By paulgillin | September 28, 2016 - 8:59 pm - Posted in R.I.P., R.I.P.

pittsburgh-tribune-reviewWe’re going to call a time-of-death on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, despite the fact that the newspaper says it’ll live on with a website. Everyone says that these days. The more important news is that the 24-year-old daily will shutter its print edition and lay off 106 staff members. It will maintain an online-only edition, but most dying newspapers say that.

Our favorite quote comes from Jennifer Bertetto, president and chief executive of Trib Total Media, which owns the Tribune-Review: “Our commitment to covering news in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will not change.” Right. We’ll just do it with 106 fewer people.

In keeping with the pattern that has characterized other newspaper failures, the company’s official announcement doesn’t mention the closure or layoffs until the seventh paragraph.

It’s actually a lot fewer than that, when you consider the multiple cuts that parent company Trib Total Media has inflicted on its workforce over the past couple of years. Isolating the goings-on at the Pittsburgh paper is difficult, since Trib Total Media built its media empire in nearby Greensburg and only expanded into Pittsburgh in 1992 when the competing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was in the midst of a strike. Billionaire Publisher Richard Mellon Scaife (note that Mellon is a rather big name in the region) launched the expansion after he failed in an attempt to buy the Post-Gazette. The Pittsburgh Business Times has a good timeline here.

As the number-two paper in a two-paper town, the Tribune-Review‘s back was always against the wall. Its weekday circulation of 89,000 and Sunday circulation of 168,000 were more than 40% lower than the Post-Gazette‘s, and Pittsburgh isn’t a very big market to begin with. Once Scaife died in July, 2014, the company he left behind focused its attention more on selling off assets than supporting journalism. An ongoing suit by Scaife’s heirs alleges that he threw good money after bad in attempting to keep the Tribune-Review alive.

Trib Total Media sold eight newspapers last October and laid off 153 employees in November. It shuttered the McKeesport Daily News – the Monongahela Valley’s longest-running daily – in December. Nearly 80% of the staff got a buyout offer in July. This is clearly a media business that’s looking to get out of the media business.

The loss of the Tribune-Review reduces by one the dwindling number of two-newspaper towns in the U.S. The fact that Pittsburgh, with a population of just 300,000 souls, held out so long is notable. Pittsburgh is a proud and beautiful city, if you ever get the chance to visit. Just don’t expect to find a choice of newspapers when you get there.

 

By paulgillin | May 4, 2016 - 4:59 pm - Posted in Layoffs, Local news, Newspapers, R.I.P.

Tampa TribuneThe Tampa Tribune is no more.

The rival Tampa Bay Times said on Tuesday that it has purchased the 121-year-old Tribune and shut it down, converting subscribers and advertisers to the Times. That makes the Times the fifth-largest Sunday newspaper in the country by circulation.

A purchase price was not specified, but TampaBay.com reported that Times ownership borrowed $13.3 million to finance the sale.

Locals saw this one coming. Few major metropolitan areas can support to daily newspapers anymore, and, with 2.8 million residents, Tampa-St. Petersburg is on the fringe of what you could call a major metropolitan area. The Times won a contract to print the Tribune in February, and experts said the writing was on the wall after that.

“The continued competition between the two newspapers was threatening to both,” said Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash, in a quote on Rick Edmonds’ blog at the Poynter Institute. “There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them.”

The two papers had long been able to make a go of it by targeting subscribers on either side of Tampa Bay, and at one time were considered two of the fiercest rivals in the newspaper industry. However, the collapse of business models brought about by the Internet has had both papers playing defense for the past decade.

The Tribune published continuously from 1895 until this week. Long owned by Media General, it was sold to an investment capital group in 2012 for $9.5 million. That company nearly doubled its money when it sold the Tribune’s headquarters building last July for $17.75 million, but the Tribune can hardly be considered a winning investment. The owners had reportedly borrowed more than $37 million over the last two years.

The Tribune employed 265 full-time staff. Deep cuts are expected, with Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash saying at least 100 jobs will be lost. Beginning today, the Times began appearing on Tribune subscribers’ doorsteps and in newsstand racks. The Times said it will honor all the existing subscription and advertising contracts. The Times will continue to operate the Tribune’s tbo.com website after a temporary redirect to the Times’ tampabay.com. It will also continue several local operations owned by the Tribune under their existing names.

