Biz Blog: Rick Edmonds analyzes the latest media business developments.

The politics of reforming digital audience metrics — don’t underestimate the status quo

Long-time critics of imprecise unique visitor and page view metrics like me have had reason to cheer in recent months.

Both the Financial Times and Economist have started to offer advertisers the alternative of rates based on time spent rather than raw traffic numbers.

Chartbeat corrected a major flaw in existing measures of time spent, then got its system “accredited” by the influential Media Ratings Council. And Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile has been an effective evangelist in interviews and speeches for a more sophisticated way of looking at the attention of digital audiences.

That’s real progress. But plowing through dozens of articles and interviewing a few key sources, I have concluded that it is way early to declare victory and a new day dawning in digital measurement.

Oddly, although we like to think of the digital world as fast-moving and progressive, there is an established status quo for counting digital audiences backed by powerful vested interests who remain mostly happy with the unholy triad of uniques, page views and clickthroughs.

Start with the digital big guys — Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AOL. They lead the pack in traffic volume as conventionally measured. With targeting capabilities, they suck up a huge share of digital ad spend — even more now with the shift to smartphones than they already did in the desktop/laptop era.

Uniques and page views have also been good to the most popular start-up digital-only content providers — Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Upworthy and more.

A more surprising source of resistance is a large slice of the advertising industry, as spotlighted in Ad Age’s excellent takeout a month ago, “Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?” It summarized the resistance this way.

“Agencies are among the entrenched interests,” said Benjamin Zeidler, director-research and analytics at digital-marketing agency Tenthwave. “They’re good at buying ads. They know how to do it. It’s probably scary to change the mode of how they do business — how they sell it, price and benchmark it.”

Also, as you may have heard, these are boom times for “programmatic buying” — eliminating the middle men of sales people and media planners and instead relying on algorithms to locate and book available inventory at the lowest possible rate. Thoughtful consideration of a range of attention metrics would only get in the way of that process.

Pay-per-click may be a relic of the early days of internet advertising. But the measure still makes sense for a certain kind of ad — trying to grab attention for the unfamiliar — like the pitches for Harry’s Razors or the Bellroy Skinny Wallet that stalk me as I move around the web.

A middle-of-the-road constituency may buy in intellectually to a case for more varied metrics, but as a practical business matter needs to keep selling the way most advertisers are buying.

That was the drift of a thoughtful rejoinder from News Corp.’s Raju Narisetti to an earlier screed of mine this spring denouncing uniques and page views. In his view, some of this kind of criticism comes from print traditionalists who would prefer not to give audience metrics a prominent role in news coverage decisions.

Narisetti made the additional good point that metrics like page views per visit or repeat visits per month, “variations on relatively conventional” measures, are a reasonable way to identify attention.

Trade groups like the Newspaper Association of America and the MPA magazine association also do versions of the straddle. Both have working groups exploring new metrics that may capture what they see as unique strengths of their digital offerings for advertisers. But neither is abandoning the standard measures just yet.

NAA, for instance, puts out regular releases on industry gains in uniques and page views. That has always been a charm of the two measures — between the steady movement of audience to digital platforms and the easy tricks available to inflate the numbers, a growth story is all but sure to emerge.

Another slightly different middle ground position fits auditing, rating and standards groups like the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly ABC), Nielsen and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. They naturally watch carefully for any new metric offerings in their core business. The IAB even has instigated important reform with work showing that the majority of “impressions” as measured a few years ago were not even seen (because they did not load fast enough or were too low on a screen page).

But the heart of the auditors’ business interest is that if something new is going to be measured, they want the contract to be the recognized verifier of those numbers. For example, Nielsen, facing some new disruptive competitors like Rentrak, announced Tuesday a collaboration with Adobe on a new set of measures it is developing for digital viewing of television shows and other video.

I also need to concede that the reformers have a self-serving agenda of their own. The Economist and Financial Times have strong paywalls, dedicated high-demographic readers but relatively modest total audience numbers. So it is to their advantage to shift the discussion with marketers to time spent engaged with their quality content and accompanying ad messages.

Chartbeat and CEO Haile have made a great case for the flaws in traditional measures and the logic of shifting to time and attention (which are finite) from “impressions” which seem to multiply endlessly and are often fleeting at best.

Chartbeat in its accredited “time spent” measure also did the good deed of correcting earlier stabs at such a metric — the loophole that counted a tab left open while the user shifted to something else conceivably for minutes or hours, as time on site. The Chartbeat refinement is that “time spent” is counted only if some indicator of viewer action registers every five seconds.

Haile also announced this week that he will make the company’s methodology public, aiming for even further credibility, accepting some risk of giving away competitive secrets to a knock-off vendor.

All that said, Chartbeat (and the similarly oriented Moat in the video sphere) are fighting the good fight for what they have to sell against established competitors who have built a good share of their business around uniques, page views and clicks.

More sophisticated digital agencies like Razorfish are also in the camp advocating a combination of metrics and strategies they provide that are missing from more perfunctory ad placement methods.

Where does this state of play leave legacy media or local digital startups in searching for a business model in the digital sun? Even the pioneers like the Financial Times are hedging their bets — their minutes viewed metric is being offered to a limited number of pilot advertisers in a beta test (going well according to Haile) while the majority of ads are still sold the old-fashioned way.

I would look for companies like the New York Times, with good raw traffic numbers, to also explore alternative attention metrics. And the trade associations are likely to at least give a nudge to consideration of a suite of metrics in measuring audience and pricing ads rather than just the conventional big three.

Jerry Hill, Gannett’s top audience executive and chairman of the newly formed NAA task force, told me the group is starting by surveying advertisers and agencies about “what they look at” now in evaluating effectiveness. The next step, he said would be to identify new measures that could be validated and “communicated out in simple terms.”

The MPA has launched what it calls the “360-degree brand audience report,” a monthly update by participating magazine sites that measures audience on multiple dimensions in a standardized format, including, for instance, referrals from five social media channels.

Mark Contreras, then of E.W. Scripps, led a crusade for better digital audience metrics during his term as NAA chairman in 2009. He hoped to establish a better “gold standard,” perhaps with a nudge from government, as happened with a move from chaotic claims from competing vendors measuring television audience in the 1950s and early 1960s to the agreed-upon methodology Nielsen and others now follow.

