John Paton


Digital First Media axes ‘Thunderdome,’ may sell its newspapers

CJR | Nieman | The Washington Post | Storify

Digital First Media will shut down its news hub in New York and may soon sell its newspapers. Local editors will have a phone call with management Wednesday morning at 11:30, and an all-hands meeting is scheduled for staffers at 12:30 p.m. in New York.

Dean Starkman reported Tuesday night that DFM plans to cashier its Project Thunderdome, a national newsroom for the company’s many newspapers, and lay off about 100 employees, including “higher-level executives.”

Ken Doctor writes that Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns most of DFM, is “readying its newspaper properties for sale.”

They’re not yet on the market, but expect regional auctions of DFM properties (with clusters around the Los Angeles area, the Bay Area, New England, Philadelphia, and Texas) — unless Alden can find a single buyer, which is unlikely.

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San Jose Mercury News homepage. ( Huh)

Digital First will add paywalls at most of its daily newspapers

Digital First | Newsonomics

Digital First Media plans to expand its paywall offerings to most of its 75 daily newspapers, CEO John Paton says in a blog post. The paywalls will be an all-access model. Paton, a noted skeptic about paywalls in the past, writes that while “digital advertising has grown more than 89 percent,” the company needs “more gas in the tank if we are going to complete this journey of print-to-digital transformation.”

Let’s be clear, paid digital subscriptions are not a long-term strategy. They don’t transform anything; they tweak. At best, they are a short-term tactic.

I’m not sure that’s a meaningful distinction,” Ken Doctor writes about Paton’s strategy/tactic taxonomy. Read more

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Paton: ‘Bad CEOs and worse editors’ are trying to ‘kill our future’

John Paton

Speaking at the Global News Editors conference in Paris, Digital First Media CEO John Paton said Friday that “editors resisting change are aided and abetted by lousy CEOs and news executives.”

Paton posted text and slides from his speech, scheduled to be delivered Friday afternoon Paris time, on his blog. In it he presents a slide he says “solves for the percent of dollars in print advertising, digital advertising, subscription revenue and all other revenue plus expenses and, of course, profit.”

By Paton’s calculations, Lee Enterprises and McClatchy will continue to lose money while Digital First Media — whose Journal Register Company filed for bankruptcy last year — is experiencing an operating profit.

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Journal Register Company, hedge fund sign purchase agreement

Journal Register Company
The Journal Register Company signed a “stalking horse” agreement with 21st CMH Acquisition Co., a unit of Alden Global Capital. JRC declared bankruptcy in September.

The purchase may seem a little weird because Alden already owns Journal Register Company. At the time JRC declared bankruptcy, Digital First Media CEO John Paton sent an FAQ to employees (PDF) that said the company could “no longer afford the legacy obligations incurred in the past.”

Many of those obligations, such as leases, were entered into in the past when revenues, at their peak, were nearly twice as big as they are today and are no longer sustainable.

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Oakland Tribune, other BANG papers to retain mastheads; end Monday home delivery

San Jose Mercury News
Bay Area News Group (BANG) has reversed its decision to combine its East Bay papers into two mastheads after getting negative feedback from the community. BANG also announced Thursday that it will halt home delivery on Mondays of the Oakland Tribune, The Argus and the Hayward Daily Review, starting sometime in November. Monday papers will still be available at stores and news racks; there will also be electronic versions.

BANG and parent company MediaNews Group said they plan to emphasize social media and community participation, with the addition of a community media center in the new Oakland Tribune newsroom. “This strategy is in the forefront of the newspaper industry’s transition from print-centric businesses to a locally focused provider of news and information across multiple platforms,” says MediaNews Group CEO John Paton. Read more