Larry Kramer is USA Today’s new president and publisher

C-Scape | AJR
Larry Kramer, who founded MarketWatch and led CBS Digital Media, was most recently an adjunct professor at the Newhouse School of Communications. Kramer takes over immediately for publisher David Hunke, who announced last month that he would step down as president and publisher to become the paper’s chairman until he retires in September. In a filing with the SEC Monday, Gannett, USA Today’s owner, announced the departure of its CFO, Paul N. Saleh, “to pursue other opportunities.” Michael A. Hart will serve in an interim position until a new CFO is named, the statement said. Among Kramer’s tasks: Finding USA Today a new editor. John Hillkirk left that spot in November of last year. USA Today is the country’s second most widely-read newspaper, based on the most recent figures, with total average daily circulation of 1,829,099, a change of -.64% compared to the same period a year before.

Kramer has been writing and teaching about the changing media business. He’s also been blogging on the importance of mobile journalism, including this commentary on USA Today’s iPad app:

“…the USA Today Ipad App is also very clean. The good and the bad news about the USA Today app is that it is a close cousin to the look of the paper. While it captures some of the design feature of the paper, some have become tired. The site loses a sense of urgency and news judgement by stacking stories with essentially the same look and feel as each other. The larger layouts in the print version of the paper are often the most attractive devices in the newspaper, and they are not translated to this platform. Photos dominate the visuals, and the reader gets little interactive or even passive, graphic presentation that approaches what is so great about the print paper. The page looks the same every day. USAToday’s IPhone app is slicker and faster to use.”

In a 2009 blog post about the future of news, he said:

Forget the newspaper industry. Let’s launch the News Industry. Say hello to News Inc. Let’s do what every industry does: Identify consumer demand and meet it.The good news is that consumers are just learning all the new ways they can get news and are still figuring out what works best for them. There is still time for those of us in the news industry to work with them and find out at the same time.

Many of us in the new-media world have known this for a long time and have been building outlets that are serving millions of readers. MarketWatch.com, TheStreet.com, Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast, among many others, have built audiences and businesses on this concept, without the benefit of having a traditional media product or news operation as our base. We built these businesses from scratch.

With the head start most media companies have, they should be able to build their digital platform businesses even faster. Some have. More people read the New York Times and the Washington Post online than in print.

What simply must change is this hand-wringing attitude that if newspapers die, so will responsible, in-depth reporting. Enough already. In recent years most newspapers weren’t doing that kind of journalism anyway. Choices were made, and rarely did investigative reporting win out over covering the local sports franchises, for example.

So let’s get this straight. There is a big future for news, journalism, investigative reporting, analysis, in-depth reporting, and terrific storytelling. But we need to do some work to create the business models that will support it.

Kramer followed up with an article in 2010 for the American Journalism Review. He wrote:

How will the news media rebuild their delivery-based business models? They won’t. The captive audience has escaped. Consumers have little reason to pay for delivery that isn’t digital anymore, and digital delivery doesn’t create comparable monopolies to support content. In the transitional era,as Jeff Zucker, the president and CEO of NBC Universal, famously said, everyone in media is worried that in giving up the old analog delivery models for digital replacements, they will “end up trading analog dollars for digital pennies.”

That’s not just a problem for people who work in media. It’s a problem for anyone with eyes and ears. The old system funded much of the content we love – not just great journalism but movies, music, television and literature. As those profits disappear, so does support for developing new ideas, art and entertainment. Our amazing new powers to access what’s already out there tend to overshadow this problem, but despite bold online startups, most news still comes from newspaper journalists, and newspaper journalists are running out of jobs. New media have been cannibalizing the expensive original content once fed by the traditional media business model. The corpse won’t last forever.

The hope has been that a new business model will be media’s salvation. But if there is an all-purpose business model for media, no one has found it – and I don’t believe anyone will. This pessimism is not because the business of media has hopelessly changed, but because in some ways it remains as it was. The business models for traditional media, such as the bundle of different sorts of advertising that kept newspapers profitable, were accidents that varied according to the specific medium – radio, remember, had no classified ads.

I believe the answer will be a patchwork of partial solutions specific to the kind of content being delivered, and the habits and preferences of the particular audience that wants it. Just as in the past, in the future there will be no one solid and rational system, but rather a collection of improvised arrangements based on lucky alignments of buyers’ and sellers’ needs.

