Warren Buffett believes most US newspapers are ‘toast’
Rapidly declining advertising revenues taking toll in a ‘world that has changed hugely’
Warren Buffett: It upsets the people in the newsroom to talk that way, but the ads were the most important editorial content from the standpoint of the reader.” Photograph: Reuters
Warren Buffett, the man behind a print-media empire that includes the Buffalo News and Omaha World-Herald, does not think most US newspapers can be saved.
The decline of advertising gradually turned the newspaper industry “from monopoly to franchise to competitive”, said the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway chief executive in an interview with Yahoo Finance. And now most newspapers are “toast.”
“The world has changed hugely,” said Buffett in the interview.
The bleak outlook echoes Mr Buffett’s remarks at last year’s annual meeting, when he lamented the state of the newspaper industry. Berkshire’s BH Media, which owns papers across the country, has been cutting jobs to cope with declining advertising revenue.
Berkshire struck a deal last year for Lee Enterprises, which owns papers including the St Louis Post-Dispatch, to manage its newspapers and digital operations in 30 markets.
Buffett (88) said last year that it was not of much economic consequence to Berkshire because the company bought its papers at “reasonable” prices.
Readers sought out newspapers when they were packed with adverts about bargains, jobs and apartments, said Mr Buffett. But Craigslist and other sites have taken over that role.
By 2016, the newspaper industry’s advertising revenue was nearly a third of what it was a decade before, falling to $18 billion (€16 billion) from $49 billion, according to Pew Research Center.
“It upsets the people in the newsroom to talk that way, but the adverts were the most important editorial content from the standpoint of the reader,” said Mr Buffett.
Not all US papers are doomed, though. The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal will survive, he said. – Bloomberg