most of the publicly-traded companies that are comprised of large metro daily newspapers (reported declines ranged from 10% to 19%).

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 “For the most part, community newspapers are not experiencing the major declines that we are seeing with large metro dailies,” said SNA President Nancy Lane. “They are certainly affected by the tough economy but that is expected to be cyclical. Our beta reporting partners are very optimistic about next year and beyond. Almost all of them are launching new products in 2008 or looking at acquisitions and in some cases, even growing their staff — a stark contrast to most of the news that is reported about the newspaper industry in general. The need for local, community news has never been greater. Readers can’t get this news anywhere else and advertisers love reaching this engaged audience and also appreciate the precise targeting these publications offer.”

SNA will start collecting financial data from the industry starting with the second quarter. All community newspaper companies, regardless of their affiliation with SNA, are invited to participate. The reporting process is simple and designed to take ten minutes or less. The accounting firm of Dennis, Gartland and Niergarth out of Traverse City, Michigan, manages the data collection via a secure, password-protected web-based system. No individual company numbers are ever shared and SNA will have access only to aggregate data.

Newspaper companies that wish to participate should simply contact SNA Headquarters at (888) 486-2466 or sna@suburban-news.org and provide the name and contact information of the person responsible for inputting the data. The accounting firm will then be in touch to set up the account.

“We have a great story to tell but without hard numbers, we are at a disadvantage. This quarterly reporting system will allow us to paint the true picture of our segment of the industry to the financial, advertising and newspaper communities,” said Jack Robb, Chairman of the Board for SNA and Vice President of Revenue for Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. “We need all community newspapers to consider participation. Our newspapers are not suffering from massive layoffs, double digit declines and loss of market share; in fact, we are in the midst of the most exciting transformation in our history. We need to get that story out there.”

Suburban Newspapers of America is a trade association representing nearly 2,400 daily and weekly newspapers in the United States and Canada. SNA has experienced seven years of record growth and is experiencing a banner year in 2008 — another indication of the strength of this segment of the industry. SNA’s classified network — Classified Avenue — is up double digits in 2008 on top of a record-setting 2007. LocalPoint Media, a new national network managed by SNA’s for-profit subsidiary, reached $200,000 in sales through April — representing all new national business for the community newspaper industry. Conference and contest numbers are up in 2008 as community newspapers continue to invest in education for their employees. For more information, visit www.suburban-news.org and www.snalocalpapers.com.

Note about the beta report: Financial data was tracked for all products published except dailies over 100,000 (although most SNA members do not publish papers in this size range). Due to the wide variety of reporting procedures, only total advertising was tracked. Category variances were explained in open-ended fields.

Thank You.