By paulgillin | July 10, 2009 - 8:02 am - Posted in Business News, NewMedia, Newspapers, R.I.P.

EagleTimesThe 175-year-old Claremont, N.H. Eagle Times publishes its last issue today after filing for bankruptcy. Publisher Harvey Hill informed the 100-plus staffers only yesterday of the shutdown of the near-daily (the morning paper doesn’t publish on Saturday) as well as three companion weekly and advertiser papers serving surrounding areas. Employees get their last paycheck next week and health insurance through the end of the month.

The Eagle Times website (circ. about 8,000)  has no news of the impending closure. New England Cable News does, however. It has the video clip below, including interviews with staffers choking back tears but otherwise showing little outrage. One man mourns the fact that the immediacy of the move gave the staff no chance to say goodbye to readers. The publisher filed for Chapter 7  bankruptcy, which mandates immediate closure of the business. (via Martin Langeveld)

globe_deadline

Management at the Boston Globe finally wore down union leadership last night and won tentative agreement on a revised contract that is substantially similar to the one the union rejected a little over two weeks ago.  The new contract slightly reduces the pay cut management had originally sought, although it includes additional benefit reductions.  More importantly, the Globe and its parent New York Times Co. emerged victorious on the biggest issue: the right to end lifetime job guarantees for 170 employees.

Union members still have to ratify the proposed contract in a vote set for July 20, but approval seems likely now that union leadership has endorsed the deal.  The end of the last bitter labor dispute between Globe management and employees also positions the paper for sale to one or more of several interested suitors, which include investor and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca,; Partners HealthCare chairman Jack Connors and former Globe executive Stephen Taylor.

Schedule Cutbacks Have Unforeseen Effects

More than 100 daily newspapers in 32 states have cut at least one daily edition in an effort to reduce costs and avoid layoffs.  But if you think that changing frequency is a matter of just shuttling around the work schedule, read this excellent piece in Editor & Publisher on the ripple effects of becoming somewhat-less-than-daily. Joe Strupp talked to editors around the country and found that cutting as little as one day’s worth of print news can force significant changes in the way a newspaper approaches its mission. “We try to cover Saturday through Monday on Tuesday. But we don’t staff Sunday night so we can staff more the rest of the week. There is more breaking news that goes up on Monday,” says Dan Liggett of the Wilmington (Ohio) News Journal in a quote that typifies the kind of calendar soup that these editors must contend with.

Some papers have had to add pages on days following gaps in the production schedule because print diehards still want local news and won’t go online for it.  Big news stories tend to lose momentum when they occur just before a break in the production schedule.  This forces editors to alter subsequent coverage to keep reader interest from waning. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, which are the most prominent dailies to cut back on print, have moved more enterprise reporting stories into the Thursday, Friday and Sunday editions that land on subscribers’ doorsteps.

In communities with active high school sports schedules, the loss of a Saturday edition has prompted website editors to boost the priority of local sports in Saturday online coverage and to add Sunday pages to handle the demand. Other publishers have found that weekly columns and features that appeared on certain days have had to be moved to other days because readers didn’t want to give them up.

The good news is that “editors are becoming more convinced that print-devoted readers will stick around even when fewer editions are available and stories get published days after a news event,”  Strupp concludes.

R.I.P. Ann Arbor News

Ann_Arbor_News_BuildingThe Ann Arbor News, which announced plans in March to scale back from daily to twice weekly frequency, is apparently going a little further than that.  Writing on Poynter.org, Rick Edmonds reports that the 174-year-old daily is effectively shutting down.  The “unspecified number of layoffs” the paper announced in March is in fact the entire staff, Edmonds says. The headquarters building (right) will be sold and an entirely new online operation launched with a twice-weekly print edition that looks pretty lightweight. Staffers will have the opportunity to apply for jobs at a much lower pay scale than what most of them are currently earning.  Edmonds suggests that Ann Arbor’s young, hip college-age crowd is more attuned to online media and extrapolates the same scenario playing out in cities like San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle and San Jose, where a young, upwardly mobile populace creates a hostile environment for a daily newspaper.

