After stating confidently last week that his deal to buy Newsday was as good as done, Rupert Murdoch abruptly pulled out of the bidding, ceding ownership to Cablevision. Thus ends a month of speculation about Murdoch’s supposedly devious strategy to corner the New York market and then spread is his publishing empire westward.

Maybe.

As Newsday points out in its own outstanding coverage of the saga, Murdoch walked away from the Dow Jones deal several times before eventually settling on the price he wanted. So the concession to Cablevision could be a ruse meant to force Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell to make a decision (Alan Mutter has a fine analysis of the dire circumstance at the Tribune, whose debt service obligations were an incredible 24% of revenues in the first quarter).

On the other hand, as Newsday points out, a sale to Murdoch could have raised significant antitrust and regulatory issues. With Zell under intense pressure to generate cash, a quick sale to the cash-rich Cablevision could be a more practical option.

For now, it appears that this story is over. Murdoch was reportedly having a grand old time at the Time 100 gala dinner in New York last week, while Mortimer Zuckerman sulked in a corner. Murdoch conceded to a reporter that he might have been a bit hasty in declaring victory in the bidding a day earlier. His demeanor didn’t indicate that he was tired or frustrated about the sudden collapse of the deal. Rather, his relaxed confidence may have been that of a skilled card player waiting to see if his bluff will be called.

Small Town News Outlet Writes New Rules

Columnist Jerry Large of the Seattle Times tells the story of a community newspaper that is thinking differently. The Orting News is an online service that’s filling a void left by the death of a local newspaper. It has ramped up to 14,000 subscribers with a model in which nearly all the reporting is done by members of the community. Anyone can submit an article, and the only fact-checking is an e-mail verification that the sender is who he or she says. Any disputes or corrections are sent directly to the writer. Paid writers cover the really important stuff.

An interesting comment Large’s column is this one: “The Orting News isn’t journalism.” Really? According to who?

Losses & Layoffs

  • In what has become an all-too-common refrain of late, Gannett said it’s offering buyouts to about 160 workers at five of its six newspapers in New Jersey. If there aren’t enough takers, layoffs are likely.
  • Editor & Publisher cites an SEC filing in which McClatchy estimates its 49.5% stake in the publisher of The Seattle Times has fallen more than a third since last December and 88% from its value at acquisition in late 2006.
  • Community newspaper publisher GateHouse Media reported a first-quarter net loss of $28.8 million compared to a $6.1 million loss a year ago. Total revenues were up 78% but same-property revenues fell 4.2%. Gatehouse’s strategy is to buy up newspapers and then use free cash flow to pay out dividends that drive up it stock price. However, even that strategy doesn’t appear to be working these days.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 12th, 2008 at 3:01 pm and is filed under Business News, BusinessModel, Citizen Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, Local news, Murdoch, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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