While there are pockets of good news on the ad revenue side of the publishing business these days, overall publishers are still duking it out on the front lines. This is illustrated for better or worse in Time Inc.’s 10-Q report released last week. The publishing giant’s revenues dropped nine percent in the second quarter to $858 million and six percent for the half to $1.6 billion. Every segment within the publishing division recorded a loss in revenues. And the losses prompted the company to warn that because "soft market" conditions are expected to continue through the third quarter, the fair value and book value of the company’s brands are getting uncomfortably close.
This ratio is pointed out by anonymous blogger Dead Tree edition, who also notes operating income for the half is down 60 percent compared to same period 2011. As of the end of last year, Time Warner says the fair value of Time Inc. is 19 percent higher than its book value, and that it didn’t actually have to do an impairment analysis during the second quarter, but if that 19 percent gets erased due to continued declines this year, the company may have to take a non-cash charge out of earnings that are already significantly pinched.
"During 2012, the Publishing segment has experienced soft market conditions that have negatively impacted its operating results," says the report. "If those market conditions worsen, it is possible that the book values of the Time Inc. reporting unit and certain of its tradenames will exceed their respective fair values, which may result in the Company recognizing a noncash impairment that could be material."
This may never happen, the 19 percent separation in value is a decent cushion but with the market condition the way it is, the company felt compelled to issue a warning nevertheless. If book values (the value of the company straight off the balance sheet) do end up exceeding fair value (the value of the company determined by a hypothetical sale, or market value), then there will be a non-cash charge to the bottom line.
In the meantime, the report also highlights just how expensive digital investments have become for companies that are making heavy commitments to web, mobile and tablet development. As print production scales back, savings are immediately eaten up by digital. TW says that in the second quarter costs dropped about 4 percent, or $13 million due to less production associated with lower print volumes, but were entirely offset by investments in websites and tablet magazines.
As for the publishing group’s segments, subscription revenues were down 11 percent for the second quarter to $292 million and 7 percent for the half to $623 million. Advertising was down 7 percent for the quarter and 6 percent for the half to $472 million and $855 million respectively. Content sales were down 20 percent in the quarter to $20 million, but that gap narrowed by the end of the half to a loss of 5 percent, ending at $39 million.
In the second quarter, Time Inc. took back the management of SI.com and Golf.com from Turner, who had been paying Time Inc. licensing fees to manage the sites. With the two site back in the fold, advertising losses were partially offset by about $7 million, but that was nulled by the loss of $9 million Time Inc. would have had from licensing fees.