Miscellany

Editor & Publisher continues to try to find insight in the increasingly meaningless “time-spent-on-sight” statistics for major newspapers.  We pointed out some of the weaknesses of this metric in our analysis of last month’s figures, including the paradoxical fact that big spikes in traffic can actually drive down time-spent figures.  Did the Washington Post really do anything to deserve a one-third drop in reader time commitment from May 2008 (16:04) to May 2009 (10:58)? If you look at the snapshot for those two months, things look pretty negative for the Post, but the April 2008 time-spent number was 12:55, which hints that the figure from May of last year was a fluke.  We wish Nielsen would stop flouting these monthly snapshots and concentrate instead on six month moving averages, which would filter out the short-term spikes that make year-to-year comparisons practically useless.


Fans of Jim Hopkins’ hugely popular Gannett Blog can breathe a sigh of relief.  The crusade to be the world’s most reliable source about what’s going on inside the company will continue at Gannettoid after the blog shuts down on July 19. Gannettoid is “a Web site that serves as a collection of stories, links and other Web sites about Gannett Company.” While it isn’t formally affiliated with Gannett Blog, Gannettoid is welcoming devotees to continue their conversations in the forum section.  No word on whether Hopkins will pop in for a visit now and then.


The new owners of the San Diego Union-Tribune are already selling off property acquired in the purchase of the newspaper last month. Two properties have gone on the market at a combined sale price of $9.1 million, which is nearly 40% higher than what Platinum Equity paid for them. The move would tend to confirm Ken Doctor’s theory that Platinum Equity acquired the U-T primarily for its real estate value and got the newspaper thrown in for free. (via Gary Scott)


Sun Newspapers will eliminate 115 full- and part-time positions in mid-August as part of a sweeping reorganization plan that will reduce the company’s portfolio of weekly newspapers by half and outsource accounting, payroll and home delivery to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both organizations are owned by New Jersey-based Advance Publications.


The Columbia Journalism Review profiles Alan Mutter, whose Reflections of a Newsosaur blog has stirred up the industry and created a launch pad for Mutter’s ideas about reinventing news organizations. It’s a good companion to our Feb. 18 audio interview with Mutter that includes details about his new ViewPass venture, which seeks to give publishers a viable subscription model.


Katharine_WeymouthWashington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth addressed graduates of the Medill School Of Journalism at Northwestern University over the weekend, urging them to continue to fight the good fight and declaring that “the need for great journalism is stronger than ever.” You can read the full text of her address here. Dan Gillmor tweeted that it was a “defensive commencement speech by WashPost publisher; she plainly has no strategy for future.”  However, Weymouth’s remarks indicate that she understands that the old model is collapsing and that publishers must adapt to a new world in which they are no longer “a toll booth over a bridge” to their readers.  Read the text and draw your own conclusions.


Last week we noted that MySpace is struggling against Facebook and other adult-oriented social networks, calling into question the effectiveness of Rupert Murdoch’s management strategy.  Now MySpace is laying off two-thirds of its international workforce, or 300 people, on top of the 400 laid off in the US last week.  Altogether, the company has cut its total workforce by nearly 40%.  Which only goes to show, we suppose, that media dislocation isn’t limited strictly to old media.

And Finally…

Oyster_ReportersThere is hope for veteran journalists.  Oyster Hotel Reviews is a fledgling online venture that employs 13 journalists to conduct extensive reviews of lodgings for business and leisure travelers.  The site, which is funded by Bain Capital Ventures, bucks the current trend toward wisdom-of-crowds reviews by employing professionals to visit hotels under cover and write about their experiences. “Oyster.com is a great opportunity for these journalists as they provide full benefits, competitive salary and a job that includes travel to various hotels around the world fully paid for—who wouldn’t want that as a job?” a publicist wrote us.  We’re wondering where to apply.

By paulgillin | June 3, 2009 - 6:55 am - Posted in Business News, NewMedia, R.I.P.

The Philadelphia Bulletin, a conservative weekday paper with a small but loyal following, shut down abruptly yesterday, idling 25 workers.