A gold standard does not appear in the cards right now, but movement to a more  varied and logical set of metrics has at least started. Contreras, now CEO of a small private TV and newspaper company, Calkins Media, told me in a phone interview that the logic remains unchanged: “For local papers, relying on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) economy is not going to grow digital ad revenue as we need to.”

One alternative, Contreras added, is to “find niches and sell sponsorships” on roughly the same principle as “soap operas did in the 1950s,” aimed at stay-at-home housewives. Targeting is more important than a raw audience count for a sports site or a food site, and smartphone apps or specialized sites lend themselves to the “brought to you by…” format.

A number of the articles on this fall’s metrics developments stumbled upon the same summary phrase — “a step in the right direction.” That seems about right. The current system is unlikely to be turned on its head anytime soon.  But content providers who think they can offer sustained attention are beginning to get some tools to make the case to advertisers that they offer a superior value. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Monday, Oct. 13, 2014

As newspaper renewal scam widens, NYT offers affected subscribers a refund

Sunday subscribers to the New York Times found something unusual tucked among the sections October 12 — a legalistic form offering a refund if they had paid an inflated renewal price to an unauthorized third-party.

That marked two bits of news in the developing story of a scam that has now been noted by dozens of newspapers over the last month. It was the first indication that the New York Times was among the targets. And it appears to be the first time a publication has offered refunds rather than just a warning.

Caroline Little, president of the Newspaper Association of America, said that the organization is investigating but “hasn’t gotten to the point yet” of recommending a remedy.

This kind of solicitation, long a staple in magazine subscription sales, comes in the form of an apparent billing notice from Customer Billing Service or various other trade names. It states the payment can be used either for a renewal or a new subscription. And in the case of the Times and other newspapers, the requested amount has been well above the highest rate the company itself charges.

The Times solicitations date back at least to 2011, spokeswoman Linda Zebian said, but the company found out about the practice only after a lawsuit by a subscriber this summer. “We realized we could have done more,” she said. “It’s concerning and it’s dishonest.” Hence the decision to offer reimbursement in exchange for a waiver of any additional claims.

Zebian said that the company’s best guess is that about 1,000 subscribers may be affected. If that many were to file a claim for a refund averaging $400, the Times would be out $400,000 — not a material hit financially.

The Times action is sure to be noted through the rest of the industry, but others may or may not follow the industry leader’s example.

Implications could be even bigger for the magazine industry, which relies heavily on third parties for subscription sales and has been accepting orders from the rogue solicitors for more than a decade. (I left calls but was unable to get an immediate response from the MPA magazine trade group or Time Inc.)

So how can an unauthorized service place thousands of subscriptions without objection? People who accept the offer do get their subscriptions fulfilled. Magazines and newspapers, in turn, both accept group orders from a variety of sources.

The Times’ “letter to subscribers” Sunday from chief consumer officer Yasmin Namini, explains the process this way:

When The Times has received payments on your behalf from these companies, these payments have been applied to your subscription account and used to pay for your subscription. However these companies also took part of the amount you sent and kept it for themselves. The Times will pay subscribers who qualify….an amount equal to the amount that the solicitation companies kept for themselves. For example, if a qualified subscriber sent the solicitation company $999.95, and the company sent The Times $609.60, the subscriber would be entitled to a payment of $390.35 under the restitution program.

The company, based in Oregon, has operated under more than 40 different names, according to a thorough report in The Arizona Republic. Not only has it wiggled away from consumer complaints, it has aggressively claimed a legal right to sell and place subscriptions, whether authorized by publishers or not.

As an avid magazine reader, I have received a steady stream of these renewal notices and have bitten more than once. I realized something was amiss when I started receiving two copies a week of Time and later Entertainment Weekly — one in my name and one in my wife’s.

I don’t recall the magazine solicitations to be at inflated rates — but given the labyrinth of varying offers for different terms, it is hard to tell.

The dimensions of the scam and its damage to the print industry are hard to gauge yet. My guess is that it won’t prove as big as the newspaper circulation scandal of a decade ago when four big publishers inflated their paid circulation by hundreds of thousands of copies — and charged advertisers accordingly.

Still, as a matter of customer relations, it can hardly be a plus that so many publications were duped for so long — or simply accepted the money, no questions asked. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Monday, Aug. 11, 2014

Newspaper vendor

Death of newspapers announced prematurely (yet again)

I woke up thinking today was much like any other on the news-about-news beat, that is until I learned from David Carr and the New York Times that “Print is Down, and Now Out.”

Really? Let me beg to differ.

For starters, Carr is, as the country song goes, looking for love in all the wrong places if he wants validation from Wall Street. The financial prospects of newspaper organizations are not comparable right now to those of local broadcast or growing digital classified brands.

So investors are performing their role and corporate execs responding logically with the wave of spinoffs completed last week with Gannett’s announcement it will split its community newspaper division and USA Today into a new company early next year. We shouldn’t look to the money guys for a ringing vote of confidence in the public service mission and democratic role of print journalism.

Carr equates the spinoff to being “kicked to the curb.” Kindred spirits like Michael Wolff are also pretty sure life as an independent company is a way station to print’s doom — and sooner rather than later.

Sure, the cushion of fat television profits will be missed.  Maybe that does make the uncertain future of newspaper organizations that much scarier.

Related: Splitsville: Why newspapers and TV are going their separate ways corporately

I am waiting to be fully persuaded that greater management focus and capital allocation will get the industry to turn the corner. But limited experience to date provides some encouragement.

A.H Belo was split from its broadcast division (since sold to Gannett) in February 2008. It (like the New York Times Company) unloaded other assets to concentrate on its core property, the Dallas Morning News, selling papers in Riverside, California, and Providence, Rhode Island.

Last quarter A.H. Belo achieved a landmark of sorts. It was able to offset continuing print ad revenue losses with revenue growth in its digital marketing and contract printing activity.  That is a key first step in any industry turnaround, and credit “orphan” A.H. Belo for being one of the first to get there.

By the way, if Wall Street seems not to be giving the industry much love, it has at least been rewarding the changes at A.H. Belo (and Gannett too) with a lot of likes.  The company’s shares are up 40 percent in the last six months to $11.23, have more than doubled in value over the last two years and show even more dramatic appreciation from a 2009 low of $0.71 a share.

