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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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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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‘Dark social’ is mostly Facebook

Good morning. The weekend awaits. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. “Dark social” = Facebook

    For years, publishers couldn't identify the source of a hunk of their traffic. Chartbeat this week "flipped a switch on its real-time dashboard to place that traffic in its proper bucket"; “We saw mobile Facebook traffic increase by about 40% on sites with big Facebook presences,” its chief data scientist, Josh Schwartz, said. (Marketing Land) | "The only question is how much Facebook traffic you’re not counting," Alexis Madrigal writes. (Fusion) | "Dark social comprises only a small percent of overall desktop traffic, but commands a fairly significant chunk of mobile traffic." (Chartbeat) | "That kind of dependence on a single site raises all kinds of issues." (Gigaom)

  2. J-school student arrested in NYC Garner protests

    City University of New York grad student Desiree Mathurin reported on a protest at the Brooklyn Bridge Wednesday night and got popped with 82 others.

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Career Beat: Annie-Rose Strasser named deputy managing editor at BuzzFeed News

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

  • Annie-Rose Strasser will be deputy managing editor at BuzzFeed News. She is deputy managing editor at ThinkProgress (@ARStrasser)
  • Christy Moreno is now news director at KUSA in Denver. Previously, she was news director for WBIR in Knoxville. Patti Dennis is vice president of talent development at Gannett. Previously, she was news director at KUSA in Denver. Talia Naquin is now dayside executive producer for WSMV in Nashville, Tennessee. She has been a news director in Wichita Falls, Texas. (Rick Gevers)
  • Allie Kline is now chief marketing officer at AOL. Previously, she was chief managing officer of platforms there. (AOL)
  • Fergus Bell will be head of newsroom partnerships and innovation at Social Asset Management Inc.
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Career Beat: Nicco Mele is now associate publisher at The Los Angeles Times

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

  • Nicco Mele is now deputy publisher at The Los Angeles Times. He is the co-founder of consulting firm Echo & Co. (The Los Angeles Times)
  • Amanda Smith is now associate publisher at T Magazine. Previously, she was advertising director there. (The New York Times)
  • Alison Engel is now vice president of finance at Gannett. Previously, she was chief financial officer of A. H. Belo Corporation. (Gannett)
  • Alan Price is now CEO of Vevo. Previously, he was chief financial officer there. (TechCrunch)
  • Darren Waters is now social media editor at The Press Association. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Microsoft UK. (The Guardian)

Job of the day: The Boston Globe is looking for a sports editor. Read more

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Report: More than a dozen walk from Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Business Courier

Cincinnati Enquirer Managing Editor Laura Trujillo is leaving the newspaper rather than stick around for the Gannett-owned title’s reorganization, Chris Wetterich reports for the Cincinnati Business Courier.

More than a dozen people in the newsroom are also departing, Wetterich reports: “Veteran employees told the Courier they are heading for the door because they would rather take a buyout package than go through another round of upheaval and the indignity of reapplying for jobs at a company they’ve worked at for decades.”

Mark Curnutte, Bill Koch, John Erardi, Sheila McLaughlin and Jessica Brown are among those leaving, as are three photographers, Wetterich reports. “Nearly all of the Enquirer’s 11 copy editing positions are being eliminated, although staffers in that department could apply for the new jobs,” he writes. Read more

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Reporter declines to reapply for her job, gets laid off

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Reporter declines to reapply for her job, gets laid off Burlington Free Press reporter Lynn Monty decided not to consummate the process of reapplying for her job last week. The Free Press, like many other Gannett papers, has asked staffers to reapply for jobs in reimagined “newsrooms of the future.” “I loved my job, but I don’t love Gannett,” Monty tells Paul Heintz. “I will make a new way for myself that doesn’t compromise my integrity.” (Seven Days)
  2. The last circulation report The Alliance for Audited Media will release its final print Snapshot report today. Because of more rule changes, “we advise against comparing year-over-year data,” AAM cautions. (AAM) | I wrote last October about how some other recent rules made comparisons difficult.
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Gannett gives employees an extra paid day off

Most Gannett employees will get Dec. 26 off, President and CEO Gracia Martore tells employees in a memo. Anyone who has to work that day — “because as we all know, the news never sleeps,” she writes — can plan another day off before the year ends.

Martore also gives some details about what divisions will stay with each company as Gannett plans to split its publishing and broadcast businesses. Gannett Digital will stay with the publishing company, as will IT and its national sales division.

Likewise, HR will be part of the broadcast company and will provide shared services to the publishing company. Each company will have its own legal and communications teams, among others. The split, Martore writes, should occur “in mid-2015.”

Here’s the memo:

Dear Colleagues:

I wanted to share some news in case you missed today’s employee Town Hall meeting.

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Gannett earnings strong, but publishing revenues continue a steep slide

FILE - This July 14, 2010 file photo shows the Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va. Gannett Co. reported Overall company revenue growth of 15 percent. The media company said, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

FILE – This July 14, 2010 file photo shows the Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va. Gannett Co. reported Overall company revenue growth of 15 percent. The media company said, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Embedded in otherwise excellent third quarter financial results reported today by Gannett are some sobering numbers on the continuing decline of revenues for its newspaper division.

U.S publishing ad revenues year-to-date are down 6.3 percent. At Gannett, that difference is more than made up by booming broadcast operations and freestanding digital ventures like CareerBuilder.  So revenues for the entire company are up a healthy 13.4 percent.

But I also consider USA Today and Gannett’s 81 community newspapers a reasonable proxy for the entire newspaper industry, which has stopped reporting its financial results quarterly.  Read more

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