Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box show last Friday morning and took the opportunity to reinforce his position as a change agent. “Because newspapers have historically been monopolies, I think they’ve been insulated from reality,” he said. Actually, newspapers have historically been competitive, but no so much for the last 30 years or so. Zell also made it clear that business sucks far more than he expected. “Are you talking about the people who buy ads? I’m trying to find one of them,” he says in only partial jest. Romenesko has a transcript.
The Washington Post quotes bond analysts saying Tribune Co. will be able to meet its debt obligations through mid-2009, but that’s when things might get ugly. A big bond payment is due at about that time and no asset in the portfolio is going to raise enough money to make that nut. The story also has a rundown of recent cost-cutting efforts at Tribune Co., all of which have been documented here.
From across the pond, the Guardian sums up the wretched state of the US newspaper industry. While there’s no news here you haven’t read in NDW before, the quotes from screenwriter David Simon are interesting. He compares newspapers to the Napster-era music industry and says what’s needed is an iTunes for newspapers. The piece also hints at a theory we floated last week: Rupert Murdoch may be the big winner in all this.
Mark Potts was busy on Friday, posting a 10-point manifesto for fixing major metro dailies. While not everything in the blog entry is new (we know it’s all about going local), advice like “zero-base the news operation” and “lose the editorial page” are compelling. The latter idea really stuck with us. The editorial page is a vestige of bygone days when institutional voices ruled the land. Today, it’s all about community, yet all major metro dailies march on with this outdated and increasingly irrelevant daily opinion. Potts closes with the sad observation that the greatest innovation in newspapers of the last decade has been Sudoku. For which we are profoundly grateful.
A day earlier, Potts rounded up the week’s carnage and figured about 900 jobs were eliminated during the week on top of the 1,400 cut by McClatchy the week before. He quotes Simon Dumenco writing in Advertising Age that reading Romenesko these days is like “reading the obits.”
The Bay Area News Group, which operates eight regional papers in the San Francisco area, will lay off 13% of its workforce. The actual number wasn’t announced. The company will also lay off 29 out of 226 employees in a newsroom that voted for unionize early this month. A 17% decline in first-half business was cited. One of its member papers, the Palo Alto Daily News, will also eliminate its Monday edition.
The Albany Newspaper Guild says 14 people took buyouts, but it doesn’t say where. We’re not aware of any cost-cutting going on at the Times-Union, which actually recently announced expanion plans. Let us know if you can shed light on this announcement.
In Romania, they apparently like things simple. So the Romanian Senate just passed a law requiring the media to provide a 50-50 balance of positive and negative news. Fortunately, the government council designated to arbitrate the rule quickly denounced the law as ludicrous.
This entry was posted on Monday, June 30th, 2008 at 8:16 am and is filed under Business News, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.