This is actually the second time a Bulletin in Philadelphia has closed. The first time was in 1982, but Thomas Rice bought up the name and relaunched the Bulletin as “Philadelphia’s Family Paper” in 2004.

By most accounts, the new  Bulletin struggled from the start. Staffers said paychecks were often late. Ads were scarce. Critics complained of questionable fact-checking and a tendency for the Bulletin to select wire service stories that cast liberals in a  poor light. 

The Bulletin retained its predecessor’s famous slogan, “In Philadelphia Nearly Everybody Reads the Bulletin,” but that stretched the truth. The paper claimed a circulation of 100,000, but the numbers weren’t audited and staffers said they didn’t know how many copies were actually paid for. Columnist Herb Denenberg says he’s never actually seen a copy.

The Bulletin‘s website doesn’t mention news of the closure and Rice was unavailable for comment. 

The Bulletin struggled in a hostile environment and a market that’s barely able to support two daily papers, let alone three. In that respect, the story is reminiscent of the New York Sun, a weekday paper serving Wall Street that shut down last October.

By paulgillin | May 21, 2009 - 6:40 pm - Posted in Business News, BusinessModel, Layoffs, Local news, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, R.I.P.

Eric Schmidt, CEO, GoogleTwo new entries in the almost-but-on-second-thought-no front: Google considered buying a newspaper but decided against it. Eric Schmidt tells the Financial Times that “There is a line and we’re going to stay on our side of it.  We have done well by letting content people creating great content in their own way.” He also says Google has no interest in buying The New York Times, but says David Geffen would make a great owner.”

Schmidt, whose company is often reviled as the great Satan by newspaper publishers, says that the loss of smaller papers come in particular is a tragedy. “The reporting that keeps the mayor honest is going to be gone and I don’t know what to do about that,” he says.

Without explicitly stating that newspapers should become nonprofits, Schmidt implies that the model has appeal. “Newsgathering and profitability model has always been an uncomfortable relationship,” he says. But he dismisses the idea that nonprofit is a panacea. “I don’t know how to solve the problem taking for-profit structures and transitioning them to a nonprofit world without some very generous person between,” he says. But that’s not going to be Google.

There’s a 10-minute video at the link above. If you think Schmidt is some kind of business velociraptor, watch the vid.  He has a Ph.D. in engineering, is thoughtful and contemplative and is also flat-out brilliant.

Also in the might-have-been category, the Washington Post‘s two managing editors told visitors to an online chat last night that the Post considered expanding its distribution base into Baltimore, where the Sun is hemorrhaging, but decided against it. “The best and most cost effective way to get us in Baltimore is either online or through a Kindle subscription,” they wrote as one. “We have indeed evaluated whether it makes economic sense for us to sell subscriptions in the Baltimore area and determined that the math doesn’t work in our favor.”

Miscellany

That’s all she wrote for the Tucson Citizen. A last-ditch attempt attempt by the Arizona attorney general to save the newspaper failed when U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins said the AG had failed to show that violations of antitrust laws or of the Newspaper Preservation Act had occurred. Quoting verbatim: “While regrettable that the Citizen‘s illustrious legacy must come to end, it can not be said at this time, the decision to close the Citizen involves an anti-trust violation. The Court can not say at this point in time that there is a violation of the Newspaper Preservation Act,” wrote the judge, who definitely should hire one of the Citizen‘s laid-off copy editors.


The Federal Trade Commission will hold a series of workshops entitled “Can News Media Survive the Internet Age? Competition, Consumer Protection, and First Amendment Perspectives” beginning on September 15. From the release: “The workshops will consider a wide range of issues, including possible business and non-profit models for news organizations, the role of targeted behavioral and other online advertising, whether additional, limited antitrust exemptions may be necessary under these unique circumstances, and the implications of online news for both copyright protection and the availability of broadband access.”


The Associated Press is offering a novel buyout program: employees get $500 for every year of service but their pension benefits are increased to 14% to 16% above that which they would normally receive. The plan is clearly aimed at older employees. Applicants must be at least 55 years of age with at least 10 years of AP service and the combination must add up to 75.


