At Least the Trees Will be Happy

Want to know what your daily newspaper will look like in the future? You're looking at it, sort of. It's your computer screen.

Well, duh, you say. Haven't we known that for at least 10 or 15 years? Yes, we have, smartypants, but Belo Corp.'s earnings report for the second quarter, released today, offers some hard evidence about the shift from dead trees to pixels.

"Newspaper Group classified revenues decreased less than two percent in the second quarter, general advertising was down 2.8 percent and retail was down 7.3 percent. Interactive revenues increased 53 percent and part-run advertising increased 14 percent, related to new products launched at The Dallas Morning News."

How much does a 53 percent jump in "interactive"--read, the Internet--revenues translate to in dollars? Belo doesn't say, and no doubt Web ads aren't going to save The Dallas Morning News' bacon just yet. Still, a trend is a trend.

We do doubt that news of Belo's higher-than-anticipated earnings per share will cheer News staffers waiting to see what sort of buyout/layoff package the paper's managers are cooking up for next month. Belo is expecting the growth in ad revenue at Dallas' only daily to be flat to slightly down in the third quarter, when Belo anticipates doling out the cash for all those severance packages:

"The third quarter will be the heaviest period for one-time transition costs related to the Company's technology and business process initiatives, which are currently estimated at $8 to $9 million, including severance."

"Technology and business process initiatives"--what a nice Orwellian way to say "shit-canning a lot of staff." What's that old joke to describe mixing good news and bad? Like watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new car. --Patrick Williams

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams