Business Journalism

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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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The Verizon-AOL deal: Is this ‘the year everything happens’?

AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, center, applauds during opening bell ceremonies of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo. Verizon on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 announced it is buying AOL for about $4.4 billion, advancing the telecom's push in both mobile and advertising fields. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, center, applauds during opening bell ceremonies of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo. Verizon on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 announced it is buying AOL for about $4.4 billion, advancing the telecom’s push in both mobile and advertising fields. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

A few days before Verizon agreed to buy AOL for $4.4 billion, AOL boss Tim Armstrong was opining about the future to a packed if sterile convention ballroom in Chicago.

“There will be a set of companies that form the cable landscape,” he told the annual cable TV convention, “and a number of companies that do internet and TV. And some companies will be left behind. Internet companies without proper scale. And traditional companies who don’t get the point.”

“This is absolutely a time period like the beginning of the web,” he said during an on-stage interview with journalist-entrepreneur Kara Swisher. Read more

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C-Span teaming with the networks to cover presidential campaign

C-span's red bus

C-span’s red bus

C-SPAN is teaming with the major news networks to share personnel and other costs while covering even more events in real time along the campaign trail.

Ted Johnson, a political reporter for Variety, walked up the steps of the iconic bright red C-SPAN school bus parked on the floor of the national cable TV convention. He just wanted to say hi.

And why not? After all, if you’re a political journalist, the same just-the-facts network that’s long inspired “Saturday Night Live” skits is very much a key part of your reporting arsenal.

Now, financial necessity appears to be the mother of C-SPAN-bred invention, all probably to the enhanced benefit of reporters and politics junkies gearing up for the 2016 presidential campaign.

And it may be particularly true for the large number of reporters whose outlets can’t afford to have them on the road for appreciable, if even any, time due to budget cuts. Read more

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Tribune Publishing books a tiny profit for first quarter despite revenue decline

The Tribune Tower on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Tribune Tower on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Tribune Publishing completed its second full quarter as a separate company with results much like the rest of the industry, eking out a small profit but still facing revenue declines.

Net earnings were $2.5 million for the first quarter of 2015 on revenues of $396 million.  That’s a profit margin of 0.6 percent. In the same period in 2014, the business earned $12 million.

Revenues fell 4.9 percent total, 5.7 percent in advertising year to year. CEO Jack Griffin pointed out in a conference call with analysts that the rate of decline was an improvement on the last quarter of 2014 when it was 10 percent..

The results are not strictly comparable because Tribune Publishing was still operating as a division of Tribune Co. Read more

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R.I.P. — Six month newspaper circulation reports are gone for good

Alliance for Audited Media logo

Alliance for Audited Media logo

Compulsive calendar watchers may have notice that May 1 has come and gone without the typical report on newspaper circulation averages for the six months ended March 31.

There isn’t such a report and won’t be.

Instead the Alliance for Audited Media is requiring newspapers to report quarterly and giving them the option of updating digital metrics monthly.

The first of the new format quarterly reports are available on AAM’s website and others will be uploaded over the next several weeks, according to Neal Lulofs, executive vice president for marketing and strategy.

The so-called Consolidated Media Reports aim to offer more detailed and more up to date information.  Of course, they include paid digital subscriptions and other variations like free Sunday distribution of coupon packets without the news to selected zip codes. Read more

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New Media Investment Group ups revenues and plans to buy more papers

new-media-investment-group-logoNew Media Investment Group reported a 76 percent growth in first quarter revenues compared to the period a year ago on the strength of its buying binge of media companies.

But even leaving the new properties out, the company was able to keep revenues roughly even on a “same store” basis — a good showing for the industry where declines are more common, reflecting its tilt toward small and mid-sized papers.

The company did book a $6 million loss on revenues of $251 million.  However it again raised its dividend, now $1.32 on an annualized basis on a stock trading in the low $20s.

The high dividend and revenue growth have made the stock a favorite of investors. Shares were trading up 4 percent late afternoon, though the stock has declined in the last several months after its hot performance in 2014. Read more

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5 reasons NYTimes’ financial loss isn’t that bad

nytimesAn 11 percent decline in print advertising and a pension settlement caused the New York Times Co. to operate at a $14.3 million loss in the first quarter, the company reported today.

But the company pitched the period as “a solid start” to the year in light of strong results in both digital subscriptions and digital advertising.  The company added 47,000 more paid digital subscriptions bringing its total to 957,000.  That is the biggest quarterly increase in two years, and executives said they expect to add another 30,000 in the second quarter.

The bigger subscriber base translates to a digital circulation revenue increase of 14.4 percent compared to the same period in 2014.  Digital advertising grew 10.7 percent year to year and now accounts for 28 percent of all company advertising. Read more

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A.H. Belo posts revenue gain and a small profit

A.H. Belo, owner of the Dallas Morning News and related businesses, posted a small revenue gain and a small profit for the first quarter.

The year-to-year revenue gain, unusual for a newspaper publishing company, came from growth of the company’s digital ad agency, Speakeasy, the addition of three marketing services businesses and growth in its printing revenues..

Revenue was $65.4 million, up 1.6 percent from the 2014 quarter and net earnings were $307,000, a margin of 0.5 percent.

The result is consistent with the company’s strategy under CEO Jim Moroney of acquiring and starting businesses that will generate enough revenue to cover continuing print advertising losses.

The company’s financial reports do not break out total print advertising revenue but its total of print and digital advertising and marketing services income was down 2.4 percent.  Read more

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McClatchy’s stock continues to take a pummeling

McClatchy_logoMcClatchy reported a first quarter net operating loss of $11.3 million and more deep declines in print advertising today as its stock continues to takes a pummeling.

McClatchy shares have been trading between $1.50 and $1.60 the last several days. That is about half where they were at the start of 2015, and they have lost roughly three-quarters since this time a year ago.

Wall Street values the company at a market capitalization of $135 million,  That’s less than $5 million per paper in a collection of 29 titles in 28 cities including the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and Charlotte Observer. (See clarification below.)

Continuing the trend of recent earning reports, print advertising was the problem spot, down 15.7 percent year-to-year with national advertising especially bad, off 25 percent. Read more

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Publishing revenue declines continue at Gannett on the eve of spinoff

Gannett opened 2015 with a first quarter earnings report similar to those of 2014 — strong growth and profits in its broadcast and digital ventures divisions, but continued substantial declines in publishing revenues.

With publishing set to spin off into a separate company mid-year, the era of the one covering for the other is coming to a close.

Advertising revenues in publishing were down 11.3 percent compared to the same quarter in 2014. Circulation revenues were also off, 3.1 percent.  For the division, quarterly profits were down 57.4 percent on a net basis and 20.1 percent as measured by EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).

All those results were made somewhat worse by an unfavorable exchange rate for Gannett’s British regional papers and the discontinuation of USA Weekend.  Read more

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