Still more bad news for the newspaper industry this week:
* Goldman Sachs sees "no encouraging signs" in the newspaper ad revenue figures for July, which it figures fell 7.3 percent (Goldman only tracks selected companies—the big public ones—so these numbers are bit more bleak than some of the others reported lately). Biggest drops: 12.5 percent in classifieds and, yikes, 26% in real estate adverising—and the mortgage credit crisis was just beginning to put the brakes on the real estate market in July.
* Bond-rating agency Fitch Ratings says the newspaper industry is doing even worse than it expected. "Fitch's outlook for the sector remains negative," the company said. Fitch said the industry's ad-revenue problems are "more secular than cyclical," which is Wall Street-speak for "they ain't getting any better."
* Another big bond rater, Moody's Investor Service, cut its rating on The New York Times Co. to "negative" from "stable," citing, you guessed it, drops in ad revenue and concerns about the weakening real estate market and its effect, in turn, on advertising.
The news isn't all, bad, I suppose: the analysts at Wachovia are a little more upbeat than Goldman Sachs about July's ad revenue numbers, saying that July's decline wan't quite as bad as that of the two previous months. That may mean that the long decline in revenue is slowing. (That half-empty glass? It's actually half full! But stuff is still dribbling out of it.) On the other hand, Wachovia is pessimistic about the outlook for the industry's performance in the fourth quarter.
One final warning from Fitch: "An economic downturn would place incremental pressure on newspaper advertising revenue." In other words: Things could very well get even worse. And those problems in the real estate market, and real estate ads, are not a good sign. Still to come: the latest circulation numbers. Be very afraid.