CEO and Dallas Morning News publisher Jim Moroney does not profess to be a miracle worker.  The company has bumbled paywalls, for instance, while well outperforming the pack in the lucrative digital marketing services business. Launched debt-free, it has used the proceeds from the asset sales to put substantial bets on a variety of experiments. The results amount to steady progress.

“We’re not declaring victory,” Moroney told me in a phone interview, “but six years later we are doing just fine, thank you, financially and otherwise.”

A spinoff, he said, “compels the company to be focused on the very different path forward newspapers need to pursue.  Otherwise it can be tempting not to take the hard steps you need to take … When you stand alone you have nothing to camouflage (bad results like those of 2008 and 2009) and make things look better.”

While I don’t think the sky above the newspaper business is falling, Carr’s column raises a bunch of valid and serious concerns. A.H. Belo excepted, the industry has generally not reached a turning point where growing circulation revenues and other ventures cover for print ad losses. The second quarter was especially bad, though it is not clear whether the rest of 2014 will be the same or a little better.

I very much share Carr’s worry that the volume and quality of news — in print or on newspaper websites — could fall at a number of properties to a near vanishing point after more rounds of cuts.

Related: If Gannett is a bellwether, 2014 will be another tough year for newspaper advertising

My mood, like his, was not improved by the announced changes last week at Gannett’s Tennessean in Nashville, a shakeup veiled in a thick shroud of buzzwords and corporate speak.

On the other hand, Executive Editor Stefanie Murray, who is in her early 30s, comes with a mix of print and digital experience. I wondered almost a year ago whether an industry serious about transformation needs to walk the walk by giving top editor jobs to those with a strong digital background. Gannett and Advance have started to do so.

Murray (who, coincidentally, wrote the obit for the print Ann Arbor News as a reporter) deserves a little window to carry out her reorganization. For that matter, I can’t see the case for calling the Gannett, Tribune and Scripps spinoffs failed experiments before they have really started. Read more

Tools:
1 Comment

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New York Times Sales

NYT’s new digital apps and subscriptions are off to a bumpy start

On the surface, the New York Times Co. had a very positive headline number as part of its second quarter earnings report today — a 32,000 digital circulation increase, driven by three newly introduced digital services.

But in a subsequent conference call with analysts, executives were quick to concede that the launch of NYT Now, NYT Opinion and Times Premier has been anything but smooth.

Several months in, the Times is still trying to get offers, terms and audience targeting right, especially with the NYT Now app aimed at smartphone users, said Denise Warren, who directs digital products for the company. As result, the company fell short of its initial goals for new subscribers and revenues. NYT Opinion is also a smartphone app with a separate subscription tier.

Times Premier offers extra helpings of content, seemingly aimed at upselling to existing subscribers. It includes several features — including Times Insider reports on stories behind the journalism — that have been marketing separately. And a cooking app is coming soon.

CEO Mark Thompson acknowledged these multiple options have “left some customers confused.” NYT Now is meant to reach younger non-subscribers and has, Thompson said, but there also has been some cannibalization of more expensive full digital and print subscriptions.

RELATED: Are you paying too much for the NYT?

Near the end of the call, Thompson declined to directly answer an analyst’s question, “what’s a good time period to (expect you) to get the kinks out?” But he did offer a contrast to the Times’s highly successful rollout of the its digital paywall and subscription plan in spring 2011.

There the object was to convert existing customers who had been reading the Times online free to paying status, he said. Expanding to new offerings and targeting new customers is much tougher, he continued. “We’re on our own, doing things no one else in our industry has tried.”

The rollout difficulties were not the only bad news for the quarter, Thompson and Warren said.

  • Print circulation was off markedly, down 5.5 percent daily and 3.7 percent Sunday compared to the same period a year ago.
  • Digital ad revenues grew but not nearly enough to offset a nearly 7 percent decline in print advertising.  Print ads, which had performed strongly for the Times in the first quarter, also look soft for the balance of the year.
  • Core digital circulation growth slowed, falling below target.
  • The simultaneous introduction of the new products also caused expenses to rise, though the company expects to keep them flat in the third and fourth quarters.

The sum of these problems was a worse-than expected 21 percent dip in profits compared to the second period of 2013. As a result, New York Times Co. stock was down more than 8 percent when the markets closed at 4.

None of this, Thompson said in the earnings press release, causes the Times to question that “long-term digital revenue growth” is essential to the company’s future and that new products along with international expansion is the way to get there.

But that path does involve trading the higher ad and circulation revenues of print for less lucrative digital equivalents. Difficult quarters like this one probably come with the territory. Read more

Tools:
2 Comments
newspapersfeatured

Newspaper industry lost another 1,300 full-time editorial professionals in 2013

The American Society of News Editors annual newsroom census, released today, found a net loss of another 1,300 full-time professionals last year.

That was better than the 2,600 net job loss in 2012 but brings total newsroom employment at newspaper organizations to roughly 36,700, a decline of 3.2 percent from the 38,000 counted in last year’s census.

Newsroom employment has fallen 33 percent from a pre-recession peak of 55,000 in 2006 and is down 35 percent from its all-time high of 56,900 in 1989.

Asked for reaction to the 2013 census total, ASNE president David Boardman, dean of the Temple University School of Media and Communications,  told me by phone, “Well, here we go again….Obviously we should all continue to be concerned about the losses.”

The census has been conducted since 1978 to measure progress in newsroom diversity.  On that front, the news was better, with a small gain of 200 minority employees last year. (See separate story by my colleague Andrew Beaujon).

The simple explanation for the decline is that newspaper revenues were down again in 2013 with continued sharp losses in print advertising only partly offset by gains in digital advertising and circulation revenues.

The overall revenue figure, as measured by the Newspaper Association of America, was down 2.6 percent in 2013, close to an even match with the percentage of news job cuts for the year. It appears 2014 will be another year of revenue declines, so more newsroom attrition is virtually certain.

The losses varied widely by the circulation size of newspapers.  The largest papers, with circulation of more than 500,000, recorded a gain of 5.85 percent year to-year. The smallest papers, under 10,000 circulation, were up 2.78 percent.

Losses were heavily concentrated at metros and other papers in the 100,000-500,000 circulation range where year-to-year declines were roughly 16 percent.

(These figures are broadly accurate in tracking where change is occurring but less exact than those for the census as a whole because of shifts in how circulation is now being measured and movement of some papers from one band to another).

