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Newspapers are Worthless. Wait, That's News?

Belo Corp.'s stock has suffered significant declines in the last two years. Seems the public doesn't wanna hold that stock.

Yesterday, newspaperman-turned-Interweb entrepreneur Alan Mutter posted to his blog Reflections of a Newsosaur this item about the beatings publicly held publishing companies are taking on the stock markets. In short, their combined stocks are worth $13.5 billion less today than they were in 2004, give or take a few bucks. Despite my bad showing as a junior-high mathlete, even I can tell that is not good news for the new business. Only one company's stock price is going up: The E.W. Scripps Company (owner of, among many others, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times), which is up 5.4 percent during a period when the average publishing company's stocks are down 20.5 percent.

Closer to home, the news isn't as good. Get it? Aw, I hate the new year already.

The sell-off, Mutter writes, "has been prompted by declining readership, falling revenues and rising concern over the industry's ability to respond effectively to competition from the new media." After all, it says here, 2006 was the first "non-recession year" ever in which newspaper revenues dropped. Mutter writes that the biggest loser from 2004 to '06 was, hands down, the Journal Register Co., which owns 27 daily newspapers and 327 non-daily publications mostly in the Northeast; its shares dropped 61.8 percent. The Washington Post Co. made the best of a bad situation, regisgtering the smallest decline at 1.9 percent.

But how about the hometown company, Belo Corp.? Well, says Mutter, its stock is down 27 percent during the two-year period -- or 6.5 percent worse than the average. Last I looked a few minutes ago (or Friday, my bad), it was down 27 cents, from $18.64 to $18.37. Buy! Or is that, Sell! At times like this, I so wish all my education about Wall Street had not come from Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. --Robert Wilonsky

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