The Next Time Someone Complains That Newspapers Are "Unprofitable"*


Send them this Newsosaur link, derived from the latest Inland Press Association snapshot of the industry:

[T]he largest newspapers reported profits averaging 12% of sales at the end of 2008, according to the Inland study.

A 12% profit margin is more than double that achieved last year by Wal-Mart Stores, the largest of the Fortune 1,000 companies. A 12% pre-tax profit is just about a percentage point light of the margins run by Exxon and Chevron, the second and third largest corporations behind Wal-Mart on the Fortune list.

Yes, the industry trend lines (pictured) remain horrible, if to an important extent self-inflicted. But in the year of their widely reported death, American newspapers were still making money like oil companies.

Which is a relevant observation to consider before we re-think the First Amendment, re-write copyright law to favor newspapers over citizens, dole out corporate subsidies and targeted tax breaks, launch a journalism stimulus, mimic the European model, sic the Federal Trade Commission on the problem, let John Kerry anywhere near the levers of legislation, or any of the scores of other damn-fool ideas we've seen floated this year alone.

* UPDATE: The Inland Press Association now says its original report was in error (for instance that whole 100.1 percent drop business). The new report is here.