Business Journalism


What journalists should know about the Greek banking crisis

Greece’s debt crisis most likely touched your retirement and investment accounts today as markets tumble on news that Greece will likely default on a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greek banks are closed and the country of 11 million people has become a global focal point, again.

What’s the Problem?

Greece has a big payment due Tuesday. The country owes the IMF 1.54 billion euros. The fear, of course, is that Greece will default on the loan. The payment is due at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Tuesday. Greece asked for an extension, and Eurozone finance ministers said no, they also limited future emergency funding. The European Commission said Monday it has no plans to issue new reforms for Greece. The standoff is set. Read more


New day for Gannett newspapers — they’re on their own

The 19,600 employees of Gannett newspapers coming to work Monday will be working for a new company — untethered from growing and prosperous television stations and digital ventures.

Retaining the Gannett name, the spin off company has well defined plans for digital transformation and for expansion by acquisition.  Its reception by Wall Street is less certain, but it is sweetening the case by promising a substantial dividend — 64 cents on shares trading around $15.

Gannett executives telegraphed the acquisition strategy in the company’s most recent earnings call and has since bought 11 titles in Texas and New Mexico, in which it already had a partial stake, from Digital First Media.

More is on the way, the company said in a presentation to investors last Monday.   Read more


To boost local journalism, Steven Waldman proposes an AmeriCorps for reporters

Steve Waldman

Steve Waldman

Four years ago Steven Waldman documented in a report for the Federal Communications Commission the erosion of local journalism as newspapers’ business fortunes declined.

Now he is suggesting a remedy — a non-profit Report for America organization, modeled on AmeriCorps and Teach for America. Waldman summarized the idea in an article yesterday for CJR and is presenting it at a conference on local journalism today sponsored by Montclair State University’s Center for Cooperative Media.

Waldman envisions reporters, many of them young but some experienced too, being placed at newspapers, public radio stations and other existing outlets.  Part of their salary would come from the new non-profit, the rest from a match by the organization receiving the placement.

“I think this really has a chance of catching on,” Waldman told me in a phone interview. Read more

Steven Malkowich

The American media storm: Why a family sold its newspaper after 56 years

To fully grasp the tumult in American media, you need just look at the video of a proud man in front of a basement printing press that’s been his community’s lifeblood.

“Google, YouTube and Facebook have taken the heart out of all the advertising, and not just the national advertising,” says Marty Weybret, who exited Monday as longtime publisher of the family-owned Lodi News-Sentinel in California’s Central Valley.

How will quality local news really survive, wonders a man whose family owned the paper since 1959, absent people doing something they are currently disinclined to do: pay for it?

His own ambiguity about what’s ahead prompted him to just sell the 10,600-circulation daily (actually five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday) founded in 1881 and bought in 1959 by his father, Fred, he said. Read more


Worldwide newspaper circulation revenues pass advertising for the first time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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


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


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


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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