Traditionally, describing the “newspaper industry” has meant describing a concentration of ownership within national borders. Increasingly, it has come to mean ownership concentration globally.
Newspapers, for example, are major parts of the global empires of Rupert Murdoch (News International) and Conrad Black (Hollinger International). Now, others are getting into the capital game. The U.S. media company, Gannett, now owns Newsquest, one of the top regional newspaper companies in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, a traditional newspaper company like VNU in The Netherlands recently sold its newspapers because their investments in business-to-business publications and research companies in the United States became their focus. Thomson sold its U.K., U.S., and Canadian newspapers in recent years with the strategy of focusing all energies on electronic publishing.
The game is about capital chasing accessible markets, long-term situations, economies of scale, profit opportunities, and investments that support a corporation’s core values.
Given that criteria, what generalisations can we make? The criteria explains the recent intense consolidation in Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It also points to some potentially dramatic capital infusions in the European Union as the full effect of the euro and the common market are realised, specifically in the family-owned German newspaper industry and France, where national laws currently prevent majority ownership by non-French companies. It explains why largely family-owned Latin American newspaper markets likely will remain that way for some time, while the United States market still has some consolidating to go.