@ UBS Media Week: Newspapers: Yahoo Consortium ‘Working’; Google Print Seems To Be, As Well

With few exceptions, it’s been an ugly year for the newspaper industry, as digital growth hasn’t offset weakness in the core print business. Unfortunately, James Conaghan, VP-Newspaper Association of America, offered investors and analysts at the UBS Annual Global Media & Communications Conference little reason to think the trends will change — digital will grow rapidly, and there are new lodes to mine (hyperlocal, video, etc.), but macro conditions are likely to exacerbate industry shifts.

Digital advertising:: By the NAA’s estimates, total newspaper 2008 ad revenue will slip by 1.2 percent, but digital is expected to grow 22 percent over 2007, coming to 8.6 percent of total newspaper advertising revenue. This is up from 7 percent.in 2007. Digital share is predicted to hit double digits by 2009. At the local level, newspapers captured 35.9 percent of online ad spend, including 44 percent of local online video advertisings. Expect to see more hyperlocal offerings, such as the Washington Post’s (NYSE: WPO) LoudonExtra.com. Increasingly, the online ad sale will be made first, with print being an add-on.

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) print: Blue Nile had 29 percent revenue increase in markets where it tested Google’s platform. Similar improvements seen at other consumer-facing brands.

Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) consortium: “Evidence to date suggests that the partnership is working well… newspapers do see these kinds of alliances (offering) significant upsides.” The partnership is still in the early stages, but by 2009, we can expect to see more meaningful improvement. Nothing particularly quantitative at this point.

Econ outlook: Already there are some troubling indicators for holiday advertising season: Port traffic down, slower FedEx shipments, and lower sales of Vente Mocha Lattes at Starbucks (got a chuckle from the audience, but not really meant as a joke). And the situation isn’t any better for FY2008, due to the standard litany of factors: recession, credit crunch, energy, weak auto industry, job creation slowdown, etc.