By Paul Gillin | 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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By Paul Gillin | 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 Paul Gillin | 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 Paul Gillin | 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 Paul Gillin | 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 Paul Gillin | 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 Paul Gillin | 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.

 

By Paul Gillin | May 29, 2010 - 4:38 am - Posted in Future of Journalism, Journalism, Newspapers, R.I.P.

Last January we told you about Adam Chadwick and Bill Loerch, two filmmakers who are chronicling the decline of the US newspaper industry and the resulting crisis in journalism for a documentary film called Fit to Print. We just got a link to the trailer for their film. Watch it below. The filmmakers have been working on a shoestring budget and could use funding. If you can help them, contact Chadwick directly.

ZD YouTube FLV Player

Hawaiians are preparing to be one newspaper poorer.

Gannett officially exited the Hawaiian market where it has played for nearly 40 years. The company signed over ownership of the Honolulu Advertiser to the owner of rival Honolulu Star-Bulletin, bringing an end to a brutally competitive battle. Analysts say Gannett was winning the war but chose to cash out rather than to fight a smaller competitor that simply wouldn’t go away.

The Star-Bulletin plans to merge the two papers into the Honolulu Star-Advertiser sometime in the next 60 days, cutting about 300 of jobs in the process. The combined papers will have a circulation of between 135,000 and 140,000.

This is a little confusing. You see, Gannett used to own the Star-Bulletin. Then it bought the Advertiser and tried to close down the Star-Bulletin. Antitrust regulators didn’t like that idea, so Gannett had to sell the Star-Bulletin to David Black, who is now the publishing brains behind Platinum Equity, the private firm that bought the San Diego Union Tribune last year. Black bought the Star-Bulletin in 2000 and settled in for a long battle, despite having less than half the circulation of the Advertiser.

It turned out to be a war of attrition. A series of bruising battles with labor unions in which union members at one point actually tried to discourage local businesses from doing business with the Advertiser left Gannett bruised and weakened. While the Advertiser maintained its circulation edge, it continued to lose money. Black told the Advertiser that the Star-Bulletin has lost more than $100 million since 2001. Since Black appeared to be in the race for the long haul, Gannett accepted an offer that the Star-Bulletin publisher characterized as “compelling.”

The bottom line is that Honolulu now becomes a one-paper town and the Advertiser becomes the newest addition to our R.I.P. list.

The Respite Arrives

It was about a year ago that Outsell analyst Ken Doctor (right) told us that the newspaper industry was in for an 18-month respite from its troubles beginning in late 2009. It turns out he was right on the money. Alan Mutter totes up recent financial results from six big publishers and reports that the four-year-long freefall in revenues appears to be slowing. Ad sales for the big six fell 10.2% in the first quarter of 2010 compared to drops of 28.3% last year and 12.8% in 2008. As the smoke clears, the extent of the wreckage becomes apparent, however. Overall newspaper revenues in the US are down more than 46% since 2006 and stand at the lowest level since 1986, Mutter says. But in inflation-adjusted figures, the industry is down an incredible 72% over the last 25 years.

Mutter quotes Gannett President Gracia C. Martore stating confidently that “We are very pleased with the momentum that we had coming out of last year.” It’s hard to believe any industry executive could use the word “pleased” in the context of this crisis. Doctor told us last year that news executives should use this short-term breather to make much-needed changes to their business model, diversify their revenue stream and investing in online properties. Little has happened since then outside of publishers rallying around the brain-dead notion of charging for existing content.

But perhaps they simply have no choice. In weighing in with his own characteristically astute analysis on Nieman Journalism Lab, Doctor notes that while some publishers that were hemorrhaging cash a year ago are now marginally profitable, market conditions provide precious few options for spending that pocket money. Doctor calls 2010 “a year crying out for investment in innovative mobile media product creation and marketing services/advertising infrastructure build-out,” but notes that once-mighty publishing companies must satisfy themselves with sitting on the sidelines and nursing their fragile profits while Google completes an acquisition every month.

The one glimmer of good news is that newspaper publishers are finally making a dent in the massive debt that has hobbled them for the last five years. But that still leaves them little room to do anything new. A year ago, Doctor also predicted that after the 18-month respite ends, the industry will enter another period of severe contraction. We think he’s gonna be right about that prediction, too.

Miscellany

There’s good news in Orange County, Calif., however, were Freedom Communications, which owns the Orange County Register along with 31 other dailies and eight TV stations, has emerged from Chapter 11 with $450 million less debt and new ownership by a private equity firm. Freedom entered a controlled bankruptcy last September while its new owners completed a restructuring plan. The founding Hoiles family had originally been granted a tiny 2% stake in the revitalized company, but they lost that in January, leaving Freedom entirely in the hands of the private equity owners. The company is looking for a full-time CEO, if you’re interested.


There isn’t much room in the market for newsweeklies any more, and the conventional wisdom has been that Time magazine will be the last man standing. Looks like conventional wisdom is right. The Washington Post Co. is reportedly looking to unload Newsweek after three straight years of losses and the likelihood of a fourth. “In the current climate, it might be a better fit elsewhere,” said Post CEO Donald Graham in a statement.

It appears that the Post Co. is not a good fit for the magazine business. Its magazine revenue plunged 27% in 2009 and its operating loss increased to nearly $30 million. The Post redesigned Newsweek and trimmed its circulation by over a million last year in a last-ditch attempt to focus on a narrower and more profitable niche. However, the magazine market is in dismal shape in general, and weeklies have almost no value proposition in an online-driven news world.

Analysts couldn’t even speculate on who might buy Newsweek, other than U.S. News & World Report owner Mortimer Zuckerman, who shows signs of being off his rocker. That may be just the kind of buyer Newsweek needs.


The Wall Street Journal’s campaign to slug it out with The New York Times for national daily supremacy appears to be taking its toll on at least some Journal staffers, who are grumbling about the paper’s failure to secure even a single nomination for a Pulitzer Prize this year. There are all kinds of theories about the snub, ranging from perceived institutional hatred for Rupert Murdoch at Columbia University to the Journal’s focus on breaking news at the expense of long-form journalism to the inherently biased and political process of awarding prizes for non-measurable things like journalism in the first place (our favorite).

One thing’s for sure: The Times is reveling in its three 2009 Pulitzers, as evidenced by this snub from a spokesman: “The readers and employees of the Wall Street Journal deserve much better than this type of juvenile behavior from its editor in chief.” The reference is to recently taunting of the Times by Journal editor Robert Thomson, who has criticized his cross-town rival for being insular and slow.


The publisher of Dan’s Papers, which is the largest-circulation local newspaper on eastern Long Island, filed for bankruptcy, citing the weak real estate advertising market. This is despite the fact that Dan’s Papers claims an average reader household income of $381,000. The real estate market must be really bad, or high-income people must not be reading newspapers or both. Owner Brown Publishing Co., owns 15 dailies, 32 weeklies, 11 business publications, 41 free publications and 51 newspapers or niche websites.


If you’re an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad user who really likes the idea of getting a newspaper look-and-feel in a digital package, you might want to check out PressReader from NewspaperDirect. “If you’ve ever wanted to experience unadulterated newspaper goodness on the iPad, this is it,” the company said in an e-mail. “Cover-to-cover newspaper browsing with one finger. Or two, if you like to zoom in.” Which we do. The company says it delivers more than 1,500 daily newspapers from 90 countries digitally in formats that can be viewed or printed. The iPhone reader is free, so what do you have to lose?