Some recent news from newspapers in the Great White North. No, we don’t face the same immediate challenges of the American newspaper, but Canadian newspaper watchers who think what ultimately happens here will be significantly different from what happens south of the 49th are, I think, deluding themselves.
CanWest: After dropping about two-thirds of its stock market value in a wretched week, CanWest shares have settled down, albeit as penny stocks. Over the past week or so, shares in the media company have traded in a range between about 92 and 98 cents, only occasionally poking above $1.
The stock closed at 91 cents Tuesday on relatively light volume. News earlier this month that Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. had purchased another 2.9 million subordinate voting shares and increased its holding of the voting shares to 22.41 per cent didn’t move the stock much. (Control of CanWest rests with the Asper family through Class A shares.) Neither did the announcement that CanWest was ending weekday print circulation of the money-losing National Post in two provinces to save money.
The latest quarterly report from CanWest is expected Friday, so it will be interesting to watch the stock prices leading up to that.
Quebecor: Another Canadian publishing giant reported its earnings last week, reporting a third-quarter profit of $45 million, most of that reportedly from its cable TV business. Results from the Sun Media portion of the company were labelled “disappointing.” According to the Financial Post:
Operating profit in the company’s newspaper division fell by $8-million to $52-million in the quarter; while in the company’s Internet businesses operating profit halved to $0.5-million from $1-million.
The result of the disappointing performance on the print and internet side was the replacement of Michael Sifton, CEO of Sun Media, by Quebecor chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau.
Torstar: The country’s third large publisher took financial hits, too. It was downgraded by two analysts because of a feared prolonged slowdown in ad spending. One of those analysts, Drew McReynolds, said the company was particularly vulnerable to a weakening ad economy because 70 per cent of its revenue comes from newspaper publishing.
The downgrades came after third-quarter reports that showed a $2.7-million net loss.
UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it? I finish the post and then come across this post, Canada’s newspapers and the future of print, from Alfred Hermida, which makes the point (again) that what matters is not the future of print, but the future of journalism.