OLD Media Moves

Another example of biz journalists not understanding numbers

March 27, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

TheStreet.com’s Marek Fuchs writes on yet another example of business journalists writing about numbers that they don’t seem to understand.

Marek FuchsThe example comes from Monday’s New York Times, and the story is about newspaper advertising. As Fuchs points out, the positive number in the story — advertising revenue from newspaper web sites — is not as positive when looked at in context.

Fuchs wrote, “But those goose bumps, it turns out, were just hives: “And while there was one piece of good news for the industry — ad spending on newspaper Web sites rose.” And later: “On the bright side, says the Newspaper Association of America, ad spending on newspaper Web sites jumped 31.5 percent last year compared with the year before, to $2.7 billion.””With The Business Press Maven’s skin red and blotchy, you probably want to know, were these inaccuracies? Not technically. Taken at face value, both claims were true: Ad spending on newspaper Web sites was, in technical terms, up in February. And it was up over last year.

“But anyone with a horse sense for numbers and what they truly signify could tell that this purportedly ‘good news’ was actually the worst of all, even more damaging than those super-lame classified numbers. Look at how they’ve fallen from last year to this!

“Ad spending on newspaper Web sites appears to be slowing on a sequential basis. If newspapers are to be a viable business in the future, this is way too early in the cycle to see such a slowing. Never mind that classified ad revenue is falling way out of proportion to subscription loss (that’s another unexamined relationship between basic numbers). Here: Web site revenue will never make up for what is being lost on the eroding newspaper side of things, with sequential growth rates in apparent free fall.”

Read more here.

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