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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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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4 reasons the New York Times Company won’t be sold anytime soon

New York Times Sales
We learned last week that Michael Bloomberg would like to buy the New York Times Company. He even spoke to Chairman Arthur Sulzberger about it a couple of years ago. So what else is new? Rupert Murdoch covets the Times as well.

The only live question is whether the Sulzberger family would sell.  Through a spokesman Sulzberger said Friday, as he has many times before, that the company was not on the market whatever the offer.

Case closed?  Not quite.  The Wall Street Journal was not for sale until Murdoch’s News Corp. made the Bancroft family an offer — 67 percent above their shares’ trading value — they felt they could not refuse.  Nor did any but the inner circle know the Graham’s Washington Post was for sale until Jeff Bezos bought it in August 2013. Read more

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Corporate raider Carl Icahn sets his sights on Gannett

Gannett has yet to complete the split of the company in two, spinning off publishing from television and digital, but the prospect already has a famous corporate shark nibbling.

Carl Icahn, who controls 6.6 percent of Gannett stock asked in a letter Wednesday for two seats on the board.

He also expressed particular concern that each of the new companies be open to takeover bids and not adopt any of the defenses management can use to fend off unwelcome offers.

His letter to Gannett CEO Gracia Martore charges that the capital structure and plans for the publishing unit have been badly communicated to the market, resulting in an 8 percent decline in Gannett stock since plans to divide the company were announced in August.

Icahn further wrote:

We have spoken with many large Gannett shareholders since we first announced our position.

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Time spent or time well spent — how to think about Web traffic

The search for meaningful digital audience metrics took a turn for the better in 2014 when Chartbeat and others began touting time spent and engagement as a superior measure to uniques and page views.

In recent months, though, time spent is coming in for criticism of its own as too blunt a metric that shortchanges brief and engaging news summaries and potentially rewards time-wasters like clickbait photo galleries.  The newer audience metrics question is now whether “time well spent” can be quantified.

(Screenshot/chartbeat.com)

(Screenshot/chartbeat.com)

An opening shot in this little counter-revolution was fired last September by Cory Bergman, general manager of MSNBC’s Breaking News site and a former member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board. For a service like his built around speed and compact  summaries, Bergman said, he would rather focus on “time saved”  rather than time spent. Read more

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