Philly media owner explored a nonprofit path

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News building is seen in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News building is seen in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and has given thought to shifting to non-profit ownership status, aligning with Temple University.

It was unclear Thursday whether discussions held by H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest  go beyond the theoretical at this point . But it’s now reported that he’s considered the possibility.  He told Philanthropy magazine in an interview last year that non-profit ownership could be “wonderful” for newspaper organizations.

Several sources with knowledge of the situation declined to discuss it. If such a change of ownership did occur, the Inquirer would be the largest big city northern newspaper to go such a route.

There are newspapers and magazines that are owned by educational institutions and churches, although they are exceptions. Read more


Five quick takes on Business Insider’s sale to Axel Springer

The headquarters of German media and publishing house Axel Springer in Berlin are seen in this Jan. 5, 2006 file picture.  (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The headquarters of German media and publishing house Axel Springer in Berlin are seen in this Jan. 5, 2006 file picture. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Confirmation today that German publisher Axel Springer is paying $343 million for an 88 percent stake in Business Insider is the latest in a wave of digital start-up acquisitions and investments by legacy companies.

The deal is also a tidy marker of the state of play for successful digital media entrepreneurs.

  1. Start with the price.  What Axel Springer is paying for the eight-year-old site could buy you the Washington Post ($250 million in August 2013) and the Boston Globe ($70 million the same month) with several million in lunch money left over.  Considering some accounting wrinkles, the other 12 percent stake, and $20 million or so of cash in hand, the full value of Business Insider has variously been estimated at $390 to $442 million.
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Who will block the ad blockers? Publishers are proceeding with caution

Along with Apple's latest iOS comes the ability to block ads. In photo, Apple's new News app is displayed on an iPad.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Along with Apple’s latest iOS comes the ability to block ads. In photo, Apple’s new News app is displayed on an iPad. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Apple iOS 9 launched a week ago and with it comes the opportunity for users to install ad blocking software for its Safari mobile browser. So what are publishers doing to counter the added threat to the reach of their digital advertising?

It is a logical question. But I’m finding that, for now, the consensus response is to wait and gather more information, see what options vendors offer and puzzle through how best to preserve ad revenue and avoid antagonizing or running off users.

“First we need a good understanding of how much users — both subscribers and nonsubscribers — are coming to our sites with ad blockers,” Raju Narisetti, senior vice president, strategy, at News Corp,. Read more

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Financial maneuvers bring McClatchy share price back up

McClatchy_logo-160x94Typically, having a stock trading at $1.26 a share is not cause for celebration. But when McClatchy stock closed at that level today, it represented a gain of 23.5 percent in the last three trading days.

McClatchy was threatened two weeks ago with delisting on the New York Stock Exchange.  The company responded with two moves that appear to have boosted investor confidence:

  • It authorized a repurchase of up to $15 million of its regularly traded shares (there is a second class of stock controlled by family members that is not affected.)
  • It paid down debt by $22.9 million, further chipping away at the large interest expense that has dragged down earnings for years.

Buying back shares is a slightly arcane practice, essentially a bet by the company that its stock is undervalued.  Read more

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An expert’s forecast — Canada will have few if any print newspapers by 2025

Ken Goldstein, a leading media business analyst in Canada, has just published a grim prediction for legacy news outlets north of the border: “In 2025, it is likely that there will be few, if any, printed daily newspapers.”

For good measure, Goldstein adds, “there might be no local broadcast stations in Canada” 10 years from now.

canada-papers-circWhile noting declines in advertising, classified particularly, Goldstein bases his bleak view on newspaper circulation trends (see graph).  Daily paid circulation as a percentage of Canadian households, he writes, has fallen from just under 50 percent in 1995 to 20 percent in 2014.

If those declines continue, circulation will amount to only 5 to 10 percent of households in 2025, too little, Goldstein says, “to support a viable print business model for most general interest daily newspapers.”

He adds in his August 20 paper, “Canada’s Digital Divides,”

Thus, Canada’s daily newspapers now are engaged in a 10-year race against time and technology to develop an online business model that will enable them to preserve their brands without print editions, and – even more difficult – to try to develop new kinds of economic bundles (or other kinds of economic arrangements) that will enable their online presence to maintain their current journalistic scope.

