How local newspapers can uncover the ‘Warren Buffett equation’

Ebyline

Peter Beller and Sarah Erickson think they’ve uncovered the “Da Vinci Code”-like criteria by which Warren Buffett makes purchasing decisions: A small circulation, a favorable ratio of online-to-print readers and high market penetration all increase the likelihood that your newsroom’s aisles will be clogged with dancers in the next year.

“We run a very profitable newspaper business. We can do that better with under 35,000 circulation,” an unnamed Berkshire Hathaway executive tells Beller and Erickson. “[We have] who you call our core subscribers, [so] the ad revenue on the community side is more stable than in the top 50 markets.”

One of Beller and Erickson’s lessons from studying Buffett purchases? “Don’t sweat falling circulation so much.”

Berkshire’s newspapers are losing circulation like everyone else’s. Some are shrinking faster, others are holding steady or even growing, but as a whole they lost 3.5% of their readers last year, not much better than the industry as a whole and a lot worse than the top ten (non-national) dailies, which collectively gained 1% as of September.

It has, as of Monday, been 21 days since Warren Buffett last purchased a newspaper. He currently owns 27 daily newspapers and 269 publications overall.

Previously: Warren Buffett to his new employees: ‘It’s your job to make your paper indispensable’

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  • mike finn

    That all may be true, but Buffett won’t overpay for the assets. He’s a bottom fisher. Newspapers have to pass both tests before he’s interested.