By paulgillin | June 17, 2008 - 7:03 am - Posted in Facebook

McClatchy Co., the country’s third-largest newspaper publisher, will axe 10% of its workforce as it struggles with a crushing debt load and advertising declines that are outpacing industry averages. The publisher of 30 newspapers, with a heavy concentration in the south, will cut 1,400 positions across its portfolio. The move comes after McClatchy reported a stunning 16.6% advertising decline in May and a 15.4% drop in the first five months of the year.

McClatchy is suffering more than most newspaper publishers because of the real estate crash in the southeast. And the southeast took the brunt of the blows. Hardest hit is the Miami Herald, which will lose 250 jobs, or 17% of its workforce. Revenue at McClatchy’s Florida operations fell 20.4% in the first quarter, with print-only revenue declining 23%. Online ad revenue in Florida increased just 7%. The Kansas City Star was another big loser. It will shed 120 positions, or 10% of its staff. That includes 22 newsroom employees out of a staff of 285. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram will also lose 10% of its staff, or 130 people.

North Carolina was also slammed. The Charlotte Observer is cutting 123 people, including 22 newsroom employees. The Raleigh News & Observer will axe 70 positions. The two papers will also merge their capital bureaus, sports staffs and research departments and produce more joint features. Here’s North Carolina coverage from the Observer, Charleston Post and Courier and Myrtle Beach Sun News.

Over 100 jobs will be cut in Washington state. The Tacoma News Tribune will lose 84 positions, or 13% of its staff. The Olympian will cut 17 positions, or 9% of its staff. The Bellingham Herald is cutting 13 employees, or 10% of its staff. The Tri-City Herald is losing nine people. The Anchorage Daily News is also losing 35 positions. The Seattle Times, which cut 200 jobs in April, isn’t affected. McClatchy will also outsource the printing of The Bellingham Herald and the (Boise) Idaho Statesman to Seattle-based Pioneer Newspapers.

McClatchy said the number of layoffs is being matched to local business conditions and that a few papers won’t suffer any cutbacks at all.

These are the first across-the-board layoffs at McClatchy, which has cut head count by 13% over the last two years using a combination of buyouts and attrition. The publisher said the cuts would save about $70 million a year. McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt, who received an $800,000 performance bonus last year while the company stock dropped 70%, said he hoped further cuts wouldn’t be necessary, but he wouldn’t commit to anything. “I’m hopeful that it doesn’t get worse, but I can’t say for sure,” he said.

Alan Mutter says that despite the scope of the McClatchy cuts, they aren’t nearly enough. He forecasts a $295 drop in McClatchy revenues in 2008, meaning that the layoffs will make up less than a quarter of the difference. With a debt load exceeding $4 billion from its 2006 purchase of Knight Ridder, the company badly needs to improve cash flow.

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By paulgillin | June 2, 2008 - 11:50 am - Posted in Fake News, Solutions

Charles Layton of the American Journalism Review is the latest to run the numbers and see little hope for the major metro daily. It turns out that a simple forecast of revenue trends last fall by Recovering Journalist’s Mark Potts was probably too rosy in envisioning a straight annual decline of five percent in print revenues offset by a growth rate of 20% in online revenues. When you extrapolate the recent numbers reported by the Washington Post, you come up with uglier picture.

Revenues decline through 2014 before bottoming out and beginning a slow upward climb. However, by that point the Post is less than two-thirds its current size, and it doesn’t get back to its current size for many years. And the Post, by the way, is better positioned than most newspapers to survive the coming collapse of print advertising. Layton concludes what readers of NDW have long known: many major metro dailies will fail completely. Quoting Potts: “If a big newspaper in a metropolitan area dropped dead right now, nobody under 30 would care.” He stops short of agreeing with our forecast of five survivors in the US by 2025, but he believes many markets will be left without a newswpaper.

Layton quotes Miles Groves, formerly of the American Newspaper Association: “Newspapers had time to take control of the digital world and be the owner of that franchise and we didn’t do it.That opportunity has come and gone.” Groves expects free distribution newspapers to take up much of the slack in cities that can’t support a major metro daily. (via Romenesko).

