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


advance-letter

Print advertising slump bites digitally oriented Advance too

As Advance publications began dropping print frequency and betting its newspapers’ future on digital ad sales five years ago, part of the premise was that print advertising would only continue to decline — and by a lot, not a little.

Correct. But the industry’s particularly nasty level of print losses in the first half of 2015 have nipped financial results at Advance along with the rest. In his latest biannual letter to employees, Advance Local President Randy Siegel backed off his claim of six months ago that digital ad gains this year will surpass print losses.

He concedes in the letter that newspaper declines have been “steeper than we budgeted for.” Siegel told me in a phone interview that the goal for growing ad revenue overall remains and some of Advance’s 25 markets will experience the revenue crossover, but added “I can’t guarantee that we will get it done in all of them.”

In the letter, dated July 15, Siegel continues:

The proverbial “silver lining” here is that as more of our readers and advertisers transition to digital platforms and products, we are better positioned than ever to meet their diverse needs.

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McClatchy reports precipitous print ad declines again for second quarter

McClatchy, in the doghouse with investors for most of the year, reported another disappointing quarter today, eking out a profit of $98,000 on $262 million in revenues.

Despite growing digital ad revenues, holding circulation revenues even and reducing debt and interest payments compared to the same quarter a year ago, the results were dragged down by a 12.5 percent decline in total advertising revenues.

McClatchy is first among the public newspapers to report for the second quarter so drops of nearly the same magnitude seem likely at other companies.  As Gannett (which will report Wednesday) indicated as it spun off to a separate newspaper company a month ago, second quarter ad revenues have been weak there as well.

McClatchy said print advertising declines for the quarter were 16.3 percent. Read more

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5 quick thoughts on the sale of the Financial Times — a logical deal now that we see it

Most big-deal acquisitions, however unexpected, make sense once they are in place. And the sale of the Financial Times, though quickly consummated since first reports Sunday, was not all that surprising.

Here are my quick thoughts on why Japanese Nikkei won the trophy newspaper and what may happen next:

  • No longer a fit: As Pearson has become an education company with smaller news holdings, it needs to concentrate on its primary business. The FT group has some specialized financial products but nothing on the scale of Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters — or Nikkei for that matter. There are few synergies with the education unit.In retrospect, the sale may have been telegraphed two years ago when CEO John Fallon, who had been running the education unit’s international business, succeeded American-born Marjorie Scardino, whose roots were in publishing, particularly The Economist (in which Pearson retains a 50 percent interest for now).
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Intrigue in Utah — Will the Salt Lake Tribune be sold? Or even closed?

Jim Dabakis inside a downtown Salt Lake City coffee shop.  (AP 2011 file photo/Lynn DeBruin)

Jim Dabakis inside a downtown Salt Lake City coffee shop. (AP 2011 file photo/Lynn DeBruin)

Politician and blogger Jim Dabakis got his Utah constituents and others talking last week when he reported that the Salt Lake Tribune will soon be sold.

Dabakis also worried that such a sale could be a step toward an eventual closing or put the paper under the control of its Joint Operating Agreement partner and competitor, the Deseret News, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There are good reasons for media watchers nationally — not just Salt Lake City residents — to watch how the drama plays out:

  • The JOA is one of only five remaining agreements after the Charleston (WVa.) Gazette and Mail announced today that they are merging editorial operations and will print a single paper.
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Mid-year report: The newspaper industry’s billion dollar challenge

US Newspaper Advertising Revenue (Newspaper Association of America published data)

US Newspaper Advertising Revenue
(Newspaper Association of America published data)

Here is one way to look at the business-model challenge for newspaper organizations: every year that print advertising revenues fall a billion dollars or more, the companies need to generate a billion or more in other revenue growth to stay even.

Mid summer, 2015 is shaping up as another such year, and it again seems unlikely that that much new revenue can be found.  The math is daunting.

Consider paywalls. Phased in at different times over the last five years at different companies, digital subscriptions and price increases for print seem to typically have generated a 10 percent circulation revenue gain, even as print circulation volume declines.

