Here’s a question we often get from reporters at major national newspapers doing a “trend” story: “So, no one is buying newspapers these days, right?”
Surprise! A lot of newspapers are changing hands. In fact, since the national financial meltdown in early 2008, a total of 229 daily newspapers have been sold, or 16.6% of all dailies in the country. Over this 5 1/2 year period, some 55 separate companies have bought daily newspapers.
Journalists are a skeptical bunch. So we figured a graphical illustration of all daily newspapers sold post-crash would be the best way to illustrate this for these esteemed members of the fourth estate. Here then is our survey of daily newspaper sales from 2008-2013 year-to-date.
We looked at sales by region and found that there has been more turnover in the Southeast and Southwest than in any other regions during this five-year period. Turnover was measured as total daily newspapers sold as a percentage of total dailies in the region. Thus, in the Southeast for example, there were 68 sales of daily newspapers out of total of 274 dailies in the region. Among individual states, North Carolina leads the pack with 27 dailies sold in this period (out of 47 in the state). The maps show the number of dailies sold in each state and the percentages show the turnover by region.
Southeast - 24.8% turnover
The activity in the Southeast was driven in large measure by two significant deals – the sale of the New York Times regional group to Halifax Media in early 2012 and the sale of most of Media General’s newspapers to BH Media later in 2012.
In North Carolina specifically, the numbers were boosted by Halifax’s acquisition of the Freedom Communications newspapers in the state and by the sale of Heartland Publications to Civitas Media. Both of these also occurred in 2012.
BH Media added a couple of strategic newspapers in 2013 with the addition of the two Landmark papers in Virginia and North Carolina.
Southwest - 19.9% turnover
Deal activity in the Southwest is mostly a story about Texas.
Freedom Communications sold its dailies in the state to a newly formed company in 2012, and Cox sold most of its holdings in Texas in 2008.
Individual sales in Waco, Bryan-College Station, Longview, Marshall and elsewhere added to the total.
Midwest - 18.0% turnover
Ohio has more daily newspapers (82) than any other state in the country. So it’s no surprise Ohio leads the way.
The biggest chunk was the sale of Brown Publishing’s 14 daily newspapers in 2011. In Illinois the numbers were boosted by the sale of the Sun-Times group.
Northeast - 14.7% turnover
Pennsylvania has the second largest number of daily newspapers (80, tied with California). However, no single deal drove the numbers.
Elsewhere in the region, the sale of Journal Register Company in 2011 accounted for a significant number of the dailies sold in the region.
West - 10.5% turnover
Many of these western states have a relatively small number of daily newspapers. In California, where the population is more dense, there has been some turnover.
The biggest deal was the 2012 sale of the Orange County Register and other newspapers in California. Two of the five dailies in Hawaii were sold.
Upper Midwest – 8.7% turnover
The economy is pretty good in many parts of what we call the Upper Midwest here. Maybe that accounts for a reluctance to sell these newspapers.
Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of the Omaha World-Herald Co. in 2011 represents most of the total in Nebraska.