When The Newspaper Business Could Print Money – Forbes
As our September 2017 centennial approaches, we’re opening our archives to unearth our favorite stories. Below, stories from the October 1, 1969issue.
DESPITE THE ADVENT of television a couple decades earlier, the economics of newspaper publishing remained relentlessly, surprisingly golden. Conventional wisdom had predicted papers’ demise, but as of late 1969 the industry had “never been healthier, not even in the heyday of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.”
TV had indeed generated more advertising spending than both magazines and radio since 1949. Yet newspapers still attracted far more: about $5.3 billion (some $37.7 billion today), more than one and a half times the amount spent on TV, thanks to the increased size of classified sections and new papers established in America’s growing suburbs.
Although the industry for the most part remained privately owned by prominent local families, by the late 1960s it included several sizable publicly traded businesses, including Gannett–which published papers in 25 (mostly midsize) cities.
The future of print? “Profitable as newspapers are today, chances are they will be more profitable still in the years to come,” our story concluded. That prediction held up–well, for 30 years, anyway, until the advent of the Web plunged newspapers into drum after drum of red ink.
Sign of the Times
Black Gold Rush
To a new wave of Alaskan prospectors, the potential of the North Slope, where oil had been discovered in 1968, seemed boundless. It was the largest U.S. oil find, an estimated 12 billion barrels. Extraction would require ingenuity, and one pioneering entrepreneur, Ferris Hamilton, a Princeton-educated helicopter pilot, developed a new oil rig transportable by chopper.
With fame comes wealth–and the ever eager taxman. British entertainers were hit particularly hard. They stood to keep just a 13th of their earnings after Her Majesty took her bite, so they began striking deals to trade years of future earnings for stock in companies such as then publicly traded Constellation Investments. Constellation (and other businesses like it) would bank artists’ earnings at a lower tax level–leaving Vanessa Redgrave, for one, to swap some $700,000 in earnings for $2 million in equity.