I live in Florida, which means a number of my neighbors are getting a little long in the tooth. That's something you can't always tell as quickly from looking at them as from observing their driveways. Each morning, folded newspapers tossed in the predawn hours adorn many of those driveways.
It's become accepted that the younger you are, the less apt you are to be a regular reader of newspapers. That's been an escalating trend since back in the 1960s, but only recently has it begun to affect newspaper advertising seriously. This trend was demonstrated yet again last week when the New York Times Company
Where, then, is the Times likely to wind up, say, two or three years into the future? The only apparent answer is that the company as we know it seems unlikely to continue to exist. Media companies have, of course, become subject to increasing attention from private equity types of late. Tribune
The Times could be bought in the private equity market, or it could potentially be sold off piecemeal. Former GE Chairman Jack Welch heads a group of Beantowners with at least a passing interest in acquiring the Globe. But a Philadelphia group headed by Brian Tierney now owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and probably should serve as a prototype for those considering single-paper local purchases. The Tierney group is running into strong headwinds in the form of union difficulties and the same sort of declining advertising revenues being recorded at the Times.
In my opinion, the key for Foolish investors is not to be taken in by the Times' recently strengthened share price, which has risen about 13% since late August. That's a solid ramp for a company that continues to sag fundamentally, yet I'd urge Fools interested in media to seek profits in other areas of the space.
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The New York Times is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection.
Fool contributor David Lee Smith, a former analyst and journalism professor, notes that much of his quest for news is now directed at the Internet. He does not own any of the companies mentioned, and he welcomes your comments, questions, or criticisms. The Fool has all the disclosure policy that's fit to print.