This is a theme Kramer developed in his book, “C-Scape,” about the changing business world, which focused on four C’s: Curation, consumers, convergence and content. In the book’s introduction, Kramer writes:

Traditional media is in a death spiral, yet if you ask anyone to explain the ongoing wreck, you will likely hear the same reply, which is correct, familiar, and largely useless. … the need for change showed itself first in traditional media industries and in the departments of non-media companies with obvious media functions — advertising, marketing, and public relations — yet, in time, those changes must spread to every department in every company. Every business must become a media business.

Press release follows:

MCLEAN, Va., May 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI) announced today that it has appointed Larry Kramer president and publisher of USA TODAY, effective immediately. Kramer, founder of MarketWatch and a 40-year media industry veteran, currently serves as a media consultant and adjunct professor of Media Management at the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. He will report to Gracia Martore, president and chief executive officer of Gannett, and be a member of the Gannett Leadership Team. Kramer will be based in McLean, VA.

As president and publisher, Kramer will be responsible for developing and executing the long-term strategic vision for USA TODAY across all of its platforms, including the USA TODAY Sports Media Group, the Travel Media Group, Reviewed.com and USA WEEKEND. He will also lead the ongoing search for a new USA TODAY editor-in-chief.

“We are thrilled that Larry is joining our team. He will play a critical role as we transform the company and execute on our strategic plan to position Gannett for success in the digital age,” said Martore. “He is a distinguished journalist with a passion for the news business and has an entrepreneur’s drive to innovate and the business acumen needed to create value. He is the ideal leader to have at the helm of USA TODAY as we work to transform this trusted, iconic brand into a more powerful multi-dimensional media platform. I am confident that under his leadership, September will mark both USA TODAY’s 30th anniversary and the beginning of an exciting next chapter in its history.”

During his career as a journalist and editor, Kramer received many awards for reporting, including the National Press Club Award, The Associated Press Award for news writing and The Gerald Loeb award for business reporting, and his staffs were awarded two Pulitzer Prizes. He also has an extensive track record as a successful media entrepreneur, including: serving as founding president of CBS Digital Media, a new division that synthesized all online, interactive and mobile initiatives for the network; founding leading financial information web site MarketWatch.com and successfully taking the company public before its sale to Dow Jones; and founding DataSport, Inc., maker of a proprietary hand-held sports information monitor, which was later sold to Data Broadcasting Corp.

“As a journalist and media executive for many years, I have always had tremendous respect for USA TODAY and the reputation it has built as a trusted source for the day’s news and information. As an entrepreneur, I have also admired its strong legacy of innovation. I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with this talented team to reinvigorate USA TODAY’s mission and lay the groundwork for its next 30 years as a leading, multi-platform media brand and content powerhouse,” said Kramer.

From 2005 to 2007, Kramer served as president of CBS Digital Media where he created March Madness on Demand, brought CBS TV shows to the web, and formed content distribution partnerships with Google, Amazon, Apple iTunes, Yahoo and Verizon. He continued to serve as an adviser to CBS until April 2008. Prior to joining CBS, Kramer was Chairman, CEO and Founder of MarketWatch, Inc. until its sale to Dow Jones in January 2005. Kramer joined Data Broadcasting Corp. as Vice President in 1994, following its acquisition of DataSport Inc, which he founded in 1991. Prior to founding DataSport, Kramer spent more than 20 years in journalism as a reporter and editor for such publications as the San Francisco Examiner and the Washington Post.

Kramer holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BS from Syracuse University. He has been a lecturer at several universities, including Harvard Business School, Syracuse University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Stanford University, and currently sits on the board of directors of Harvard Business School Publishing and serves on the Advisory Board to the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University (chairman). He was a founding board member and former Chairman of The Online Publishers Association. Kramer is author of C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today, a book about the digital transformation of media and commerce.

He is married to Myla Lerner and they have two children, Matthew and Erika.

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  • http://twitter.com/conceptmatt Matt Peng

    For those who are interested, here is a video of Larry speaking about his entrepreneurship at event earlier this month. He covers a broad topic range, check it out for yourself: http://tradingsmarter.tradingscreen.com/2012/05/16/larry-kramer-marketwatch-founder-on-entrepreneurship-mit-forum/

  • http://twitter.com/JimReillyCNY Jim Reilly

    Go Larry! Maybe there’s hope for print yet …