Don’t forget to take our poll: Will the Detroit Experiment Succeed?
Few newspapers in the US are in worse shape that the Seattle Times, reports its rival, the Post-Intelligencer. How bad is it? “Dire,” in the words of Times Senior Vice President Alayne Fardella, who announced yesterday that the company will now freeze the pensions of non-union workers in addition to requiring them to take unpaid vacation. “It has been and continues to be a long and difficult fight for our survival.”
The Seattle Times Co. holds $91 million in debt, which is secured by a parking lot. The company borrowed $233 million in 1998 to buy a string of newspapers in Maine which are now a white elephant that no one wants to take off its hands. The company has put up two of its four Seattle properties for sale. McClatchy Co.’s stake in the business, which it acquired for $102.2 million in 2006, is now worth less than $8 million. But they do have that parking lot.
McClatchy itself has to be considered a candidate for the endangered species list. Its stock closed at 75 cents a share yesterday, down from a high of nearly $71 five years ago. Its $5 million in cash is down from $30 million at the end of last year. Having had no luck selling its newspapers, the company is now trying to sell property to stay alive. However, that may also be a losing strategy. At least a half dozen newspapers are trying to unload property right now, but buyers have every reason to wait them out, says an AP report. As publishers become more desperate to generate cash to meet debt obligations, they’ll further cut asking prices. This is also a terrible time to be selling real estate, which makes sellers even more desperate.
Success Without the Web
New York Times media critic David Carr is an staunch print guy and he found an ally in the TriCityNews (yes, that’s really all there is to its website), an alternative weekly out of Asbury Park, NJ that has thrived for a decade and is still growing 10% annually by aggressively ignoring the Web. Carr quotes publisher Dan Jacobson expressing astonishment that any print publisher would choose to undermine its business by giving its product away for free. “Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads?” he asks. TriCityNews has never raised its advertising rates in 10 years and its costs are cheap enough that even small businesses can buy full-page ads.
Carr clearly loves this whole idea, but Recovering Journalist Mark Potts sees few lessons for major metro dailies in Asbury Park. The paper only has three employees, for cryin’ out loud, he notes. “Many small community papers, with and without Web sites, are doing just fine, and will continue to do so,” Potts writes. “Web or not, their readers have almost no place else to go.” He’s right, you know. Pat Thornton chimes in with the observation that publisher Jacobson isn’t quoted once talking about journalism. He speculates that the paper is basically a community advertiser and that local news coverage has little to do with its success.
Sun, Post Head Toward Indistinguishability
Timothy A. Franklin is stepping down as editor of The Baltimore Sun, the Associated Press reports. He’ll be replaced on Jan. 1 by J. Montgomery Cook, who’s currently director of content development for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. Franklin is head off to Indiana University to chair a new sports journalism program at his alma mater. He said his decision was unrelated to the turmoil at the Sun, which has shed more than 150 jobs this year. The AP report provides a helpful graphic showing where Baltimore is. Meanwhile, in a move designed to make both newspapers less relevant to their local audiences, the Sun and the Washington Post have a new deal to share articles and photos. This will make two major metro dailies less than 40 miles apart from each other even harder to tell apart.
Now that Detroit’s News and Free Press have broken the ice by backing away from daily frequency, everyone is jumping into the pond. The University of Missouri-backed Columbia Missourian will eliminate Saturday and Monday editions in a bid to save $350,000 annually. And the Klamath Falls (Ore.) Herald and News will mess with time itself by cutting it Monday edition and introducing a new “Monday on Sunday” section. We know that readers just can’t wait to get started thinking about the first day of the work week when they’re enjoying their Sunday morning coffee.
Nine weekly newspapers in Connecticut will close in January if a buyer isn’t found in the next week. It looks like a done deal, though, since the staffs have already reportedly been laid off.
The New York Times has admitted that a letter to the editor from the mayor of Paris criticizing Caroline Kennedy’s bid for Senator Clinton’s seat is a fake. The letter characterized Kennedy’s ambitions as being “in very poor taste,” which was not the kind of language Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe would ordinarily use, according to one French editor. She called the mayor’s office, which also professed surprise. The Times said it’s reviewing its authentication policies. Editor & Publisher has more.
We briefly thought we were back in 1996 when we read that GateHouse Media is suing the Boston Globe for linking to its stories. So-called “deep linking” suits went out of fashion a decade ago. Of course, with its shares trading at four cents, GateHouse may be out for whatever it can get. We think “frivolous” is too generous a term for this threat. We agree with Jeff Jarvis and will leave it at that.
Death Watch editor Paul Gillin was interviewed for an hour on Bob Andelman’s Mr. Media show on Blog Talk Radio yesterday. Click the link to listen or see the Blog Talk Radio widget in the sidebar to the left.
More than 30 million people have Elfed Themselves, making this three-year-old OfficeMax promotion one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns in history. Better hurry before it’s too late!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 at 9:35 am and is filed under Advertising, Business News, BusinessModel, Layoffs, Local news, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.