Rick Edmonds

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Researcher and writer for Poynter Institute on business and journalism issues. Co author, State of the News Media 2006. ExSP Times and Phil Inquirer


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Stock market darling New Media Investment keeps growing, books small profit

Acquisitive New Media Investment Group reported its fourth quarter results today and tallied the score on $538 million spent buying newspapers over the last year and a half.

The company’s business plan calls for $1 billion in acquisitions over three years, so more of the same is on the way.

New Media also increased its quarterly dividend which yields investors 4 to 5 percent annually. And the company’s shares were up more 6 percent for the day and nearly 50 percent in the last six months.

Besides offering the generous dividend, New Media targets smaller papers that have been less affected by digital competition than metros.  After the acquisition of Stephens Media, announced a week ago, is completed in March, the largest circulation titles in its roster of 125 dailies will be the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Providence Journal. Read more

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Meet ICIJ — The biggest, toughest investigative unit you may never have heard of

Even for an investigative team with global reach and huge ambitions, the last month has been extraordinary for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Two weeks ago Sunday, a joint investigation with “60 Minutes” on tax avoidance and money laundering at the Swiss private bank British giant HSBC aired.

Since then, Swiss authorities raided the bank for evidence of fraud, HSBC apologized in full-page ads in Britain and a prominent journalist at The Telegraph went public with his resignation, claiming the conservative daily downplayed the story as a favor to a prominent advertiser.

A week after the Swiss Leaks report, ICIJ won a George Polk award in the business category for a pair of 2014 projects, one on offshore investments by Chinese elites including parking their money in New York City real estate and the other revealing how Luxembourg operates as a tax avoidance haven. Read more

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5 Ways McClatchy is a model for a new breed of stand-alone newspaper companies

McClatchy has been a steady presence in the 15 years I’ve been writing about media business with a commitment to serious journalism even while shrinking newsrooms, aggressive digital expansion and continuity of leadership.

Looking at the company’s fourth quarter results Wednesday and listening to CEO Pat Talamantes describe 2015 plans, it occurred to me that McClatchy could now also be a bell-cow for the new generation of spun-off, newspaper only companies.  That group includes Tribune Publishing, early into life on its own after a split from parent Tribune late last year. Later in 2015 Gannett’s publishing division and the merged publishing operations of Journal Communications and Scripps will go that route too.

Here are five ways, McClatchy may be providing a preview:

  1. Revenue replacement race: Like other companies reporting in recent weeks, McClatchy had even worse print advertising results than expected, could not make them up with other mostly digital ventures and thus continues to shrink. 
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Digital video arms race continues — and little guys can play too

I wasn’t sticking my neck out far in a late December post predicting a boom year for non-broadcast video. Six weeks into 2015 plenty is happening:

*Publications of all kinds (Fortune for instance) are announcing new services and upgrades.

*Reuters, traditionally a business-to-business provider, has made good on promises to launch a daring gamble — Reuters TV, a direct- to-consumer video app, targeting millennials and their smart phones and programmable into a customized 5 to 30 minute show.

*My friends at the American Press Institute published a good report last week on best practices in video production and revenue.  Serial entrepreneur David Cohn, who recently passed through Poynter, has a good riff today on avoiding tired broadcast conventions.

But I also stand corrected on one bit of common wisdom — that video only works for big organizations and that even they are challenged to scale sufficiently. Read more

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Digital revenues are up but print ads down as Lee Enterprises reports results

Lee Enterprises became the third newspaper organization to report quarterly results this week, and the earnings picture follows a familiar pattern:

*Total digital revenue grew 25.6 percent in the quarter compared to the same period in 2013.

*However weak print advertising dragged total ad and marketing services revenue down 5.6 percent.

*As a result both revenues and profits were essentially flat compared to the period a year ago.

The company earned $9.7 million net for the quarter on revenues of $176.1 million — a margin of 5.5 percent.

