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Two positive ad trends … I think

Prominent Piper Jaffray analyst sees display-ad market stabilizing, while Strib’s “Golden Gavel” could help keep the bankrupt paper in cash.
By David Brauer

A couple of relatively sunny news bits came over the transom this morning …

• quotes Piper Jaffray media analyst Gene Munster telling his clients the worst is over for display advertising, the kind that earns big bucks for newspapers and magazines. Now, keep in mind, “optimism” in this case means a 10 percent first-quarter revenue decline as opposed to the previously predicted 13 percent, but will stabilize through the rest of the year.

The website is properly skeptical, calling the call “gutsy,” but notes Munster has been a pessimist until now. Although I never heard of the guy until today, he is apparently renowned enough to have a “Fake Gene Munster” parody.

[Update: Local publisher Kevin Reichard notes in the comments that Munster is talking web display ads, not print. Though the story isn’t clear on this point, it’s implicit given that Munster follows tech stocks. So while Munster’s view is still good news for struggling newspapers, who earn display revenue from their websites, it’s not as good as it could be. Sorry, I tried!]

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• Meanwhile, at the Star Tribune, an ad-selling gimmick may be paying off. Finance & Commerce’s Bob Geiger says the paper’s ongoing “Golden Gavel” promotion offers bidding on $2 million worth of stuff. The number of donors (270) is up 34 percent from last year, and the dollar value of their merchandise has risen 18 percent. The Strib keeps the cash from the bids; donors get ad space equal to their products’ retail value.

From what I can tell, this is basically advertisers exchanging excess inventory for the paper’s excess ad space, but any cash in the Strib’s coffers is helpful right now. Of course, only the bankruptcy court knows if the cash will go to operations or creditors.

The bidding — which started Sunday and ends Monday, April 6 — isn’t rip-roaring so far, but you know how those eBayers like to lie in the weeds.