Über seine Firma Berkshire Hathaway hält Investor Warren Buffett (76), aka «The Oracle of Omaha», 18 Prozent an der Washington Post Co. Überdies besitzt er die Zeitung «Buffalo News» (Auflage: ≈ 200’000).
Die Zukunft der Zeitungsbranche sieht Buffett in seinem aktuellen, jeweils mit Spannung erwarteten «Chairman’s Letter» (PDF) jedoch alles andere als rosig:
- «When an industry’s underlying economics are crumbling, talented management may slow the rate of decline. Eventually, though, eroding fundamentals will overwhelm managerial brilliance. (As a wise friend told me long ago, „If you want to get a reputation as a good businessman, be sure to get into a good business.“) And fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry, a trend that has caused the profits of our Buffalo News to decline. The skid will almost certainly continue.
When Charlie [Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman von Berkshire] and I were young, the newspaper business was as easy a way to make huge returns as existed in America. As one not-too-bright publisher famously said, „I owe my fortune to two great American institutions: monopoly and nepotism.“ No paper in a one-paper city, however bad the product or however inept the management, could avoid gushing profits.
Now, however, almost all newspaper owners realize that they are constantly losing ground in the battle for eyeballs. Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed.
We are likely therefore to see non-economic individual buyers of newspapers emerge, just as we have seen such buyers acquire major sports franchises. Aspiring press lords should be careful, however: There’s no rule that says a newspaper’s revenues can’t fall below its expenses and that losses can’t mushroom. Fixed costs are high in the newspaper business, and that’s bad news when unit volume heads south. As the importance of newspapers diminishes, moreover, the „psychic“ value of possessing one will wane, whereas owning a sports franchise will likely retain its cachet.»
Gewissermassen aus Leidenschaft will Buffett aber dennoch an den «Buffalo News» festhalten:
- «Unless we face an irreversible cash drain, we will stick with the News, just as we’ve said that we would. […] Charlie and I love newspapers – we each read five a day – and believe that a free and energetic press is a key ingredient for maintaining a great democracy. We hope that some combination of print and online will ward off economic doomsday for newspapers, and we will work hard in Buffalo to develop a sustainable business model. I think we will be successful. But the days of lush profits from our newspaper are over.»