The Times is owned by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school and journalism think tank. Until 2012 the paper was called the St. Petersburg Times under a legal agreement that had given the Tribune temporary ownership of the Times name.

The Times claims daily readership of nearly 448,000 and Sunday readership of nearly 739,000. Actual circulation is about half that. The company’s media kit claims that its print and online properties reach 1.5 million people.

A team of Times reporters who formerly worked for the Tribune put together a nice retrospective here.

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By paulgillin | January 3, 2014 - 4:51 pm - Posted in Business News, Local news, Newspapers, R.I.P.

NorthAdamsTranscriptThe North Adams Transcript, a daily fixture in northwestern Massachusetts since 1843, will be merged into the larger Berkshire Eagle later this month. The Transcript name will be discontinued and its five-person full-time editorial staff will join the Eagle. A sister weekly newspaper, the Advocate, will also be folded.

While putting the usual happy face on the announcement, management did provide a rationale for the move: “Publishing two daily newspapers that cover the same market – literally, they overlap – no longer makes sound business sense when one accounts for the duplicate efforts and redundancy in the processes involved in producing, delivering and servicing two newspapers that share the same mission,” wrote Publisher Kevin Corrado and News VP Kevin Moran in a joint message to readers.

The Transcript is  one of four Massachusetts newspapers owned by MediaNews Group of Colorado, which is one of the largest newspaper publishers in the U.S. The company is known for its practice of buying multiple newspapers in the same region and centralizing production, ad sales, business operations and even editorial operations to cut costs. Some former staffers have complained that MediaNews sacrifices journalistic quality for the sake of profits.

In this case, however, the merger probably make sense. The Berkshires are the most rural area of Massachusetts, and with readership declining across the industry the wisdom of maintaining overlapping titles would be questionable. Fortunately, no reporting jobs were lost.

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Final print edition of The Onion

Final print edition of The Onion

It is neither major, metro nor daily, but we would be remiss in not marking the passage from the world of the printed page of The Onion, which has long borne the self-effacing tagline of “America’s Finest News Source.”

Founded by two juniors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1988, the satirical journal has thrived online with its diet of satirical news stories written with such deadpan earnestness that The Onion’s entry on Wikipedia lists more than 15 prominent cases of third-party sources citing it as a legitimate news outlet, usually to their embarrassment

Unlike many newspapers that have left the print world, The Onion is merely following its overwhelmingly young and Web-savvy audience. The paper became international phenomenon when it hit the web in 1996 and traffic to theonion.com reportedly now averages 7.5 million unique visitors per month. Its YouTube channel has 670,000 subscribers and The Onion has been liked on Facebook 3.2 million times.

The Onion has been gradually withdrawing from the print market for years. Its last remaining print editions – which were in Chicago, Providence, and Milwaukee – published their final copies last week. Not surprisingly, they were a tribute to the durability of print. Headlines included: “‘ONION’ PRINT REVENUES UP 5,000%,” “Nation Just Prefers Feel Of Newsprint In Hands” and “Experts: Digital Media Revolution Still Another 70 Or 80 Years Away.”

We were subscribers to the print edition of The Onion for several years and keep its RSS feed in our carefully curated list of media sources. We still have trouble reading it without the milk coming out our nose.

 

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You’ll Forgive Us for Not Crying
By paulgillin | December 24, 2012 - 10:54 am - Posted in BusinessModel, NewMedia, R.I.P.

We’ve posted quite a few final covers and front pages over the last five years but this is one our favorite.

With Newsweek set to shut down its print operations today after a 79-year run, the magazine is going out with another of its famously provocative covers. This one shows a 1940s-era photo of the magazine’s logo towering over the Manhattan skyline juxtaposed with a hash tag that represents the 21st century forces that undermined it. It brilliantly contrasts the old- and new-media worlds, and it does it without passing judgement on either (Not everyone agrees with our opinion).

Newsweek isn’t going away. It will continue online and on tablets, with a new global edition planned for February. But the passing of the print edition marks the end of an era when millions of people got their perspective on the week’s news from the the troika of Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report. Only Time is still in print today, and who knows how long that will last?

Tina Brown writes about the final issue, heaping gratitude on the staff.