Forecast of Mass Media Death Wasn’t Wrong, Only Premature

Murdoch Sees Plenty of Headroom for WSJ

Rupert Murdoch sees a brighter future for print. “Print will be there for at least 20 years, and outlive me,” he tells The Wall Street Journal‘s Walt Mossberg in an interview at the D conference. Note that he didn’t say “newspapers.” Murdoch does think the Journal will do fine. “New York Times charges $500 a year for subscription…now we charge about $150 a year. We still have a long way to go.” But he adds that the Journal has too much management overhead. “Every piece of story in WSJ has on average about 8.3 editors involved…that is ridiculous. You have to get all of the facts in half the space.” (via Romenesko).

Layoff Log

  • The Seattle Times Co. is reportedly laying off workers at its Maine newspapers. The Newspaper Guild in Portland, Maine, says the Portland newspapers would lay off up to 35 employees. However, the parent company hasn’t confirmed the report. The Seattle Times has been besieged by the weak business climate in its area and has been scrambling to unload its Maine properties, which are a legacy of the owner Blethen family.
  • Cablevision Systems Corp. hasn’t yet taken ownership of Newsday from Tribune Co., but heads are rolling nonetheless. Newsday reported on Friday it had laid off 32 employees, half in operations management and half from Star Community Publishing. The paper already cut 120 positions in March.
  • The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis is cutting 55 jobs from its 700-person staff because of slow advertising sales. Cuts will be completed by July 1. The Scripps-owned daily has a circulation of about 150,000.

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By paulgillin | May 21, 2008 - 7:54 am - Posted in Fake News, Google

Last night I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on “The Future of Journalism,” featuring a group of reporters and former reports from the broadcast, print and online media. This panel was perhaps not representative of the media world these days, since all of the members are involved in digital initiatives of some sort at their organizations. But all come from conventional media backgrounds, and I found their optimism to be refreshing.

Panelists included Ted McEnroe, Director of Digital Media at New England Cable Network; Robin Lubbock, Director of New Media at WBUR radio; Howard Sholkin, Director of Communications & Marketing Programs at IDG Communications; and David Wallace, Managing Partner of Gamechange LLC and a professor at Emerson College.

All the panelists noted that newsrooms in their organizations were having some difficulty bridgingt the divide between the specialty journalist, who does one thing well, and the new journalist, who’s expected to work in multiple media with almost equal facility. Some veteran reporters simply haven’t been able to make the change, they noted, and their organizations are tolerating that fact. When journalists can’t make the transition to a new style of reporting, management is ultimately to blame, they said. Retraining is critical right now.

It was clear that the old walls that separated different kinds of media from each other are fallng. Robin Lubbock cited some recent stories by his radio station that demanded a visual component. In the past, the reporters would have had to do the best they could within the limitation of audio, but today they can post images on the website and send interested listeners there. This has added a wonderful new dimension to the craft of audio journalism and has energized the reporters, he said.

IDG’s Sholkin commented that the company has successfully transitioned from a print to a mostly online model in the US and that the new breed of journalist that’s entering the company is more flexible and adaptable than the print-only generation that preceded them. Today’s twentysomething reporters are only too willing to grab a camera or a video recorder if it’ll enhance the story.

The panel was also upbeat on the prospect for citizen contributions to the news reporting process. While acknowledging that mistakes were more likely in the still-undefined community journalism world, they applauded the trend toward involving readers in the newsgathering process. They were unanimous in the opinion that readers’ voices can only improve the quality of the final product.

Backpack Journalism

Several panelist also remarked on the emergence of the “backpack” journalist, who takes an assortment of devices into the field with which to capture a story. Notepads and tape recorders are no longer enough. Reporters must today be facile with any media. They also must be comfortable with communicating in short bursts. An example is the Wichita Eagle‘s current coverage of a grisly murder trial via Twitter.

Editor & Publisher has a detailed special report on these mobile journalists or “mojos.” Using lots of examples, the magazine tells how some editors are dismantling the traditional newsroom and seding reporters out into the field to file from wherever they happen to be. A fully stocked backpack of gadgetry (which can run nearly $15,000) is essential, but when journalists have the tools, they become one-person news machines. “I have had days with five or six stories,” says Brian Howard of the Journal News in White Plains, N.Y.

These journos aren’t all kids, either. Most people quoted in the story are in their 30s and the man identified as the grandfather of mobile journalism is 63. Reading this story, you get the sense that change is happening.Good change.

Murdoch as Antidote

Rupert Murdoch is putting the finishing touches on his takeover of The Wall Street Journal with his the designation of Robert Thomson as managing editor. There wasn’t a word of opposition from the newspaper’s editorial independence committee, whose reason for existence becomes more questionable with every non-decision.

