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What Gannett gets by getting bigger and why newspaper consolidation will continue

For three different reasons, Gannett’s surprise acquisition Wednesday of Journal Media Group (the former Scripps papers and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) makes a lot of sense:

– In the era of digital transformation, bigger is better. A larger audience translates to better prospects for digital ad sales. The combined operations will have 100 million monthly uniques, according to the press release announcing the deal.

– Any such merger brings efficiency as corporate offices combine and shrink. Gannett said that it expects $35 million in savings and may have other cost-cutting initiatives at the ready.  Smaller newsrooms are a possibility but not a certainty.

– Gannett has a suite of centralized programs — news feeds from USA Today, a common content management system, events and digital marketing services capacity — that will pay off the more markets they touch. Read more

Earns Gannett

Gannett to buy Journal Media Group for $280 million

The sign by Gannett's (now TEGNA) headquarters is seen in McLean, Va in 2010. (AP Photo)

The sign by Gannett’s (now TEGNA) headquarters is seen in McLean, Virginia in 2010. (AP Photo)

Newspaper giant Gannett announced on Wednesday it has inked a deal to purchase Journal Media Group for $280 million.

The deal will enlarge Gannett, already the largest U.S. newspaper publisher by revenue, as it adds Journal’s 15 dailies and 18 weeklies to its portfolio of publications. According to a release, the acquisition will bolster Gannett’s annual revenues by $450 million and grow the company’s daily circulation by 675,000.

By acquiring Journal Media Group, Gannett follows through on an earlier assurance to shareholders that it would adopt an acquisitive strategy following the spinoff from its parent company in June.

In a statement, newly minted Gannett CEO Robert Dickey touted the merger as the first step in the company’s industry consolidation strategy. Read more


Virtual reality news is becoming a reality in many newsrooms

A story doesn’t POINT you there, it PUTS you there. In a sense, a story is a form of transportation. It lifts you from where you are reading and carries you to another time and another place.

Roy Peter Clark may not have been thinking about virtual reality when he wrote about the differences between a story and a report, but he might as well have been – as it virtually puts you there in the middle of the action.

ABC’s Inside Syria VR is one of the recent virtual reality journalism experiment in which viewers are transported to Damascus to see how “archaeologists are racing against time to protect historical antiquities menaced by war.” Another project, “Ebola Outbreak,” released by Frontline last week, puts viewers in the middle of several West African countries to document the spread of the deadly virus. Read more

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Gannett takes the idea behind Arizona Storytellers Project nationwide

The audience watches the 125th anniversary of The Arizona Republic "Stories About Stories" Storytellers event at Phoenix Theatre on Monday, May 18, 2015. (Photo by Michael Schennum/Arizona Republic)

The audience watches the 125th anniversary of the Arizona Republic “Stories About Stories” Storytellers event at Phoenix Theatre on Monday, May 18, 2015. (Photo by Michael Schennum/Arizona Republic)

Next week at the Online News Association’s annual conference, a group of journalists from nine Gannett newspapers will spend a few hours learning how to workshop a story before trying a bit of live storytelling. Their coach? Someone who has worked through the process with hundreds of people during the past four years — the Arizona Republic’s Megan Finnerty.

Gannett has chosen nine newspapers to build their own versions of Finnerty’s Arizona Storytellers Project, which brings together journalists and the community regularly for a night of live storytelling.

Like other news organizations, Gannett is increasing its focus on live events and working on scaling them from one market to another. 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


Gannett acquires 11 Digital First Media properties

StreetInsider | York Daily Record

Newspaper giant Gannett today announced it was acquiring 11 properties from Digital First Media, including the El Paso Times, The Alamogordo (New Mexico) Daily News and the York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record.

The acquisitions come shortly before before Gannett splits into two companies — TEGNA, which will retain the company’s broadcast properties, and Gannett, a spinoff publishing division.

The acquisition of the Digital First Media properties is in line with thinking articulated by Ken Doctor that the media company was planning to sell off its assets in piecemeal fashion after a reported deal with equity firm Apollo Global Management failed to materialize. He also reported that Gannett would acquire papers in Pennsylvania and New Mexico.

Robert Dickey, soon-to-be CEO of Gannett’s publishing company, hailed the acquisitions in a statement:

We are very pleased to welcome these well-respected media organizations to U.S.

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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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Weak Tribune Publishing and Scripps earnings make the case for spinning off newspapers

Tribune Publishing and E.W. Scripps this morning reported disappointing fourth quarter revenues from newspaper operations, matching the pattern established by other public companies.

At the same time, the results suggested some of the logic behind divorcing newspapers from broadcast, as Tribune Publishing did seven months ago and Scripps plans for this April.

tribune-logo-300Continuing the tone he struck in the company’s first earnings conference call with analysts, CEO Jack Griffin said “we’re playing catch-up” on a number of key initiatives to strengthen the business.

For instance, Tribune Publishing as a Tribune division had made only a minimal effort to register print subscribers as digital users, he said.  Now 659,000 of those are counted as paying for digital access and Tribune Publishing has more than 60,000 digital-only paid subscribers. Read more


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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Gannett, New York Times report soft publishing revenues again

Gannett and the New York Times Co. closed the books on 2014 with mixed results in earnings reports this morning.

For Gannett, strong growth in broadcast and its digital businesses more than offset revenue declines in both circulation and advertising at its newspapers, which will be spun-off into a separate company later this year.

At the New York Times Co., whose only business is its flagship paper and its digital and international extensions, continued growth in circulation revenues offset a small decline in advertising making for overall revenue  growth of 0.7 percent for the year.

Net income fell to $30.3 million, about half the profit in 2013, on revenues of $1.59 billion. That is a margin of roughly 2 percent. CEO Mark Thompson said in a press release the company chose investments in digital expansion over maximizing profit but will “bear down on costs” in 2015 to improve results. Read more

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