Newsweek's Final Cover

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By paulgillin | October 20, 2012 - 3:33 pm - Posted in Business News, Layoffs, R.I.P.

A year that has already seen the demise of one print institution – Encyclopedia Britannica – has now marked the end of another. Newsweek magazine will publish its last print edition in December and relaunch in an all-digital format in 2013.

The 79-year-old newsweekly’s exit from print  leaves only Time magazine standing in a market that once supported three robust competitors. US News & World Report, which was launched the same year as Newsweek, published its last print issue two years ago.

No one is particularly surprised at this development. Newsweek has bounced around between different owners for two years. The Washington Post Co. sold it for $1 in 2010 to 92-year-old  stereo equipment magnate Sidney Harman, who promptly died. Before doing so, however, he placed the magazine into a joint venture with Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, where it became a sibling to The Daily Beast in an awkwardly titled business unit called The Newsweek Daily Beast Co. By that time, the magazine’s circulation had plummeted from a peak of over 3 million to 1.4 million.

Newsweek cover: Princess Diana at 50Editor Tina Brown tried to enliven the print magazine with provocative tactics like a July 2011 cover depicting what Princess Diana would have looked like at age 50, but some media observers thought the racier fare was out-of-step with the magazine’s buttoned-down tradition. The U.S. magazine industry has actually seen a resurgence over the last three years, with revenues growing modestly and print startups exceeding closures by a three-to-one margin in 2012, according to the Associated Press.

That rising tide should have lifted Newsweek‘s boat, but Brown’s tactics took it in the wrong direction, said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism. “Newsweek did not die,” he told the AP. “Newsweek committed suicide.”

To be fair, Newsweek was already on life support when Brown inherited it. She  reportedly wept when she delivered the news to the Newsweek staff on Thursday. The closure will involve an unspecified number of layoffs.

Diller told The New York Times‘ Media Decoder blog that the Newsweek acquisition “was a mistake.” With only 500 pages of print advertising this year,  “It became completely self-evident that we couldn’t print the magazine anymore.”  Newsweek will actually continue to live in print through a handful of overseas licenses, but U.S. subscribers will next year find it replaced by the all-digital Newsweek Global, with a single, worldwide edition that requires a paid subscription.

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By paulgillin | March 29, 2012 - 12:41 pm - Posted in Business News, Layoffs, R.I.P.

 

Laurel Leader-Call final front pageThe Laurel Leader-Call, a mainstay in the small city of Laurel, MS for more than 100 years, published its final edition today. Residents and the paper’s 18 staffers weren’t given much notice; the announcement was made only on Monday by Publisher Mitchell D. Lynch.

The Leader-Call, which was purchased by a subsidiary of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. in 1999, reduced its publication from daily to four days a week six months ago. Stunned staffers said the news was a surprise, and a farewell retrospective in the final edition reflects similar comments from members of the community.

The Leader-Call was founded in 1911 as the Laurel Daily Argus and the later changed its name to the Laurel Daily Leader  before assuming its current name in 1930.

 

By paulgillin | August 25, 2011 - 4:08 pm - Posted in Business News, Local news, R.I.P.

Oakland Tribune front pageMediaNews Group, which has been on the ropes financially as it struggles with debt, will take drastic action in its Bay Area stronghold, consolidating 11 local newspapers in the East Bay into two regional newspapers and laying off 120 people, or 8% of its staff. About 40 editors and 80 production people are expected to be let go.

Beginning on November 2, the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, The Argus and the West County Times will be consolidated under the name East Bay Tribune.

Six other titles – the Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald and East County Times will be rebranded as simply the Times. The San Mateo County Times will be merged into the San Jose Mercury News. The Bay Area News Group, which is a subsidiary of MediaNews, will also start two weekly newspapers.

The most visible casualty of the cost-cutting move is the Oakland Tribune, a daily that has been published since 1874. The most recent circulation figures we could find listed its daily circulation at nearly 93,000 in 2009. It has been the only daily newspaper in Oakland since 1950. The Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 1950 and 1989. The other major daily title to be closed is the Contra Costa Times, which was founded in 1947. It has a daily circulation of 168,000.

While the move might appear to be counter to the trend toward hyper local news coverage, MediaNews is maintaining some exclusive local content. All newspapers will have a standalone local news section daily.