Lee is much more profitable on a cash flow or operating basis.  However, like McClatchy, it applies most of the cash earned to paying down debt from a mid-2000′s acquisition. In Lee’s case that is Pulitzer (the St. Read more

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Surprise! Dwindling resources worry investigative journalists far more than surveillance and hacking

The latest Pew Research Center study — on “Investigative Journalists and Digital Security” — released Wednesday, found rising concern about hacking and government snooping. But neither came close to being the biggest challenge to those journalists doing their job well.

Instead 88 percent of 671 members of Investigative Reporters and Editors surveyed said “decreasing resources in newsrooms” was their top concern. Other multiple choice options — legal action against journalists (5 percent), electronic surveillance (4 percent) and hacking (1 percent) — trailed by a mile.

I’m not stunned that resources came out on top, but the overwhelming margin is surprising. It suggests that most investigative reporters see their bosses cutting back on investigative work and feel pressed to deliver quickly on those projects that are approved. Read more

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Gannett, New York Times report soft publishing revenues again

Gannett and the New York Times Co. closed the books on 2014 with mixed results in earnings reports this morning.

For Gannett, strong growth in broadcast and its digital businesses more than offset revenue declines in both circulation and advertising at its newspapers, which will be spun-off into a separate company later this year.

At the New York Times Co., whose only business is its flagship paper and its digital and international extensions, continued growth in circulation revenues offset a small decline in advertising making for overall revenue  growth of 0.7 percent for the year.

Net income fell to $30.3 million, about half the profit in 2013, on revenues of $1.59 billion. That is a margin of roughly 2 percent. CEO Mark Thompson said in a press release the company chose investments in digital expansion over maximizing profit but will “bear down on costs” in 2015 to improve results. Read more

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Analyst Gordon Borrell sees local digital ads soaring in 2015, but not for newspapers

Gordon Borrell, among the best known of digital advertising analysts, was predicting two years ago that the newspaper business would stabilize, with some companies growing their digital revenues 30 percent a year.

Now he has reversed course, predicting another boom year for local digital advertising in 2015, but with newspapers and other legacy media badly trailing “pure plays” like Trulia, Angie’s List and Yelp in capturing a share of that.

Based on surveys of local advertiser plans, Borrell said in September:

They’ve changed their story on me…The storm for newspapers isn’t over, though I’ve been predicting for two years that things are about to get calmer. Turns out, the shift to digital is accelerating.

The future isn’t bright for print and broadcast media, I’m sad to say.

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Parse.ly kicks its digital analytics toolkit up a gear

Parse.ly, one of the major players in the growing business of sophisticated measurement of digital audiences, is out with a new suite of services this morning.

“The conversation around what success means and how we measure it” continues to develop, CEO Sachin Kamdar told me in a phone interview. Eleven new Parse.ly metrics, like “breakout of traffic recirculation” aim to give publishers a range of tools they can match with differing objectives, he said.

The Parse.ly rollout is way more advanced than the general overview of analytics trends I provided in a post earlier this month — but consistent with it.

The concept, according to the company, is to unify insights on growth (as still measured by uniques and page views), engagement (as typically demonstrated by time spent) and the newer concern with loyalty (described by several as “time well spent” in my earlier piece). Read more

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Clark Gilbert is leaving Deseret News

(Updated noon, Jan.28, to include comment from Gilbert)

Clark Gilbert, one of the most influential thinkers and practitioners in the digital transformation of newspapers, is leaving his job as CEO of Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media

In April, he will become president of BYU-Idaho, where he had worked for several years before joining Deseret in 2009. He succeeds Kim Clark, also formerly dean of the Harvard Business School, where Gilbert started his career as a professor.

A successor at Deseret was not immediately named.

Gilbert (a close professional friend, I should disclose) was a ready-made story as he took the reins at Deseret. Academic-puts-theory-to-practice was my take after visiting Salt Lake City and interviewing Gilbert as he was starting out.

In the years following, Gilbert made a series of big changes in rapid order:

  • He brought in non-newspaper executives with backgrounds in other digital ventures to manage that side of the company and created a digital ad sales force.
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