Buried at the end of this Reuters piece about how there aren’t many analysts bothering to report on the newspaper industry, comes this jewel of a quote:

As for the sell-side, the analysts who remain — such as Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Appert — often cover other sectors that command more investor attention.

“If I covered only the newspaper industry, first of all I would have been fired a long time ago; secondly, I would have had to kill myself,” Appert said.

Part of me wonders if this is sound strategery – if there is no demand for a product, why continue to produce it? But the other part keeps whispering that some of the smartest investors always take the contrarian view. When they see the mass of groupthinking lemmings all hurtling in one direction (say, away from newspapers), they bide their time and step in and snarf up the companies for rock-bottom prices. When things start to turn around, they are there on the ground floor, and see great returns (see: the real estate investors who bought in the early 90s, when the market was moribund, oil speculators who bought when the prices were around $20 a barrel, etc.)

Then again, the whole newspaper industry could be utterly and completely doomed, and anyone sinking money into it is just “catching a falling knife” in the investor parlance.

So yeah, lemmings – heed the words of the know-it-alls at Merrill Lynch, who think newspapers have no future whatsoever. (Hey, weren’t these the guys who said Enron and subprime mortgages were rock-solid?) Panic and dump your properties. You shouldn’t be trying to run them anyway.

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