The company’s press release puts a predictably cheery front on the news. The result of all the closures and layoffs will be “greater emphasis on providing high-impact, regional and local coverage.”

In contrast, the editor of the Oakland Tribune told Columbia Journalism Review, “We’ve already gotten pretty lean. It’s impossible to expect us to be doing all that we did before.”

Ken Doctor has a poignant and thoughtful obituary on Nieman Journalism Lab. He brings home the impact of a business decision on the community residents who had relied on their local newspapers for years to represent their interests.

More coverage on KQED.

By paulgillin | July 7, 2011 - 1:02 pm - Posted in Best/Worst, Business News, Journalism, Layoffs, Murdoch, Newspapers, R.I.P.

News of the World Front PageIn a stunning example of corporate overreaction, News Corp. today announced that it will shut down Britain’s largest Sunday newspaper amid a growing scandal over voicemail hacking.

The 168-year-old News of the World, which boasts a Sunday circulation of 2.5 million, will publish its last edition on July 10. The move comes as outrage in Britain reached a fever pitch over allegations that the tabloid had illegally accessed and even deleted voice mail messages on the phone of a 13-year-old girl who was kidnapped and later found murdered.

Allegations of phone hacking are nothing new for the tabloid. Reports of reportorial excess have swirled around News of the World for two years. However, public anger and advertiser boycotts grew this week amid allegations that as many as 4,000 people have been victimized by such tactics, including relatives of terrorist attack victims and soldiers killed in combat.

Milly DowlerThe tipping point came with reports this week that hired investigators had not only hacked into the phone of 13-year-old Milly Dowler (left) but also deleted some of the voicemails, giving her parents false hope that the girl was still alive. James Murdoch, the heir apparent to the Rupert Murdoch empire, issued a statement saying such a practice – if it occurred –  “was inhuman and has no place in our company.”

Analysts speculated that the decision to shutter the News of the World and lay off 200 employees was made by the younger Murdoch and supported by his dad, although such drama has not been typical of the elder statesman. Skeptics saw more nefarious motives.

Specifically, they questioned why News Corp. didn’t demand the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and editor of News of the World at the time the allegations first surfaced. Brooks is a Murdoch confidante, and critics suggested that the jobs of 200 people had been sacrificed to preserve hers.

The scandal also broke as News Corp. neared the final stages of its bid for BSkyB,  the largest pay-TV broadcaster in the United Kingdom, with over 10 million subscribers, according to Wikipedia. Critics suggested that the cloud created by the News of the World allegations could have jeopardized Murdoch’s bid.

Writing in the Telegraph¸ Harry Wallop quotes politicians and media commentators speculating that an even more cynical business objective was involved. News Corp. had already announced plans to move to a seven-day-a-week publishing schedule across its four UK titles: the Sun, News of the World, the Times and the Sunday Times. The expansion could  potentially create internal competition across the News Corp. properties. Eliminating one title may have little impact on revenues as advertisers simply migrate their business to other holdings within the portfolio.

Whatever the motives, the decision strikes us as a massive overreaction. Scandals like this are usually addressed by a few high-level resignations and some corporate self-flagellation. It could be that the timing was simply bad for News Corp., but depriving 200 people of their livelihoods – and a couple of million Brits of their weekly celebrity scandals – strikes us as a bit over the top.

By paulgillin | June 7, 2011 - 12:43 pm - Posted in Business News, Newspapers, R.I.P.

Two small Colorado daily newspapers have closed their doors, victims of a bad economy. The Vail Mountaineer and the Denver Daily News. Both were owned by Former Vail Daily owner Jim Pavelich.

Founded in 2008, the Mountaineer published six days a week under the slogan “Made By Cool People For Cool People.” It had a staff of seven and apparently free distribution. It published about 20-30 pages daily and distributed online in PDF format. The launch was perhaps the worst-timed in history, coming just before the collapse in real estate prices and declining  economy savaged pricey resort areas like Vail. the competitor Vail Daily soldiers on.

The Denver Daily News, which was also founded in 2008, claimed a circulation of 12,000 for its freely distributed weekdaily. With full-page ad rates topping out at $1,800, according to its media kit, it was not a high-priced competitor to the Post. Information on staffing was not available on the website.