From Wall Street to stock speculators, everyone's taking shots at traditional media these days. On Feb. 27, the highest short interest ratio on the New York Stock Exchange belonged to struggling newspaper publisher McClatchy (NYSE:MNI). Two notches lower, you'd find shopper periodical giant Harte-Hanks (NYSE:HHS). Topping NASDAQ's list is Hallmark Channel's Crown Media (NASDAQ:CRWN). Two notches below that, you'll find terrestrial radio station operator Cumulus Media (NASDAQ:CMLS).

Did I lose you at "short interest ratio?" It's a popular gauge to measure market pessimism. You take the number of shares currently being shorted in a particular company, and divide it by the average daily volume. The result is a stock's short interest -- theoretically, how many days at current trading levels it would take for shorts to cover their positions, i.e. buy back all the shares they borrowed.

Let's go over a few of the old-media companies in Mr. Market's crosshairs.


Short Interest

Avg. Daily Volume

Short Interest Ratio

Crown Media Holdings




Cumulus Media












The short interest ratio is more important than just the sheer volume of shares sold short. Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) has 170.9 million shares sold short -- the most of any NASDAQ-listed company -- but the satellite radio operator has been going through a whopping average of 95 million shares on a typical trading day. That yields a short interest ratio of 1.8. But 170.9 million shares are also a far cry from the 271.9 million shares being shorted a month ago, indicating that shorts moved on after it became clear that the company wouldn't file for bankruptcy in February.

The same can't be said for the old-school media operators, where the pessimism has remained fairly constant lately. With newspapers scaling back on their circulation and the sucker-punched ad market bruising media sponsorship opportunities, the shorts might have it right here. The best old-media companies will evolve, but the rest of their peers will just fade away into irrelevancy.

Even the larger newspaper companies like Gannett (NYSE:GCI) and New York Times (NYSE:NYT) are sporting high short interest ratios of 10 and 9, respectively. The vultures are circling. Who will be left to report the carnage?

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that Randy Newman has a lot against short people. Not Rick. Then again, he's not that tall. Rick does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.