April 15, 2010 Last Updated 3:32 pm

Before get all excited about those ad numbers . . .

Despite my J degree, I have always been known as a pretty good numbers person. So I’d like to remind those folks all excited about slowing decreases in ad pages that a decline, even a one percent decline, over really bad numbers still equals really bad numbers.

A lot of folks, including this site, have linked to this story that provides a good pregame analysis of the upcoming Gannett earnings report. The AP story tries to turn bad news into good: “But a drop of less than in 10 percent marks progress. Gannett’s publishing ad revenue fell by 18 percent in 2009’s final quarter.”

See, a ten percent decline is progress!  Ah, no.

A ten percent decline, on top of an 18 percent decline translates to a more than 26 percent decline over the original reporting period. In other words, you may be falling slightly slower than you were before, but not only are you continuing to fall, but now you are much closer to the ground than you were when you started.

The original story does a good job of explaining the real world consequences of continued ad declines.   “If newspaper ad revenue doesn’t bounce back soon, Gannett will be more likely to impose more staff furloughs or lay off more of its remaining 35,000 workers (down from 46,100 employees three years ago),” the AP story reminds readers,

After 2009’s horrible ad numbers what we will need to see is real growth — not necessarily in all areas and overall, but growth somewhere.

Most publishers were happy to see 2009 end. But while slow growth may encourage some, slowing declines will not be good enough for too many publishers. As yesterday’s announcement of Scranton Gillette’s acquisition of Vance castoffs shows, there are buyers out there waiting to buy your shuttered properties — but not before you’ve already closed them.

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