Simon Constable writes on that Murdoch is injecting a healthy shot of competition into the fat and lazy US newspaper business. He contrasts the frantic competitiveness of the newspaper market in the UK, with its more than a dozen dailies, to the languid complacency of a US market defined by one-paper towns and government-sanctioned monopolies. No matter what you think of Murdoch, Constable says, the man is shaking things up and that can’t possibly be bad for an industry in crisis.

Not everyone agrees. Writing in Canada’s Financial Post, Editor Terence Corcoran rips into the Journal’s creeping left-wing bias, focusing in particular on new columnist Thomas Frank. Far from being a counterbalance to the Journal‘s traditionally conservative editorial views, Frank is just a liberal ideologue spouting the tired old mantra of publications like The Nation, from whence he came, according to Corcoran. And Cameron blames Murdoch, whose left-wing leanings Cameron says are routinely injected into the editorial voice of the newspapers he acquires.

And Finally…

Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman gives his readers a forthright account of why his newspaper is laying off when circulation is actually growing. The problem isn’t that the paper is losing relevance, he explains. It’s that the business model doesn’t work any more. “Thanks in part to a Bay Area entrepreneur named Newmark and his free, online ‘craigslist,’ the bottom dropped out. In the past eight years, revenue from classifieds has fallen by two-thirds, and they now account for only 20 percent of total ad income.”

Boardman’s piece is refreshing. It’s direct and free of the “our combined print/online readership is bigger than ever” denial. He says newspapers need to find a new way to make money. So that’s what they’re going to do.

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By paulgillin | May 16, 2008 - 7:52 am - Posted in Facebook, Google, Solutions

The devastating earthquake in China this week was the latest in a string of incidents that cast the spotlight on the Twitter microblogging service and its value to news organizations. Jeff Jarvis has called Twitter “an important evolutionary step in the rise of blogging,” but it’s really more than that. Twitter redefines the time value of news and is a critical tool in the development of citizen journalism. Individuals with cell phones can now be the eyes and ears of the world if they happen to be on the spot for a news event. Editors Weblog outlines the value of Twitter’s simplicity and open interface, which encourages people to experiment with new applications.

Writing on Global Voices, Mong Palatino notes that Twitter became a primary source of information about the recent cyclone disaster in Myanmar. We noted earlier a UK paper’s use Twitter to beat the BBC in local election coverage.

News organizations should see Twitter as an opportunity. Which paper will be the first to create a hyperlocal portal around a network of Twitter feeds provided by readers? If the mission of newspapers is to report the news quickly, shouldn’t they be outfitting reporters with Twitter accounts and streaming those feeds on their websites? Why haven’t any U.S. newspapers embraced this valuable tool yet?

CBS’s Daring CNET Play

Is CBS’s purchase of CNET a stroke of genius or a desperate play for relevance in the digital age? It does appear that CBS is serious about the Internet. In addition to laying off 160 employees recently, the network reportedly initiated talks with CNN about outsourcing some of its reporting work. Collectively, this could indicate that CBS is giving up the ghost on TV news and turning it attention to being an important player online. Alan Mutter questions the high price CBS paid for an online network that no one else appeared to want, but sees strategic value to CBS. The company certainly deserves credit for making some bold recent moves to reshuffle its cost structure and focus on the future instead of chasing a dying TV news model into the ground.

Hyperlocal Innovation Emerges Offshore

If the future of newspapers is hyperlocal, as many people think, then organizations outside the U.S. may lead the charge. Editors Weblog reports on lessons from a Finnish newspaper that is evolving an activist model that taps into issues that matter to the community. The editor-in-chief says the secret is to focus on soft stories that strike an emotional chord in readers and to pay attention to community issues that matter, such as the cleanup of a local park.

The Liverpool Daily Post is opening up its newsroom to observation and comment from its readers. People can see how decisions are made and contribute their ideas and comments to the process. What a concept. Newspapers demand transparency from the organizations they cover, yet the decision-making process in most newsrooms is as opaque as smoked glass.

Editor & Publisher reports on experiments in Latin America in which citizens do most or all of the reporting. The concept of citizen involvement is central to the Latin American newsgathering process, says Mark Fitzgerald. Many of the standard rules of journalism are suspended. “Irreverence is valued.”

