Digital First Media

Reuters: Digital First Media has a lead buyer

Reuters

Apollo Global Management LLC is “in advanced talks” to purchase most of Digital First Media’s assets for $400 million, Greg Roumeliotis and Liana Baker report for Reuters:

The potential deal illustrates private equity’s interest in the newspaper industry. Even though newspaper readership is declining, buyout firms say they believe they can squeeze out a profit through cost cuts and new digital offerings.

In September, Digital First Media announced that it was retaining UBS Securities LLC to determine “strategic alternatives for the Company’s business,” which include the possibility of a sale.

Nieman Lab reported in April that Digital First Media was planning a sale of its newspapers following the implosion of Project Thunderdome, a New York-based initiative that aimed to centralize DFM’s national news production. Read more

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Former Time Inc. CTO joins magazine startup

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Frédéric Michel will be a consultant for Sky Italia. He is Telefónica’s Europe director of public affairs and communication. (The Guardian)
  • Bob Mason is now vice president of hosting at NewsCycle Solutions. Previously, he was chief technology officer at Digital First Media. (Poynter)
  • Gregg Doyel is now a sports columnist at The Indianapolis Star. Previously, he was a columnist at CBSSports.com. (The Indianapolis Star)
  • Mike Stamm is now a senior design technologist at The Washington Post. Previously, he led design technology at The Wall Street Journal. Jessie Tseng is an interaction designer at The Washington Post. Previously, she was a user experience designer at Adaptly. (The Washington Post)
  • Sheena Lyonnais will be a freelance writer.
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Digital First Media’s chief technology officer exits

Bob Mason, formerly chief technology officer at Digital First Media, left the news organization last week, a company representative confirmed today.

Mason is now vice president of hosting at NewsCycle Solutions, a newsroom software company, where he oversees cloud computing.

Several higher-ups have left DFM in recent months. On Monday, Matt DeRienzo, DFM’s ‎northeast regional editor, took a buyout, according to the New Haven Independent. In April, the company announced the departure of former editor-in-chief Jim Brady and the cancellation of Project Thunderdome, a news distribution initiative he championed. That month, DFM Digital Transformation Editor Steve Buttry announced he was leaving, as did Project Thunderdome Editor Robyn Tomlin.

In September, the company announced it was “exploring strategic alternatives,” which could mean selling some or all of its 76 daily newspapers and 160 weekly publications. Read more

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Career Beat: Loren Mayor named chief operating officer for NPR

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • David Gillen is now executive editor of news enterprise at Bloomberg News. Previously, he was deputy business editor of enterprise at The New York Times. (Politico)
  • Loren Mayor is now chief operating officer for NPR. Previously, she was senior vice president of strategy there. (Poynter)
  • Weston Phippen is now a reporter for the National Journal. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. Lauren Fox will be a Congress reporter at the National Journal. Previously, she was a political reporter at U.S. News and World Report. (Email)
  • Mark Brackenbury has been named executive editor for the Connecticut Group at Digital First Media. He is managing editor for the New Haven Register.
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Digital First Media will explore sale of papers

Digital First Media | The Denver Post | Jim Romenesko

Digital First Media has hired UBS Securities LLC to help it determine what it calls “strategic alternatives for the Company’s business.” That could involve a sale of some or all of the company’s news products, which include 76 daily papers and 160 weekly publications.

The Denver Post headlines the news a bit less gingerly: “Denver Post, other Digital First Media newspapers, for sale.” (Here’s a list of DFM properties.)

Related: “What went wrong at Digital First Media — and what’s next?”

“As employees, the best thing we can do while this review is underway is to keep doing what we have been doing best these past years – producing unsurpassed local journalism; serving our customers’ needs and continuing to boldly experiment with our digital future,” DFM CEO John Paton tells employees in a memo. Read more

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Clash over Abramson’s style may have figured in Politico editor’s resignation

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Rick Berke leaves Politico: The publication’s executive editor resigned Sunday, citing “an acceptance by the three of us that the dynamics were just not there for us to function seamlessly.” The other two people in that “three of us” formulation, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, tell staffers “We have very big plans for expanding POLITICO here and elsewhere and need in place a leadership team that shares our vision, ambitions and full faith.” (HuffPost) | Erik Wemple passes on word of an awkward “Politico University” workshop in May, after Berke’s former boss Jill Abramson was fired: “Berke got a bit off-topic, putting forth his opinion that Abramson was an inept and insensitive manager. Some female staffers objected to that characterization, and the session blew up in awkward polemics about the internal politics of a competing outlet.” (WP) | “Rick Berke does not capitalize “Politico” in his resignation message.
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Digital First puts 51 newspaper buildings on the market

Digital First Media has listed 51 newspaper buildings for sale, according to a press release from the real estate firm Twenty Lake Holdings.

The properties are “for sale across seven states including California, Connecticut, Colorado and Pennsylvania, to name a few,” Twenty Lake Holdings says in its release.

The planned sale “enables us to streamline our real estate portfolio through a comprehensive program encompassing property sales, new leasing, relocations and consolidation, thereby freeing the company from the constraints of being overburdened with underutilized properties,” DFM President and COO Steve Rossi says in the release.

With the addition of the DFM properties, Twenty Lakes and the broker Praxis Commercial have 70 newspaper buildings for sale in total, the release says.

Reached by email, DFM CEO John Paton said the listings represent “the remainder of our real estate holdings not yet sold. Read more

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Do local news orgs need national news?

NetNewsCheck | The New York Times

Former Project Thunderdome editor-in-chief Jim Brady asks whether local news organizations need to provide much national news anymore in a reflection on his time at the now-shuttered Digital First Media venture.

Writes Brady, a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board: “Do we think local news organizations — in the disaggregated Web world we live in and the even more atomic mobile world we’re speeding into — actually need much national news anymore?”

DFM announced the shuttering of Thunderdome in April, and it officially closed July 1.

RELATED: What went wrong at Digital First Media — and what’s next?

Among Thunderdome’s goals, Brady wrote, was:

To serve as a centralized national news desk for our properties so that we didn’t have multiple papers producing the same story about the royal baby or the Kentucky Derby or the Academy Awards.

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Brady takes another shot at local journalism with new venture

Sometimes people console Jim Brady about his bad fortune.

After all, they lament, he was general manager of TBD.com, an ambitious local news site that folded about two years after it started. Then, he went to work for Digital First Media, where he founded Project Thunderdome, an innovative news production hub — which was axed by company bosses earlier this year.

But Brady isn’t having it. “My response to that is nobody should feel sorry for me,” he said. “I’ve got to build two newsrooms from scratch, I got the chance to hire a lot of smart people and learned an amazing amount along the way about where journalism is headed.”

What did he learn? After two aborted experiments, Brady still thinks there’s a future for journalism in local news — and that’s a bet he’s willing to stake a lot of his own money on. Read more

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Robyn Tomlin, former Thunderdome editor, heads to Pew

Robyn Tomlin, former editor at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome is heading to Pew Research Center as chief digital officer. Tomlin tweeted the news on Thursday afternoon.

In April, Tomlin spoke with Poynter’s Jill Geisler about the reaction inside DFM Thunderdome when staff learned that it was be shutting down.

While talking up her “amazing group of people,” Tomlin tells me she hasn’t decided what she will do next in her own career. She’s not sure whether she’ll keep leading in legacy media or try the world of pure plays. Because Thunderdome’s shutdown will happen on a rolling basis, she hopes to guide each person and piece of it to a soft landing.

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