Friday, December 02, 2005

A paradox to ponder ...

Newspapers delight in denouncing any industry that appaears to be making unreasonably high profits -- witness all that's been in the papers recently about oil industry profits. In fact, over time, the average rate of profit in the oil and gas industry is something on the order of 8 cents on every dollar. The recent surge in profits is neither typical nor sustainable.
Newspapers, on the other hand, generally average profits in double-digits. Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which owns The Inquirer, pulls in about 13 percent profit annually. This is thought to be insufficient. Parent Knight Ridder and Wall Street investors want something nearer to 20 percent. Newspapers have managed to maintain double-digit profit margins by cutting staff and space (newsprint is expensive). In fact, they have been consistently offering customers less of a product, but at the same price. If any other industry did that sort of thing, newspapers would be all over them.
Perhaps if newspapers functioned like other businesses and spent some of those profits enhancing rather than diminishing the product, they might find circulation and advertising increasing. Perhaps the margin of profit would be less, but the long-term health of the industry might improve.

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