When Tronc, the company known until Monday as Tribune Publishing, memorialized its name change with a video to employees to explain its strategy, the early reactions were surely not what it had desired.
Negative responses greeted the video, which you can view here. Slate heralded the video as a "Deadly Swarm of Buzzwords," Recode likened it to "Adult Swim parodies" and New York magazine's Select All vertical said it was the calling card of "an ill-advised reorganization."
The reaction on Twitter was also largely derisive.
— Laura Stampler (@laurastampler) June 20, 2016
here's what not to ever do https://t.co/XfbLnJp6AY
— drew olanoff (@drew) June 20, 2016
— Gabriel Kahn (@gabekahn) June 20, 2016
— Brad Greenberg (@bradagreenberg) June 20, 2016
— Paul Singer (@singernews) June 20, 2016
According to this (apparently real?) tronc employee video, their plan to monetize is to add videos to article pages https://t.co/MVHfvwwYK7
— Alex Weprin (@alexweprin) June 20, 2016
— Chris Alcantara (@chrisalcantara) June 20, 2016
It's an inauspicious beginning for Tronc, which began trading on the Nasdaq today after a rebranding effort that was pilloried on Twitter earlier this month. The video was accompanied by a memo from CEO Justin Dearborn, which is reproduced below.
Dennis Culloton, a spokesperson for Tronc, told Poynter the company is "focused on building a future where we can produce high-quality journalism."
"Growing the news business has been a vexing problem for 20 years," Culloton said. "We have 20 years worth of experience that doesn't work, so now it's time to innovate."
In an email to Poynter, media business analyst Ken Doctor said that although there's "an element of SNL commercial parody" about the videos, they do sum up a key element of Tronc's strategy: produce lots of video.
"We can sum them up simply, as seen in this morning's plea for respect: produce a hell of a lot more video," Doctor said. "The business notion: Today, video out-monetizes text four-to-one and so if in coming years, it can produce more video, it can reinvent the business. Problem: What kinds of news video would the AI of Tronc really help journalists (or other assorted tronckites yet to be minted) produce?"
Tronc's notion of infusing journalism at its 11 major daily newspapers with modern tech is an important one, but an early look at its video efforts indicates that it might have trouble meshing the two, Doctor said. Can video produced at newspapers like the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune fit into the company's vision for community journalism?
"The problem in a nutshell: Tronc's AI theories aren't wrong, but they're apparently wholly disconnected from the practice of community journalism. Next-gen tech is absolutely essential to our future, but only in the service of better bringing people the news of their communities."
Despite the pushback, the managers of Tronc's official social media accounts seem unfazed:
— tronc (@tronc) June 20, 2016
Here's Dearborn's memo:
Today, we officially rebranded as tronc, Inc. and will begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange under the stock ticker “TRNC.”
Our iconic institutions are some of the most respected brands in the world and will remain as such. tronc does not exist without the strength and integrity of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Sun Sentinel, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Daily Press, The Morning Call and the many local community verticals we own. Collectively, our publications have earned 92 Pulitzer Prize awards and garner an impressive monthly audience of over 60 million, reflecting the commitment and quality that each of you contribute. No other media company can match the power of our brands.
We are a content company first, last, and always – but in the face of disruption, we must evolve to preserve and grow our iconic brands. Our commitment to journalism has not changed, but we are deploying new technologies to bring our content to life and make it more accessible and visual to our ever-evolving audience.
Malcolm CasSelle, Chief Technology Officer and President of New Ventures, and newly appointed Chief Digital Officer Anne Vasquez are going to be visiting all of our local markets this week, sharing our vision and strategy behind tronc. They have also created this video to introduce tronc, what it means and how technology will help make our journalism even more powerful.
We are excited for the opportunity to meet and speak with many of you. The foundation of this company is rooted in our employees who deliver the news in our organizations, some of which have been serving their community with distinction for more than 250 years. With your commitment, we will continue to extend the influence of our titles and deepen our connections to our communities.