Two of the biggest newspapers in the state of California, the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, reported losing “north of $50 million” in annual revenue over the course of the year 2020, according to The Hill.
Chris Argentieri, the president of the two newspapers’ parent company California Times, revealed the losses in a recorded conference call with staff. The situation represented a “catastrophic drop in revenue for the company north of $50 million, on top of a business that was already using cash and not producing cash,” Argentieri said, explaining that the losses came from both print advertising and digital advertising.
Argentieri even went so far as to suggest that the pandemic was not necessarily to blame, saying that “2020 was an acceleration of trends that we were well aware of and have been aware of, really, for far more than a decade. We won’t go back, particularly in print advertising, to where we were.”
In 2020, California Times was forced to sell three of its newspapers and fire all of the staff at each publication. The company did receive roughly $10 million in a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan as a result of the coronavirus stimulus bills signed into law by President Donald Trump, although these funds were designated as being only for staff-related expenses.
Argentieri confirmed that the funds would be “almost exclusively for employee-related costs, including payroll and employee benefits.” He added that “we lost tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue pretty much instantly in March 2020, and the pandemic continues to take a toll on the public health and take a toll economically. We are still operating with great uncertainty.”