Project that 10 percent industry wide on total circulation revenue of about $11 billion and that’s enough to cover a billion or more in print advertising losses.   Read more

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Gannett

New day for Gannett newspapers — they’re on their own

The 19,600 employees of Gannett newspapers coming to work Monday will be working for a new company — untethered from growing and prosperous television stations and digital ventures.

Retaining the Gannett name, the spin off company has well defined plans for digital transformation and for expansion by acquisition.  Its reception by Wall Street is less certain, but it is sweetening the case by promising a substantial dividend — 64 cents on shares trading around $15.

Gannett executives telegraphed the acquisition strategy in the company’s most recent earnings call and has since bought 11 titles in Texas and New Mexico, in which it already had a partial stake, from Digital First Media.

More is on the way, the company said in a presentation to investors last Monday.   Read more

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Lawsuit puts Oregon subscription scammers out of business

The subscription solicitations, disguised as invoices, that have blanketed U.S. mailboxes by the millions, are going to cease and desist.

time-460Orbital Publishing, a firm operating under multiple names and based in White City, Or., settled a fraud suit Tuesday by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, agreeing to shut down and pay $3.5 million in refunds and damages.

Similar suits by attorneys general in Texas, New York, Minnesota and Missouri remain open.

I have written three times before about the decades-old scam, which rang alarm bells in high places last fall when it began targeting newspapers as well as magazines.  The New York Times and Wall Street Journal warned their readers and offered make good subscriptions to those who bit on the offer, which had the look of an invoice and charged an inflated rate. Read more

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Global editors impressed by startup site matching journalists to on-the-ground international sources

Frederic Filloux can be counted on for insightful media analysis in his Monday Note e-letter, but this week he broke some news as well.

Screencapture of Sourcerrise.org

Screencapture of Sourcerrise.org

The Global Editors Network, of which Filloux is both a board member and contest judge, awarded the top innovation prize at its annual meeting in Barcelona to SourceRise, a tiny two-person, New York-based site offering to match journalists with sources.

I spoke by phone with Caroline Avakian, SourceRise founder, who said no one was more surprised by the honor than she.  She was sitting in the back of the room admiring demos of news drones and the like from the other seven finalists when her name was called.  Admittedly these are just startups, but it was like Iona winning the Final Four. Read more

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To boost local journalism, Steven Waldman proposes an AmeriCorps for reporters

Steve Waldman

Steve Waldman

Four years ago Steven Waldman documented in a report for the Federal Communications Commission the erosion of local journalism as newspapers’ business fortunes declined.

Now he is suggesting a remedy — a non-profit Report for America organization, modeled on AmeriCorps and Teach for America. Waldman summarized the idea in an article yesterday for CJR and is presenting it at a conference on local journalism today sponsored by Montclair State University’s Center for Cooperative Media.

Waldman envisions reporters, many of them young but some experienced too, being placed at newspapers, public radio stations and other existing outlets.  Part of their salary would come from the new non-profit, the rest from a match by the organization receiving the placement.

“I think this really has a chance of catching on,” Waldman told me in a phone interview. Read more

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5 things John Carroll taught me about great investigative projects

John Carroll speaking in this 2003 file photo. At middle is Todd Merriman, who was the senior editor/news of The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Kathleen Carroll, right, executive editor of The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

John Carroll speaking in this 2003 file photo. At middle is Todd Merriman, who was the senior editor/news of The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Kathleen Carroll, right, executive editor of The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

When John Carroll visited me and Poynter in January 2013, he was a trim, vigorous retiree in his early 70s. So the news Sunday morning that he had died of a degenerative brain disease, diagnosed earlier this year, hit me hard.

On reflection, among many generous mentors, John may have been the most important to me. As the obituaries noted, he had uncanny skill at commissioning and editing big investigative projects, which won multiple Pulitzers for four different newspapers.

I don’t know that John ever gave a full “how-to” account of his approach, but here are five principles that stuck with me gleaned from the time I worked for him at the Philadelphia Inquirer and conversations later in our careers. Read more

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