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


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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This Jan. 31, 2005, file photo shows the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Building in St. Louis. Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the Post-Dispatch, said Tuesday, May 26, 2015, it is looking for a new home for the newspaper after 56 years in the six-story building. (AP Photo/James A. Finley, File)

Finding a sweet business model in downsizing newspaper real estate

This Jan. 31, 2005, file photo shows the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Building in St. Louis. Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the Post-Dispatch, said Tuesday, May 26, 2015, it is looking for a new home for the newspaper after 56 years in the six-story building. (AP Photo/James A. Finley, File)

This Jan. 31, 2005, file photo shows the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Building in St. Louis. Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the Post-Dispatch, said Tuesday, May 26, 2015, it is looking for a new home for the newspaper after 56 years in the six-story building. (AP Photo/James A. Finley, File)

Newspaper companies have been selling off downtown headquarters buildings and presses for some years now. But the trend has become accelerating and urgent:

— Soon-to-retire Digital First CEO John Paton told me that he found that long-term leases were among the toughest legacy costs to shed. His successor Steve Rossi put 51 Digital First properties on the market last summer.

— Close to home, the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times (which Poynter owns), Sarasota Herald Tribune and Tampa Tribune are all for sale. Read more

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Worldwide newspaper circulation revenues pass advertising for the first time

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Last year circulation revenues inched ahead of advertising for the world’s newspapers, according to a report out today from the trade group WAN-IFRA.

For 2014, circulation generated $92 billion compared to $87 billion for advertising, according to a world press trends survey released as WAN-IFRA begins its annual World Congress meeting in Washington.

“The basic assumption of the news business model — the subsidy that advertisers have long provided to news content — is gone…,” Larry Kilman, secretary-general of WAN-IFRA, commented in a release. “This is a seismic shift from a strong business-to-business emphasis – publishers to advertisers – to a growing business-to-consumer emphasis, publishers to audiences.”

The circulation-ad split varies around the world.  Some European and Asian papers, with high single-copy prices and a reliance on newsstand sales, have been 50-50 for years. Read more

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Scary Mary (Meeker) and that fallacious chart are back again

I was elsewhere earlier this week when Internet savant Mary Meeker released her gargantuan annual slide deck on big-picture digital trends.  I was not surprised that it received respectful coverage, as is warranted, nor, alas, that her updated chart implying imminent doom for print got special attention.

That’s too bad.  Of the 197 slides, this isn’t one of her best and has a pair of flaws that make it misleadingly alarmist.

If you’ve missed the chart, a staple in her presentation for a decade, it compares time spent on various platforms with ad spend.  For 2014, Meeker found print only gets 4 percent of attention but 19 percent of ad spend. She calls that “over-indexing.”

Internet spend has moved up quickly the last few years, but mobile now accounts for 24 percent of time spent and only 8 percent of ad spend.  Read more

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API has a new take on innovation — ignore the tribal nature of news organizations at your peril

One model was for a single-subject news website shows the staffing structure of the site. Rather than present the team in a typical org chart, they use concentric circles to show that each group is connected. (Image from the API report)

One model was for a single-subject news website shows the staffing structure of the site. Rather than present the team in a
typical org chart, they use concentric circles to show that each group is connected. (Image from the API report)

News organizations have become more “tribal” than ever, according to a pair of new reports from the American Press Institute, and effective innovators must work with that reality rather than try to bulldoze change through.

At news organizations, Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of API and co-author of the report, told me by phone, a frequent problem is that “we come to the same building every day, but we may not really be working toward the same goals.”

Knowing the need for change or even being willing to change are no longer the big issue, Sonderman said, “but how to do it, how to make it work and stick is.”

The API report identifies reporters as one tribe. Read more

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Knight Foundation finds a foothold in for-profit tech startups

You read here with some regularity about Knight Foundation grants and Knight-funded research projects. But in recent years without notice, the leader in journalism philanthropy also has established a modest beachhead in the for-profit world.

The Knight Enterprise Fund, organizationally part of the unit that manages the foundation’s $2.5 billion endowment, has a $10 million kitty and has made 40 venture investments over the last three years.

Ben Wirz (photo courtesy of Knight Foundation)

Ben Wirz (photo courtesy of Knight Foundation)

It has a dual purpose, director of venture investments Ben Wirz told me in a phone interview.  Make money, yes, but also keep the foundation up to speed on promising digital tools and trends, the better to inform its grant-making.

Wirz, who spoke at Poynter for our Media Innovations Tour earlier this spring, was a journalist early in his career, reporting for Japan’s Asahi ShimbunRead more

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