Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman's Thursday announcement that the tabloid is officially on the market, after 22 years of ownership by the billionaire real estate magnate, has media watchers wondering: Who would want to buy the thing?
The 96-year-old news organization's finances are tightly held, despite a very public circulation decline and numerous down-sizings that have characterized its most recent era.
But a source close to the News who's been briefed on its current finances told Capital it is believed to be losing around $20 million a year. A spokesman for Zuckerman said he would not comment on financials and that it was premature to talk about a timeline for a potential sale.
While online growth (nydailynews.com has been pulling anywhere between 26 million and nearly 40 million unique monthly visitors over the past year or so, per Comscore numbers) is a positive narrative—one that's put the News in the same orbit as the Daily Mail and other outlets making a big play for America's national advertising dollars—the print edition (which still brings in most of the money) tells a different story.
With readers flocking to computers and mobile devices amid an onslaught of competition from new-media players, average circulation for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2014, was 361,941 on Sundays and 281,907 on weekdays, down from 786,952 and 715,052 during the same period ten years earlier.
The numbers are stark - the DN has lost more than half its print circulation in the last decade.
And while the online DN site has seen growth, there's little money in that.
$20 million a year in losses is a "failure", no?
I mean, sure, online growth is nice, but isn't the bottom line always about actual revenue?
By that measure, the DN is a miserable failure, online growth notwithstanding.
The DN editorial board gets very pragmatic when it comes to "failing" schools, pointing out that the bottom line of test scores and graduation rates are the only things that matter when it comes to school measurement.
If we applied that same logic to the DN itself, the only thing that matters is the circulation and the numbers - therefore the DN is "failing."
It's time for a "turnaround specialist" to see if this "failing" newspaper can be turned around and if not, well, then it most be closed.
Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post, is rumored to be in the market for the paper.
The Dolans - who are already doing such a magnificent job running Madison Square Garden - are also on the rumor list for potential buyers.
Finally I have heard Michael Bloomberg's name mentioned as well, although it seems to me the DN is a little down market for his blue blood.
If Murdoch acquires the paper, a merger with the NY Post (itself a multimillion dollar loser) is said to be in the offing.
In any case, whatever happens with the DN, the next time you see an editorial pontificating about "failing" schools with "low" tests scores and "poor" graduation rates, remember to apply the same bottom line logic to the "failing" Daily News itself.
Certainly the free market has.