Alan Mutter reports that the 14 largest newspaper stocks fell by an average of 83.3% in 2008, with 8 falling by 90% or more. For comparison, the S&P was down 38.5%.
Of course, most of this dismal stock performance reflects an industry which levered up at precisely the wrong time. But anyone who argues–as do McClatchy and Gatehouse apologists, especially–that this was a one-time whiff is whistling past the graveyard. 2009 will find many of the lucky journalists who still have jobs suddenly working for the workout departments of banks which were known neither for their sense of humor nor civic mindedness before they had to borrow several billion dollars from Uncle Sam to stay alive.
No doubt, 2008 was annus horribilis, unlike none ever experienced before in the newspaper industry. But with the exception of a couple dozen properties, 2009 may well be annus ultimus–the year that the newspaper industry as we currently recognizes it ceases to exist, much as 2008 was the year Wall Street became no more. Certainly, if there were a futures contract on newsprint, I’d be back-up-the-truck short.
Wait….maybe there is…..if I could just find my truck keys…..