This year 965 of 1373 daily newspapers surveyed completed the census.   Projections are used for the non-participants to arrive at a total industry estimate.

ASNE also makes some changes year to year in how it does the count.  For instance the 2013 census, for the first time, included results from 17 corporate news production hubs, which have absorbed desk work that used to be done at individual newspapers.

For a third year, the census was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and done by the Donald W. Reynolds Institute at the University of Missouri.  The Reynolds unit that did the work is being dissolved, so ASNE will need to find a new partner to do the surveys and statistical analysis.

It is important to ask each year how many lost positions may be made up by growth in the digital news sector, “and the tricky part is to try to get a handle on those numbers,” Boardman said.

A Pew Research Center study in March estimated a total of 5,000 full-time journalists working for such sites.

But ASNE’s own effort to enlist digital sites as participants in the survey and as members has been only a limited success to date.  Organizations with a traditional news and investigative bent have joined, and editors at ProPublica and Texas Tribune are on ASNE’s board. But most of the largest digital news ventures like Huffington Post and Yahoo have not joined.

Boardman said that he is encouraged that the digital sector has participated in ASNE events like a recent “hackathon” in Austin or the upcoming joint convention with the Associated Press Managing Editors in Chicago this September.

My own take is that the continuing editorial job losses steadily erode the coverage of communities newspapers once provided.  Boardman made the point that at the Seattle Times, where he was executive editor until last year, and at many other papers, great effort has been made to conserve front-line reporting and editing jobs with copy editing and layout jobs taking a bigger proportion of the hits.

And editors will concede privately that cost control pressures made them reorganize functions that could be done more efficiently and move out some less productive employees whose jobs were secure in flush times.

It is still an open question, however, whether the mix of jobs at digital-only sites makes up for what has been lost as newspapers (and magazines as well) get smaller.

Traditionalists will contend that trading an experienced government accountability reporter for, say, a listicle producer, is a net loss to the news media’s civic function.  Digital enthusiasts might counter that the infusion of programmers and other technologists into the news industry is doing more to expand volume of coverage and its reach than the duplicative news production teams at individual newspapers ever did.

I’ll agree with Boardman that the next few years ought to be a time for better estimates of the total number of news professionals at work, how many are “feet on the street” and how the focus of the content they produce is changing.

  Read more

Tools:
4 Comments

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Rupert Murdoch

News Corp. rumored to be putting together a new bid for Tribune newspapers

Rumor has it that News Corp — with a $2.5 billion cash kitty for acquisitions — may be mounting a new bid for the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the six other Tribune newspapers.

Rupert Murdoch and his company were first reported interested in the acquisition (in a story in the L.A. Times and elsewhere) when the papers were being shopped in late 2012 and early 2013.

No deal was struck, and last July Tribune announced that it would instead spin off the papers into a new publicly-traded company, Tribune Publishing. Tribune Publishing has recently hired a CEO and other staff, and the split is now scheduled to happen as soon as Aug. 4, but at least within the next several months.

I would not typically report a publishing rumor. This one could prove dead wrong. But a confidential tip that started this inquiry was more substantive than gossip on the street. Various circumstances would make such a deal logical for both buyer and seller.

Robert Willens, a New York-based corporate tax analyst who has previously commented on the spinoff plans, said in a phone interviews that a sale to News Corp would be plausible — but much more likely after the spinoff had been completed. In other words over the next year or two rather than in the next weeks or months.

Spokespersons for both Tribune and News Corp. declined to comment, citing corporate policies not to respond to sale rumors and speculation.  Gary Weitman of Tribune said the company is committed to completing the spinoff (effectively ruling out a sale before).

So why is there reason to think such a deal might happen, later if not sooner?

  • News Corp. is itself a spinoff publishing company, separated from its parent, now renamed 21st Century Fox, in June 2013.  It owns Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal as well Murdoch papers in Great Britain and Australia and the book publisher HarperCollins.
  • The new News Corp. came with a generous cash allocation of roughly $3 billion.  A company that size with that much free cash in hand is under investor pressure to make strategic acquisitions. News Corp. management has indicated it will. So far purchases include social media agency Storyful (in December 2013) and romance novel publisher Harlequin (announced in May), reducing available cash to about $2.5 billion.
  • Questioned by Capital New York in a brief interview at a social event in April, Murdoch said:

    News Corp. is in the first, sort of, transformational year….There’ll be some interesting deals.

    Potential acquisition targets, he added, would likely include both “print and web.”

  • Murdoch is a longtime reader of the Los Angeles Times and, according to a New York Times report, covets owing it.  A purchase, along with the Chicago Tribune, would give News Corp, leading print assets in the three biggest metro markets in the U.S.While the other six papers — The Baltimore Sun, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel, The Hartford Courant, The (Allentown, Pennsylvania) Morning Call and the (Newport News, Virginia) Daily Press — would hold less interest, News Corp. could operate them for a time then sell, as Murdoch did with a group of mid-sized dailies that came with the Dow Jones deal.
  • Recall that Murdoch is willing to pay top dollar for what he wants most.  In his successful 2007 bid for the Journal, he offered the Bancroft family, which controlled the majority of voting shares in Dow Jones, a price roughly 65 percent higher than the stock’s trading value.
  • Tribune Publishing has been valued at $623 million in a 2012 bankruptcy filing.  So it is not too big financially for News Corp. to swallow.
  • Unlike News Corp.with all its cash, Tribune Publishing is being spun off on less than generous terms.  The papers operate profitably but will be assuming $350 million in debt and required to pay rent for its offices to Tribune Company.  And the parent is keeping all the proceeds of the sale of a profitable digital ad site with a second up for sale.

Congressman Henry Waxman, who represents a Los Angeles district, has claimed that the deal terms are setting the newspapers for failure. A well-capitalized buyer could be an attractive alternative.

Tribune’s own announcement and commentary on the deal have highlighted that the publishing assets can be transferred to the new company tax-free.  By contrast, direct sales of all or some of the papers out of the existing Tribune Company would come with a tax liability of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Besides the financial implications, tax consequences are a particularly sensitive consideration at Tribune, which is still sorting out a $200-million plus claim by the IRS related to its sale of Newsday in 2008.