Latest layoffs totals, from Erica Smith’s Paper Cuts blog:
Salt Lake Tribune: 3
Raleigh News & Observer: 31
Durham, N.C. Herald-Sun: 7
Detroit Newspaper Partnership: 150
Baton Rouge Advocate: 49
Honolulu Advertiser: 15

And Finally…

From the Columbia Journalism Review: “Stephen Colbert weighed in on future of journalism right now, taking a side in the debate over the role of print: ‘Newspapers are an important part of our lives, not to read, of course, but, when you’re moving you can’t wrap your dishes in a blog.'”

By paulgillin | May 15, 2009 - 6:14 pm - Posted in Business News, Layoffs, Local news, NewMedia, R.I.P.
First issue of the Arizona Citizen, 1870

First issue of the Arizona Citizen, 1870

The 138-year-old Tucson Citizen, AmericaArizona’s oldest newspaper, will print its last edition tomorrow, even as a prospective buyer howls in protest.  The paper will continue online with what is being called a “modified” edition focused on commentary and opinion, but without news or sports coverage the newspaper is effectively dead

Founded in 1870 as the Arizona Citizen, the daily has gone through a painful downsizing process, culminating in a bizarre series of late rescue attempts.  Owner Gannett Co. announced in January that it was putting the Citizen up for sale and would shut down the paper in March if no buyer was found.

In February, the Justice Department said it was investigating the Gannett sale due to allegations that the company would not give up its interest in a joint operating agreement (JOA) it has with Lee Enterprises, publisher of the Arizona Daily Star.  JOAs are legally sanctioned duopolies that enable partners to share profits and back office operations while maintaining competing editorial voices. Without the JOA, the Citizen is effectively a money pit.

Failed Rescue Attempt

On March 16, just five days before the scheduled shutdown,we posted our first RIP for the newspaper, but the next day  Gannett announced that two “very interested buyers” had emerged.  In fact, the Citizen had at least five suitors during its final months, but none wanted to pay Gannett’s price. Meanwhile, the Justice Department confirmed today that it has closed its investigation into the sale and will let the Citizen shut down.

The howls of protest are from Stephen Hadland, CEO of Santa Monica Media Corp., who says he still wants to buy the Citizen and who claims Gannett refuses to budge on price.  The Citizen reported in March that Santa Monica Media is a “blank check company” that exists solely to perform mergers and acquisitions. Hadland has asked the Arizona attorney general for a temporary restraining to prevent Gannett from closing the Citizen.  With no further interference from the Justice Department, however, it appears that the closure is a done deal.

In a final strange twist, a Gannett implied that the stub of a website being kept in operation may be nothing more than a sop to the Justice Department to let the deal go through.  Gannett revealed almost no details about the plans for the online operation and refused to say how long it will keep the site in operation.

The Citizen employs 60 people, most of whom will lose their jobs, although some may be retained to staff the Web operation.

Update 5/16/09: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Tucson late Friday to block the closure of the Citizen. A temporary restraining order is being filed. The move appears to have been initiated by Santa Monica Media Corp., which says it bid a fair price for the paper but Gannett refused to negotiate. As of 10:30 a.m. MST on Saturday, if was still unclear if Saturday’s issue would be the last.

By paulgillin | March 17, 2009 - 6:25 am - Posted in Business News, Future of Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, R.I.P.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer final front page

This is the final front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which published its last issue this morning after 145 years of daily operation.

Here’s a slide show of the final day. About 150 of the paper’s 170 employees will lose their jobs.

The P-I says it will be the first daily to shutter its print operations and go fully online, although technically the Capital Times did this last year. Reporter Joe Tartakoff writes about how Seattlepi.com will work very differently from its print predecessor.

At Seattlepi.com, “We don’t have reporters, editors or producers—everyone will do and be everything. Everyone will write, edit, take photos and shoot video, produce multimedia and curate the home page,” says assistant-managing-editor-turned-executive-producer Michelle Nicolosi. And that’s not all. This is going to be a pure Web news operation in every sense, she says.

Can a venerable print newspaper create a brand, a business and a future for itself on the Web? The news world will be watching.