Newspaper article

What the Fate of Tampa Tribune Means to Minnesota Newspaper Readers

Newspaper article

What the Fate of Tampa Tribune Means to Minnesota Newspaper Readers

Article excerpt

A couple of weeks ago, a newspaper where I once reported was essentially given away by its owner. The Tampa Tribune, which had an estimated value of about $400 million less than a decade ago, was sold for $9.5 million -- a 98 percent markdown.

However, the paper's land and building are worth $10.7 million. So the Tribune -- about the size of the St. Paul Pioneer Press -- was unloaded for less than its owner could have gotten by closing the doors and selling the riverfront property.

Media General was so eager to exit the newspaper business that it was willing to pass up more than a million dollars to wash its hands of the struggling outlet.

Why should you care about a newspaper in Tampa?

Because the Tribune's sale was just one of several disturbing news items that surfaced recently about the newspaper business, which continues to circle the drain. (The Star Tribune -- for now -- may be a happy exception, as my MinnPost colleague David Brauer and I have both reported.)

Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper publisher, reported its third-quarter results last week. Gannett makes a good proxy for the newspaper business as a whole, because its 80 or so newspapers are in all parts of the country and include large, medium and small outlets.

The company beat Wall Street expectations -- but only because its TV stations are flush with ad dollars from the Olympics and political campaigns.

Ad revenue at Gannett's newspapers continued to slide, down 6.6 percent in the quarter. Gannett put a happy face on the news, noting that the rate of decline was less than in recent quarters. But no business can survive for long if it's delighted when its revenue falls only 6 percent every three months. …

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