If News Corp were to mount a bid after the spinoff, how soon could that happen? My sense is that a public company cannot be flipped like a real estate asset. Tax analyst Willens told me there is no statutory requirement to wait for a given period, but “if a plan had been agreed to or substantially negotiated” before completion of the spinoff, he said, “that could render it taxable.”

In the earlier attempt to acquire some or all of the Tribune papers, Murdoch faced a deal-killing regulatory barrier.  Under Federal Communications Commission rules, his company could not acquire a paper in Los Angeles or other markets where his Fox News owned local stations.

While Murdoch and other publishers have long tried to get a waiver or repeal of the rule, he told a reporter at the 2013 Golden Globes awards, “it won’t get through with the Democratic administration in place.”

But that was before News Corp’s own corporate split.  Now with newspaper holdings in the publishing spinoff and the local television stations part of 21st Century Fox, it could be argued that the joint ownership rule no longer applies (though Murdoch remains as executive chairman of News Corp. and chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox).

Another open question is whether News Corp., given industry reverses, would make a big investment now in owning more American newspapers.  Asked in a recent conference call with analysts what kind of acquisitions the company was seeking, CEO Robert Thomson replied:

I think it’s fair to say that the two guiding trends of our strategy generally are globalization and digitization. You’ve seen that with the first acquisition, Storyful, which has been very well received, both from an editorial perspective, but not just for our newspapers, from our digital sides particularly, but also from a commercial perspective because Storyful will be able to create content communities around products and companies. And I think you’ll see some of that in coming months. So (as) we said during the Investor Day, globalization and digitization, and that’s very much what the team is doing.

Tribune Publishing does not seem a fit with those goals, and perhaps Murdoch has less latitude to push his personal enthusiasm for print newspapers than he did when News Corp. made its premium bid for Dow Jones seven years ago.

Still the record shows the 83-year-old Murdoch to be persistent in stalking the trophy properties he wants, sometimes over decades. If the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune are still on his list, I wouldn’t bet against his mounting another bid. Read more

Tools:
8 Comments

Thursday, July 03, 2014

usatoday-small

Case Study: Gannett’s monumental task — A content management system for all

(This case study, the fifth in an occasional series, was underwritten by a grant from the Stibo-Foundation.) Note: CCI Europe is a subsidiary of Stibo, whose foundation made a grant for this series. The funder had no editorial input on the study.

In 2011, Gannett Co. owned more than a hundred newspapers and television stations – each with its own website. To publish its online material, the company was supporting about a half dozen content management systems.

Journalists in most of the company’s broadcast newsrooms wrote and published their digital stories through a homegrown CMS called Newsmaker, while almost all of Gannett’s newspaper websites were powered with Saxotech. But the Arizona Republic had its own system known as Enigma, and the Des Moines Register posted some of its content through WordPress.

Meanwhile, Gannett’s flagship publication, USA Today, maintained its site with a proprietary system it simply called “CMS.”

The assortment of software left Gannett no easy way to share web content among its properties, and some systems lacked basic functions such as the ability to embed hyperlinks or multimedia into articles.

“None of these digital systems was far enough along or modern enough,” said Mitch Gelman, Gannett Digital Vice President/Product.“ Gannett was so far behind the CNN’s and the MSNBC’s of the world.”

So Gannett embarked upon a massive digital overhaul. It set out to design and build a content management system that would replace the existing systems and serve every Gannett newsroom – from USA Today to KHOU-TV in Houston to the Fort Collins Coloradoan – allowing them to post and share material more easily.

At the same time it was revamping its back-end content system, Gannett chose to update  the user interface for its more than 120 local and national news websites, bringing them all onto one company-wide design that would more prominently feature photos and multimedia and allow editors to customize the user experience for computers, tablets, and phones.

“What we’re doing here at Gannett is relatively unprecedented,” Gelman said in a May 2014 interview at Gannett’s northern Virginia headquarters. “The objective was to publish an interface that had never been done before.”

Plunging into one of the largest CMS transitions ever attempted by a media organization, Gannett hoped to succeed where other media companies have stumbled. Time Inc. and the BBC are among the media organizations that suffered through CMS transitions that didn’t meet their goals, ran over budget, or failed entirely.

“Everyone’s CMS gives them pain,” said digital media consultant Elizabeth Osder, who’s worked with AOL, The Daily Beast, and other media clients.

In the web’s early days, some media companies struggled with simplistic content management systems that forced them to retype or cut-and-paste every newspaper story or broadcast script.

New systems typically eliminate those annoyances. But they can introduce fresh problems as news organizations expect them to meet modern challenges, such as streaming video and audio, serving up fancier ads, and displaying specialized content on phones and tablets.

“There is no shortage of horror stories,” Osder said in a phone interview.

In the three years since Gannett began its transition, it has had its share of delays and hiccups. But it has avoided the catastrophic problems that doomed some of its competitors’ transitions. As it nears the end of the process of converting its properties to its new content management system, the company is generally pleased with the results.

“We didn’t get all the things we wanted,” said USA Today Executive Editor of Content Susan Weiss. “But what we did get was a much easier, faster, simpler publishing system.”

BACKGROUND

Gannett is a publicly-traded $6.5 billion company that claims its media properties reach more than 110 million people every month. Perhaps best known as the publisher of USA Today, the nation’s second largest newspaper by circulation, the company also has grown into a major force in local television. After several acquisitions, it now owns or operates 42 TV stations. Gannett owns more NBC and CBS affiliates than any company other than the networks themselves and ranks fourth among ABC owners.

It reduced its newspaper holdings over the past decade, but continues to operate 81 daily papers and 443 non-dailies in 30 states, including the Arizona Republic, Detroit Free Press, and Indianapolis Star.

Gannett says its digital division reaches more than 65 million unique visitors every month through USAToday.com, the websites of its local newspapers and TV stations, and a variety of other products, such as CareerBuilder.com, Shoplocal.com, and the coupon site Dealchicken.com. Gannett content also feeds a handful of unconventional news platforms, such as large touch screens in hotel lobbies and a digital portal called “The Point,” which is available to travelers who access the in-house wifi networks at Hilton hotels.

Gannett’s acquisitions left it with a conglomeration of media properties that employed various digital strategies and relied on different tools. Some of Gannett’s properties were saddled with older content management systems that required a good bit of manual coding or other workarounds to post content.

