Business Journalism

newmedialogo

Stock market darling New Media Investment keeps growing, books small profit

Acquisitive New Media Investment Group reported its fourth quarter results today and tallied the score on $538 million spent buying newspapers over the last year and a half.

The company’s business plan calls for $1 billion in acquisitions over three years, so more of the same is on the way.

New Media also increased its quarterly dividend which yields investors 4 to 5 percent annually. And the company’s shares were up more 6 percent for the day and nearly 50 percent in the last six months.

Besides offering the generous dividend, New Media targets smaller papers that have been less affected by digital competition than metros.  After the acquisition of Stephens Media, announced a week ago, is completed in March, the largest circulation titles in its roster of 125 dailies will be the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Providence Journal. Read more

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McClatchy_logo

5 Ways McClatchy is a model for a new breed of stand-alone newspaper companies

McClatchy has been a steady presence in the 15 years I’ve been writing about media business with a commitment to serious journalism even while shrinking newsrooms, aggressive digital expansion and continuity of leadership.

Looking at the company’s fourth quarter results Wednesday and listening to CEO Pat Talamantes describe 2015 plans, it occurred to me that McClatchy could now also be a bell-cow for the new generation of spun-off, newspaper only companies.  That group includes Tribune Publishing, early into life on its own after a split from parent Tribune late last year. Later in 2015 Gannett’s publishing division and the merged publishing operations of Journal Communications and Scripps will go that route too.

Here are five ways, McClatchy may be providing a preview:

  1. Revenue replacement race: Like other companies reporting in recent weeks, McClatchy had even worse print advertising results than expected, could not make them up with other mostly digital ventures and thus continues to shrink. 
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AGN-TV-250

Digital video arms race continues — and little guys can play too

I wasn’t sticking my neck out far in a late December post predicting a boom year for non-broadcast video. Six weeks into 2015 plenty is happening:

*Publications of all kinds (Fortune for instance) are announcing new services and upgrades.

*Reuters, traditionally a business-to-business provider, has made good on promises to launch a daring gamble — Reuters TV, a direct- to-consumer video app, targeting millennials and their smart phones and programmable into a customized 5 to 30 minute show.

*My friends at the American Press Institute published a good report last week on best practices in video production and revenue.  Serial entrepreneur David Cohn, who recently passed through Poynter, has a good riff today on avoiding tired broadcast conventions.

But I also stand corrected on one bit of common wisdom — that video only works for big organizations and that even they are challenged to scale sufficiently. Read more

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digital-advertising250

Analyst Gordon Borrell sees local digital ads soaring in 2015, but not for newspapers

Gordon Borrell, among the best known of digital advertising analysts, was predicting two years ago that the newspaper business would stabilize, with some companies growing their digital revenues 30 percent a year.

Now he has reversed course, predicting another boom year for local digital advertising in 2015, but with newspapers and other legacy media badly trailing “pure plays” like Trulia, Angie’s List and Yelp in capturing a share of that.

Based on surveys of local advertiser plans, Borrell said in September:

They’ve changed their story on me…The storm for newspapers isn’t over, though I’ve been predicting for two years that things are about to get calmer. Turns out, the shift to digital is accelerating.

The future isn’t bright for print and broadcast media, I’m sad to say.

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Parse.ly kicks its digital analytics toolkit up a gear

Parse.ly, one of the major players in the growing business of sophisticated measurement of digital audiences, is out with a new suite of services this morning.

“The conversation around what success means and how we measure it” continues to develop, CEO Sachin Kamdar told me in a phone interview. Eleven new Parse.ly metrics, like “breakout of traffic recirculation” aim to give publishers a range of tools they can match with differing objectives, he said.

The Parse.ly rollout is way more advanced than the general overview of analytics trends I provided in a post earlier this month — but consistent with it.

The concept, according to the company, is to unify insights on growth (as still measured by uniques and page views), engagement (as typically demonstrated by time spent) and the newer concern with loyalty (described by several as “time well spent” in my earlier piece). Read more

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Gannett

Corporate raider Carl Icahn sets his sights on Gannett

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

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

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

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

Icahn further wrote:

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

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tribuneAP

Reuters loses Tribune but is not quitting yet

General view of a Reuters building at Canary Wharf in London, Tuesday, May 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

General view of a Reuters building at Canary Wharf in London, Tuesday, May 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Reuters attempts to build a competitive wire service to the Associated Press suffered a major setback over the holidays when the Chicago Tribune and six sister papers ended a two-year relationship and switched back to the AP.

That was a double sting. Besides being Reuters’ biggest and most prominent client, Chicago Tribune editor Gerould Kern had spent several years helping build out the substitute service before it formally launched (as I recounted in a detailed story last summer),

But Steven Schwartz, global managing director of the Reuters news agency, told me in an e-mail interview that he is not throwing in the towel. He wrote:

We are grateful for all of the Tribune’s insight and input in the early days to help make the Reuters America service exceptionally strong and we expect they will be back as a customer sometime down the road.

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advance-local

Advance claims digital ad growth will outpace print declines in 2015

Advance Publications’ much debated five-year-old strategy of discontinuing some days of daily print editions to devote added resources to digital is poised to achieve a critical crossover point in 2015: digital advertising gains will exceed print newspaper ad losses, the company claims.

In a bi-annual letter to employees today, Advance Local President Randy Siegel, writes:

Our local sales and marketing teams have leveraged their entrepreneurial abilities and expansive digital knowledge to prove they can grow digital ad revenue faster than we’re losing print ad revenue.  In 2015, our local leadership teams plan to generate higher total ad revenue in every one of our markets, reversing a longstanding trend of decline.

I asked Siegel by e-mail whether he was including national advertising in that calculation, and he said yes.  Read more

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Capital flows like water to media companies (of a certain kind)

December has started with a bang-up ten days financially for some leading American media companies.

Vox announced it has raised another $46.5 million in a new round of venture capital bringing its total valuation to $385 million. CEO Jim Bankoff, in a internal memo he made public, announced ambitious expansion plans for 2015.

Outbrain, a content recommendation/native advertising company, indicated it is tentatively planing an initial public offering early next year, with a target valuation of $1 billion.  (Outbrain, like its biggest competitor Taboola, is Israeli in origin but has moved headquarters to New York and plans to be listed on NASDAQ).

Meanwhile expanding Buzzfeed’s growth continues and its investor valuation stands at $850 million.  Editor Ben Smith was lecturing in Australia late last week as the site announced it has hired a star from Wired to be its Silicon Valley bureau chief and is forming a health and science desk. Read more

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Magnifying glass on laptop

Why it’s time to stop romanticizing & begin measuring investigative journalism’s impact

Charles Lewis, one of the luminaries of nonprofit investigative journalism, sees a culture clash brewing as the sector continues to grow, covering what shrinking legacy media may miss and, more recently, innovating with powerful reporting techniques.

On the one hand, foundations big and small want metrics that demonstrate results analogous to assessments they apply to arts projects, social service initiatives and advocacy work.

On the other hand, Lewis wrote in a white paper last month, “veteran editors and reporters, particularly of the investigative ilk, have an inherent, almost visceral dislike of audience measurement and engagement strategies.” Instead they see themselves “as intrepid hunter-gatherers of information” who overcome a host of obstacles to produce important, even heroic, journalism.

The conflict might be academic were it not for the current state of play in nonprofit funding. Read more

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