When Warren Buffett got into the newspaper business in a big way, there was a hope it was a sign the future of the industry had brightened. Buffett’s hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald, was gutted as a large number of people were fired recently, a sign that even a brilliant investor can miss the signs of how well a sector can do.
The Omaha World-Herald cut 23 jobs, which does not seem like many, but the paper is small. The reduction is 3% of the paper’s employee base. Earlier in the year, the paper cut 43 positions. Like many newspapers, cuts have become serial, in some cases with several a year. That means cuts at the Omaha World-Herald may not be over.
Buffett bought 63 newspapers from Media General in 2012. He admitted it was a “declining industry” but said he believed the financial situation for the industry would improve.
Buffett all but walked away from the industry recently. He made a deal with Lee Enterprises to manage his newspaper properties in 30 markets. Buffett will continue to own BH Media Group, which owns a number of daily newspapers and a group of weeklies. They include the Omaha World-Herald.
Buffett is often described as the most important and successful investor in U.S. history. He has made tens of billions of dollars buying companies or large blocks of shares in publicly traded corporations. His dwindling support to the newspapers he owns shows that his belief the industry is falling, if it has not already gone.