In addition, Gannett executives feared that many of their properties had by 2011 fallen off the cutting edge of technology and design. USA Today – whose flashy colors and bold graphics transformed the look of print newspapers a generation ago – maintained a website that was adequate but hardly groundbreaking. The design of USAToday.com hadn’t changed since 2008, and a 2011 Poynter analysis of comScore data concluded it was the tenth most visited news website in the U.S., well behind such sites as CNN, the New York Times, and Huffington Post.

By 2011, Gannett had experienced several years of disappointing financial results. 2011 was its fifth consecutive year of revenue losses, as newspaper advertising fell drastically. In addition, digital revenue, which analysts consider a key driver of media companies’ growth, increased slower than hoped – only about five percent in 2011. By the end of the year, Gannett’s stock was down 85 percent from its 2004 high.

CHALLENGE

As it embarked on redesigning both the user experience and the back-end of its newspaper and TV station websites, Gannett set ambitious goals that Gelman said were intended to “leapfrog” the competition:

  • On the user side, Gannett envisioned an interface that was more touch-friendly and “swipe able,” even for readers who were accessing the site on desktop computers. Unlike most desktop sites, which required users to click around menu bars and do a lot of scrolling, Gannett wanted a more horizontal design that emphasized photos, graphics, and headlines. “The objective was to publish an interface that had never been done before,” Gelman said. “What we wanted to achieve out of this was a more tablet-like experience.”
  • Gannett sought to customize the experience for users who actually did view its sites on tablets and phones. It wanted an easy way for editors to serve up device-specific content. For instance, a user of a TV station’s iPhone app might see different information from somebody browsing the station’s website on a desktop computer.
  • On the back-end, the company desired a content management system that would allow its publications and broadcast stations to better share stories. For years, Gannett had attempted to leverage the combined resources of its local and national newsrooms, but found that the lack of a unified platform hampered those efforts. “There were many different attempts to bring Gannett content together, and they did not meet expectations,” Gelman said. “That connective tissue that would bring everything together had to be established.”
  • The system would have to work for a variety of news organizations, from the large newsroom at USA Today to small, lightly-staffed newspapers and stations in places such as Staunton, Virginia and St. George, Utah. Furthermore, Gelman wanted it to be remotely accessible to field reporters – an attribute that was lacking in some of the company’s earlier content management systems. “You had to be able to open up a computer on a hood of a police car outside a hostage situation and be able to file and update your coverage in real time,” he said.
  • To drive revenue, Gannett wanted its redesigned websites to accommodate “high impact advertising”– larger, more colorful ads that would be integrated into the site design and harder for users to ignore. In addition, the company wanted its new back-end to support better “semantic tagging,” so that it would more accurately match advertising with the content on each page.
  • Finally, the company set an ambitious timetable to develop and roll out the new systems. The target date for the first conversion at USA Today was September 15, 2012, which was the publication’s thirtieth anniversary and also the date the newspaper planned to unveil a new design for its print editions. That gave Gannett about a year to develop, test, and implement both the back-end content management system and the new USA Today website.

OPTIONS AND DECISIONS

During a two-day meeting in August 2011, Gannett began the process of remaking its digital personality. Early on, it made several key decisions.

First, it decided to start fresh by developing a totally new system for its back-end content management. It determined that none of its current content management systems – nor any existing off-the-shelf product – would do the job.

“Almost invariably, you’ll find in the industry when these projects get going, you’re forced to start with something that was in existence before,” said Steve Kurtz, Gannett’s Vice President for Product Development.

“We were afforded the opportunity to start from scratch,” Kurtz said in an interview. “And that really allowed us the opportunity to do it right.”

Second, to narrow the scope of the project, the company limited the technological revamp to only the digital side of its operations – the functions that directly involve feeding content to its websites and digital apps. There was no change in the software Gannett uses to publish the print editions of its newspapers, a program from CCI called Newsgate. Likewise, Gannett television stations would continue to produce their newscasts and feed their Teleprompters using AP’s ENPS software.

That decision had its pros and cons. On the negative side, it meant that every Gannett newsroom would simultaneously be using two software products to manage content – Newsgate or ENPS to produce their newspapers or TV newscasts, and the new CMS for online publishing. That would create an extra burden on editors and producers to assure that stories were properly loaded and updated in each system. But the decision also helped Gannett avoid a challenge that’s vexed other news organizations – trying to build an all-in-one content system that’s expected to do too much.

After the August 2011 meeting, a team of developers, journalists, and executives went to work building the new Gannett CMS, which they named “Presto.” Meanwhile, Gannett worked with the digital design firm Fi to overhaul the interface readers would see when they visited a Gannett newspaper or TV station web site. While the CMS transition and the website redesign were separate projects, they were inextricably linked because Presto would be the only CMS with the necessary functions to provide content to the new websites.

“It was an intense effort for about six months,” Kurtz said.

To help build newsroom support for the new system and assure it would meet journalists’ needs, a handful of editorial personnel were temporarily reassigned to work with the Presto team and provide feedback on the system as it was being developed. Reporters, editors, photographers, and others were embedded with the development team for stints ranging from two weeks to several months.

“I just really started banging on the tool and talking out the process with them,” said USA Today Mobile Editor Emily Brown. “Everybody’s workflow is just a little bit different, and when we were able to bang on the tool in our own special way, we were able to find things that needed to be tweaked.”

For instance, Brown was concerned that early builds of Presto wouldn’t handle breaking news well. The system’s design was oriented toward posting complete stories in which all the text and photos were ready to publish. Brown said the embedded journalists helped the designers better equip Presto for fast-moving news situations, when stories often are written and published one sentence or one photo at a time.

Gelman wouldn’t put a cost figure on the transition, but wrote in an email that Presto represented “a healthy investment” in Gannett’s digital future. He said the price was “less than most companies end up spending” on their content management systems, and he said part of the cost was offset because Gannett no longer will pay to use and upgrade its existing systems.

IMPLEMENTATION AND RESULTS

As planned, USA Today began publishing content with Presto September 15, 2012. At the same time, the public was invited to beta the redesigned USA Today website. For two weeks, the newspaper operated both its old and new CMS and both its old and new website. The old systems were turned off September 29, 2012, and USA Today transitioned entirely to Presto and the new site design.