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Publishers’ ‘mobile gap’ with revenues painfully persists

The Wall Street Journal

The mobile conundrum persists with traditional and online publishers: nice audience growth, sluggish revenues.

“News and information outlets ranging from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to Business Insider and all can point to rapid growth in mobile usage,” The Wall Street Journal writes Monday. “Time spent on publishers’ mobile offerings jumped 40% in the 12 months through July and now accounts for 55% of total time spent on their properties, up from 42% two years ago, according to estimates by measurement specialist comScore.”

But reports, earnings calls and interviews all underscore how “revenue isn’t keeping pace—by a long shot—creating what industry executives are calling a ‘mobile gap.’”

The act of hawking ads on mobile devices is no simple task. Read more


Newspaper industry lost 3,800 full-time editorial professionals in 2014

The American Society of News Editors annual newsroom census, released this morning, found that job losses accelerated in 2014, falling by more than 10 percent in a single year.

The net job loss of 3,800 brings the total number of news professionals to 32,900 — with additional losses clearly taking place so far in 2015.  That total is down just over 40 per cent from a pre-recession peak of 55,000 in 2006.

It’s the biggest single year drop since the industry was shedding more than 10,000 jobs in 2007 and 2008.  The comparable figure for 2013 was 1,300 jobs and 2,600 in 2012.


The survey began in 1978 to track progress in improving diversity in newspapers’ newsrooms and leadership ranks and continues to embrace that mission. Read more


Print advertising slump bites digitally oriented Advance too

As Advance publications began dropping print frequency and betting its newspapers’ future on digital ad sales five years ago, part of the premise was that print advertising would only continue to decline — and by a lot, not a little.

Correct. But the industry’s particularly nasty level of print losses in the first half of 2015 have nipped financial results at Advance along with the rest. In his latest biannual letter to employees, Advance Local President Randy Siegel backed off his claim of six months ago that digital ad gains this year will surpass print losses.

He concedes in the letter that newspaper declines have been “steeper than we budgeted for.” Siegel told me in a phone interview that the goal for growing ad revenue overall remains and some of Advance’s 25 markets will experience the revenue crossover, but added “I can’t guarantee that we will get it done in all of them.”

In the letter, dated July 15, Siegel continues:

The proverbial “silver lining” here is that as more of our readers and advertisers transition to digital platforms and products, we are better positioned than ever to meet their diverse needs.

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McClatchy reports precipitous print ad declines again for second quarter

McClatchy, in the doghouse with investors for most of the year, reported another disappointing quarter today, eking out a profit of $98,000 on $262 million in revenues.

Despite growing digital ad revenues, holding circulation revenues even and reducing debt and interest payments compared to the same quarter a year ago, the results were dragged down by a 12.5 percent decline in total advertising revenues.

McClatchy is first among the public newspapers to report for the second quarter so drops of nearly the same magnitude seem likely at other companies.  As Gannett (which will report Wednesday) indicated as it spun off to a separate newspaper company a month ago, second quarter ad revenues have been weak there as well.

McClatchy said print advertising declines for the quarter were 16.3 percent. Read more


5 quick thoughts on the sale of the Financial Times — a logical deal now that we see it

Most big-deal acquisitions, however unexpected, make sense once they are in place. And the sale of the Financial Times, though quickly consummated since first reports Sunday, was not all that surprising.

Here are my quick thoughts on why Japanese Nikkei won the trophy newspaper and what may happen next:

  • No longer a fit: As Pearson has become an education company with smaller news holdings, it needs to concentrate on its primary business. The FT group has some specialized financial products but nothing on the scale of Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters — or Nikkei for that matter. There are few synergies with the education unit.In retrospect, the sale may have been telegraphed two years ago when CEO John Fallon, who had been running the education unit’s international business, succeeded American-born Marjorie Scardino, whose roots were in publishing, particularly The Economist (in which Pearson retains a 50 percent interest for now).
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