NEW YORK - Newspaper publishers, entering 2008 with some of the worst economic conditions in years, said yesterday that they hoped to bring more readers - and ad spending - to their Web sites with expanded offerings of news, advertising and video.
The newspaper industry has been struggling as a dismal housing market weighs heavily on real estate and other types of print advertising.
"Two thousand and seven was not a good year for anybody in the newspaper business," said Donald Graham, chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.
But Graham said his company was hopeful about expanding its audience online, particularly as the 2008 presidential election approaches.
The McClatchy Co. chief executive Gary Pruitt said his company's online advertising growth was stunted in 2007 partly because of onetime factors, such as changes to the company's agreement with CareerBuilder, a recruitment-advertising network.
The executives were speaking at a conference run by UBS AG, the brokerage firm.
Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., the private company that owns The Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com, saw some room for hope amid the problems.
"All people in business in general, and in media and advertising companies, are concerned about the economy as it moves into 2008," chief executive officer Brian Tierney said in an interview in Philadelphia. "But we're cautiously optimistic."
The company's daily newspaper circulation has increased, and traffic to its Web site, Philly.com, is up 60 percent, he said, "but we haven't monetized that yet, so there is some potential there."
Also, the troubled housing market that is plaguing other regions of the country and dragging down the economy is not affecting this area as much, he said. "The housing market is up slightly," he noted.
At the New York conference, Chris Hendricks, McClatchy's head of online operations, said the company was optimistic about converting more of its online traffic into ad dollars next year.
Part of McClatchy's optimism stems from a deal with Yahoo Inc., which has enlisted hundreds of newspapers in a national consortium aimed at boosting traffic to newspaper Web sites.
Some publishers have other businesses to fall back on:
At the Washington Post Co., for instance, revenue from the Kaplan education businesses will be a majority of overall company revenue next year, Graham said.
Sue Clark-Johnson, the chief of Gannett Co. Inc.'s newspaper division, said company-owned newspaper Web sites were on track to post a 32 percent gain in page views this calendar year.