“It was really hectic,” Brown said in an interview. “Work flow was changing. The tool was changing. The website was changing,”

USA Today switched to the new systems without any catastrophic problems, though the transition wasn’t painless. Brown describes a “war room” environment, as journalists struggled to report the news – less than eight weeks before the 2012 election – while also becoming familiar with Presto and its quirks. Read more

Tools:
20 Comments

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bowe Bergdahl

How non-stop Bowe Bergdahl coverage hit its expiration date at CNN

FILE – This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl. His complicated story does not seem to have caught the attention of CNN like the missing Malaysian airliner story. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

Hard on the heels of its critically slammed, but ratings friendly, wall-to-wall coverage of missing Malaysian Flight 370, CNN appeared last week to have found another big story to play big around the clock: the Bowe Bergdahl rescue.

CNN’s in-house media critic/reporter, Brian Stelter, opened his Reliable Sources show Sunday with a Bergdahl segment, saying that in the news-about-news arena “it is (the) one obvious lead story.”

But a funny thing happened Monday and Tuesday. The political storm over Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five Taliban detainees and questions over whether he deserted his unit suddenly faded to a middle-of-the-hour topic.

The Bergdahl affair did rally Wednesday with live coverage of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s two-hour appearance before a congressional committee.However, it appears, going forward, that CNN’s coverage will be episodic rather than continuous.

Stelter and a CNN spokesperson declined to discuss how the decision to drop focus on Bergdahl down a notch was made or why its run was cut short after 10 days while the missing plane saga dragged on for six weeks.  But the two provide a tidy update on the evolution of CNN’s big story obsession as the three-way rating competition with Fox and MSNBC has intensified.

USA Today media columnist Rem Reider wrote Monday that the Bergdahl story was “not another fleeting flap du jour” and deserved continued intense coverage.  He observed that there were at least five intriguing story lines — legal, strategic and political — each with important open questions. (The Washington Post weighed in Wednesday with a scoop reporting on Bergdahl’s journal and discharge from the Coast Guard for psychiatric reasons).

On closer inspection, though, Bergdahl was not nearly the match to CNN’s competitive strengths the missing plane had been.

My TV-savvy colleague Al Tompkins told me the missing plane search had a flavor of  mystery in which a now-we-find-out resolution seemed to be coming (though it has yet to arrive and may never).  In that way, Tompkins said, it resembled the appeal of live coverage of big trials which are the staple on CNN’s sister HLN network.

The missing plane story also had no political element, unless you happen to care about the competency of the Malaysian government.  So with more reporting resources and a strong international presence, CNN outflanked its right-left competitors at Fox and MSNBC.

The Bergdahl rescue, by contrast, quickly turned to an intensely partisan issue with Fox advancing an assortment of Republican accusations and MSNBC falling into the posture of defending the Obama administration.

Plus it grew complicated, while the main line of the missing plane story stayed simple.  That’s my best guess, anyhow, of why the story faltered on CNN early this week.

CNN is coy about whether there is a centralized decision-making process that elevates a given story to the super-star massive treatment or determines when wall-to-wall coverage has run its course. Perhaps all that is regarded as a trade secret.

Stelter did provide some hints in one of Reliable Sources earlier segments on whether the missing plane coverage was the wretched excess CNN critics claimed.  During his March 30 show, he said:

CNN, as you know at home, is still concentrating very heavily on this story for both editorial reasons as well as business reasons. Every day I get a spreadsheet with the ratings from the day before. It’s circulated widely at CNN.

And every day, I wonder is there going to be a big drop-off in the ratings because, of course, that would mean a decline in the audience’s interest in this mystery. Well, so far the interest is still very high…

Since the plane disappeared, CNN’s demo ratings have just about doubled. Now, television executives should not be blinded by ratings. But they cannot be blind to them either. That’s the reality of the news business.

The stakes are doubly high in the current cable climate where ratings drive not just advertising revenues but the carriage rates the networks can negotiate with cable providers.

CNN’s editorial and business obsession with big story, 24-7 blowouts dates to its earliest days.  The network’s breakthrough to prominence in the early 1990s was attributed to its coverage of the first Gulf War.  But even earlier it carried the only live network coverage of the Challenger’s 1986 blowup on launch and a continuous broadcast of Baby Jessica’s 1987 rescue after she fell into a well in Midland, Texas..

Ken Auletta wrote in a 1993 New Yorker article about the ratings/big news correlation for CNN.  And during Tom Johnson’s decade-plus run as CEO, CNN offices prominently displayed a longitudinal chart showing ratings spikes and the events that drove them.

Final ratings for Bergdahl week are not in, though Fox may have had a higher volume of coverage (and ratings bump) than CNN.  During the prime of the missing plane story, Fox gained a little additional audience and CNN took some share from MSNBC.  But the driver of its 94 percent audience increase in the first three weeks of the story was viewers shifting to CNN from entertainment options.

Which is to say that jumping hard on the right big story, while complicated by competitive factors with the two partisan cable news channels, remains a compelling business strategy for CNN.  Watch for the network to continue to ride such coverage hard so long as an increased audience rides along. Read more

Tools:
1 Comment

Monday, June 09, 2014

Pierre Moscovici

Digital disruption is now in full bloom at European, Australian newspapers

Traveling periodically to Europe and Latin America in the 2000s to speak at news business events, I got a consistent impression: international newspapers were better off than ours, but executives could see U.S.-style decline on the horizon within a few years.

Statistics released yesterday by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) suggest that digital disruption is now in full bloom in Europe and Australia. Latin American newspapers are still showing moderate circulation and advertising growth. The picture is mixed in Asia and Africa.

The summary picture now matches the United States fairly exactly:  some growth in combined digital and print audience, digital ad revenues not keeping pace and both print circulation and print advertising declining sharply.

And Larry Kilman, secretary general of the association, sees a familiar implication.  “Unless we crack the revenue issue,” he wrote in a release summarizing the findings,  “and provide sufficient funds so that newspapers can fulfill their societal role, democracy will inevitably be weakened.”

Former French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici reads a newspaper during the EU Finance Ministers meeting, at the European Council building in Brussels in 2013. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

The report’s release coincides with the association’s annual World Congress conference, being held in Turin today through Wednesday.

The WAN-IFRA statistics show print circulation declining 5.29 percent in 2013, comparing with losses of 5.20 percent in Europe and 9.94 percent in Australia and Oceania during 2013.

