Newspaper decline continues to weigh on AP earnings
NEW YORK (AP) — Earnings at The Associated Press shrank substantially last year compared with 2015, when the news organization enjoyed a large tax benefit that skewed its results. Revenue also edged downward, reflecting continued contraction in the newspaper industry and a stronger U.S. dollar that reduced the value of overseas sales.
Net income last year shrank to $1.6 million from $183.6 million in 2015, a 99 percent decline. The 2015 profit figure was bolstered by a one-time, $165 million tax benefit. AP's 2014 net income of $140.9 million was also boosted by a large non-recurring gain from the sale of a stake in a sports data company. In 2013, net income at the AP — a nonprofit news cooperative — was $3.3 million.
Although AP's 2016 profit was slightly less than half that of 2013, AP chief financial officer Ken Dale said last year brought the company's net results "back to more normal levels."
Dale said he was focused on other measures of the company's financial health. "We feel like we're financially stable, we have no debt and we continue to generate positive cash flow," he said. AP ended 2016 with $24.7 million in cash and equivalents, down from $50.6 million the year before.
Revenue at AP dropped 2 percent to $556.3 million in 2016. The news agency gave some papers lower rates in exchange for longer contracts, Dale said. The number of U.S. newspaper customers didn't change much.
AP's annual revenue peaked in 2008 at $748 million, and has mostly fallen since then, battered by the shift to online media and the decline of newspapers. The news agency, which sells other media organizations subscriptions to its print stories, videos and photos, has worked to make up the shortfall by investing more in video and focusing on new overseas customers.
Revenue related to the 2016 presidential election offset some of the decline. AP charges TV networks and newspapers extra for its vote-counting services. The agency's international video division also showed marginal growth. AP expects further growth in video revenue, particularly from the Middle East and Asia.
Nearly half of AP's revenue comes from TV broadcasters. Newspapers account for 23 percent of revenue. U.S. papers make up the bulk of that, contributing 19 percent of total revenue. Internet companies like Yahoo and Microsoft contribute about another 10 percent. AP also gets money from other agencies and radio stations.
Expenses rose nearly 2 percent last year to $562.7 million, a sum that included $16.6 million in costs related to the move of AP's headquarters to lower Manhattan from midtown. That move is expected to save the company $10 million annually going forward. AP also laid off some news staffers last year.
Separately, AP held its annual meeting in New York Wednesday. Four new directors were named to the nonprofit's 21-member board: Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group, which owns seven local TV stations; Lisa DeSisto, CEO of MaineToday Media, which publishes newspapers in Maine; William Lewis, CEO of News Corp.'s Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal; and Michael Newhouse, director and senior executive of Advance/Newhouse, a magazine and newspaper publisher with cable interests.
Vice chairman Steven Swartz, the president and CEO of newspaper and magazine publisher Hearst Corp., was named chairman of AP's board, succeeding Lee Enterprises Inc. executive chairman Mary Junck.