A five-year comparison showed those regions faring even worse: while print circulation was down 10.25 percent in North America, it declined 23.02 percent in Europe and 19.59 percent in Australia and Oceania.

Print advertising losses for the year were comparable in North America (-8.7 percent) and Europe (-8.2 percent).  Australia and Oceania are not broken out separately for this measure.

As in the United States, paid digital circulation was up sharply worldwide, 60 percent for the year, and digital advertising continued to grow by 11 percent in 2013.

But the report adds important qualifiers. Newspaper organizations get only a modest share of overall digital advertising growth where Google and other big non-news companies dominate. And despite the digital revenue gains, globally 93 percent of newspaper revenues still come from print.

The report also takes a sideways swipe at the industry’s reliance on unique visits and page views as indicators or digital health.  More important, it says, is building the level of engagement:

While 46 per cent of the digital population visits newspaper websites, newspapers are a small part of total internet consumption, representing only 6 per cent of total visits, 0.8 per cent of pages viewed and 1.1 per cent of total time spent on digital platforms.

As in the United States, comparatively few international newspaper organizations have gone out of business (FT Deutschland is an exception).  But waves of sharp newsroom staff reductions and other expense cuts are common in both Europe and Australia.

European governments have been much more aggressive than ours in attempting to regulate Google or force subsidies to news organizations suffering financially.  France persuaded Google to donate $80 million, mostly in-kind services, to news organizations there in exchange for freedom to link to content.

The WAN-IFRA program reflects a roster of potential transformation strategies:  faster innovation, attracting capital, data as an asset both for news and business, video and reports tailored to mobile devices.

But those are all prospects for a stronger growth story rather than widely achieved successes with easily replicable models. Kilman’s commentary concludes:

If newspaper companies cannot produce sufficient revenues from digital, if they cannot produce exciting, engaging offerings for both readers and advertisers, they are destined to offer mediocre products with nothing to differentiate them from the mass of faux news.

Read more
Tools:
1 Comment

Monday, Apr. 21, 2014

newspapers_depositphotos

Expansionary Halifax Media looks beyond its Southeast base for next buy

The Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette, long up for sale, reported Thursday that an executive team from Halifax Media Group had been in the building for several days of talks with management — a signal that the company is a likely buyer.

Halifax who? The Florida-based company, barely four years old, now has 35 dailies. With a billionaire backer, Warren Stephens of Arkansas, Halifax is pushing to the front of the line as mid-sized and smaller papers come up for sale. It bought the 16-paper New York Times Regional group for $143 million in December 2011 and 19 Florida and North Carolina dailies and weeklies from Freedom Communications six months later.

Halifax is little-known by design. Except for the occasional letter to readers, CEO Michael Redding typically does not do interviews (and I got no response to an email request that he discuss the company’s growth). But Halifax is exemplary of an acquisition boom in recent years. While billionaire hometown buyers like The Boston Globe’s John Henry or the Star Tribune’s Glen Turner get the ink, the consolidators are scooping up smaller papers by the dozen.

A landmark event for the sector occurred last September. GateHouse Media simultaneously went through a prearranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy, purchased the Dow Jones local media group (formerly the Ottaway chain) and re-emerged as publicly-traded New Media Investment Group. The reorganized company, backed by Fortress Investment Group, has indicated it has enough capital to make further acquisitions and will.

Sellers who want out and the prevailing bargain-level prices are driving this opportunistic group of buyers. Halifax was formed in 2010 to buy the Daytona Beach News-Journal from court receivership for just $20 million. The paper had been the subject of a long court battle between minority shareholder Cox Enterprises and the Davidson family owners, losing most of its value as the suits dragged on.

The Worcester paper, for that matter, was purchased by The New York Times for $296 million in 2000 but was assigned a value of only $7 million as part of the sale of The Boston Globe to Henry last August.

Halifax’s way of operating remains mysterious but appears typically to involve newsroom layoffs and a booster-ish editorial tone. Shortly after the purchase, Redding announced the pro-business stance in an open letter to Daytona Beach readers, breaking with the liberal-leaning former owners.

Kevin Drake, newly installed as publisher of the Lakeland Ledger, struck a similar note in another Open Letter to Readers 10 days ago:

Our editorials will advocate for our community and the potential we have here. We will support free enterprise and the benefits that come with a stronger economy. A thriving business environment elevates a community. We will point out positive opportunities for our city, county and state.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune — the largest in the Halifax group — was a Pulitzer finalist in 2010 and a winner in investigative reporting in 2011. Though publisher Diane McFarlin and editor Mike Connelly have left for other jobs, I am told the Herald Tribune retains at least some of its enterprise reporting bite.

Several other of the acquiring firms like GateHouse and Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group also have tended to be aggressive in downsizing newsrooms and consolidating editing and layout functions at centralized hubs.

Those two, along with Digital First Media and long-established CNHI (Community Newspaper Holdings), have a national footprint. Until now, Halifax has operated only in Florida and four other Southeastern states. It sold the Santa Rosa Democrat in California wine country, which had come as part of The New York Times group deal.

Acquiring Worcester would move Halifax further afield into New England, once a center of thriving, editorially ambitious smaller newspapers, but for the last decade a center of ownership changes, consolidation and downsizing.

It is noteworthy that Stephens, the lead among the three private investment firms that control Hallifax, has a media group of 11 Western dailies of its own, with the Las Vegas News-Review its flagship. It is possible the two groups could be combined at a future date.

Warren Stephens, nearly as sparing as Redding with public comment, did discuss acquiring The New York Times group, as part of a long interview with Steve Forbes in 2012. Echoing Warren Buffett’s comments on the durability of local franchises, he said:

I don’t think the news gathering aspects of magazines or newspapers are going to go away. I think at some point in time there’s going to be a realization that the professionalism of the reporters, the editors, the people that determine what’s going to make it into a publication and what’s not going to make it into a publication is actually worth something.

In newspapers’ particular case, I just don’t think there’s any way you’re ever going to get local news, sports, politics from any other source but your local newspaper. The purchase of the New York Times group – most of those papers are pretty small newspapers by most standards. We’re very optimistic that we can improve their operations, but also that in the long run those are going to be great, long-term assets for us.

It remains an open question whether firms like Halifax will be the wave of the future, dominating the management of small and mid-sized papers. No dispute though, they are a huge ownership force right now. Read more

Tools:
2 Comments