Bloomberg Expands Editorial Footprint

Can a maker of computer terminals become an online media giant? We may be about to find out. Bloomberg LP has hired the former top editor of Time Inc. and The Wall Street Journal, to the new position of chief content officer. Bloomberg makes most of its money selling data terminals used by stockbrokers and other financial professionals, but there have been rumblings that the company, which was founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wants to burnish its newsgathering capabilities.

Pearlstine has spent the last year and a half in the private equity world, but it sounds like news is in his blood. Bloomberg has been growing its footprint in that area. It now has 2,300 employees , nearly double its 2001 size, and it has been growing its financial news service, television and radio operations. With Michael Bloomberg’s term in office set to end next year, there’s been considerable speculation about what would happen when he returns to business. It looks like we’re about to find out.

And Finally…

  • Newspapers may soon face another threat, according to Alan Mutter: the huge ecological burden of print publishing. “A prototypical publisher selling 250,000 newspapers on each of the 365 days of the year adds nearly 28,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere,” the Newsosaur says. “That’s roughly equivalent to the CO2 spewed by almost 3,700 Ford Explorers being driven 10,000 miles apiece per year.”
  • Journal Register Co., which is on life support pending payment of a $625 million debt this summer, has been offered a $25 million cash infusion from a current investor, who is demanding “a number of concessions” in return. Those concessions weren’t specified.
  • Two Washington Post icons are accepting the newspaper’s buyout offer: David Broder and Tony Kornheiser. Broder will continue as a contract columnist. Kornheiser’s future with the Post is less certain.
  • McClatchy Co. Chairman, President, and CEO Gary Pruitt said the company is open to selling the 49.5% share of the Seattle Times Co. it acquired as part of the purchase of Knight Ridder Inc. in 2006.

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By paulgillin | May 12, 2008 - 3:01 pm - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Google, Solutions

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.


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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By paulgillin | April 14, 2008 - 7:40 am - Posted in Fake News

Better Make That A Double; It’s Earnings Time

Today’s lead factoid: The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) says the number of U.S. newsroom journalists shrank to its lowest level since 1984 after total cutbacks of 2,900 in 2007. Update: Newsosaur Alan Mutter says this survey is a load of hooey.

In this week’s news, earnings season is upon us, and investors will be watching nervously as Media General and the New York Times Co. kick off what is likely to be a gruesome round of financial reports. Reuters says Media General revenue could fall 10.6% and lose money. The revenue slide at the times is expected to be a more modest 3.5%.

The news from Journal Register Co. could be worse than that. The floundering chain is being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange this week, which is hardly surprising given that its stock is off more than 99%. The company has hired an investment banker to explore it options. What a rapid fall from grace. Your obedient editor actually owned a few shares of this catastrophe two years ago when one of the leading money magazines called it a sleeper. Today, it looks like sleep of a permanent variety is a more likely possibility.

Alan Mutter writes that JRC was actually a model of expense management under the reign of CEO Robert Jelenic, but the disasterous acquisition of a chain of newspapers in the Detroit area saddled the company with a debt burden that may now pull it under. Some of Mutter’s stories about Jelenic’s obsession with expense reduction are amusing. What’s not amusing is the outlook: with debt at seven times trailing operating earnings and a business rooted in declining markets, it looks unlikely that JRC can successfully pull out of this tailspin.

Rate of Decline Quickens In Seattle

How bad is the newspaper business in Seattle? Despite owning a legally sanctioned near-monopoly, the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer have seen revenues drop more than 25% since 2000. What’s potentially worse is that online revenues are shrinking, too. No doubt the 2000 figures were bolstered by recruitment advertising revenue during the tech stock bubble, but the current year-to-year declines are outstripping industry averages. The fact that the company has made two major belt-tightening moves in just four months indicates that the shrinkage of its business is racing ahead of its own forecasts.

Crosscut Seattle publisher David Brewster has some ideas for rejuvenating the struggling Times. He advises the company to start delivering more products to people’s doorsteps, create an advertising network to sell locally on behalf of national advertisers and find a big partner, among other things.

Good And Bad News In The Numbers

This chart from eMarketer illustrates painfully the obscuring effect of percentages. Online ad sales at U.S. newspapers were up almost 19% in 2007, while print sales were down 9.4%. But the online revenue increase amounts to just $500 million, compared to a $4.4 billion drop in print sales. That means that print contracted eight times as fast as online expanded last year. This trend is ominous. In 2006, the falloff in print sales was only 1.3 times the growth in online sales.

There’s good news, though. Newspapers are doing pretty well in local advertising markets, according to Borrell Associates. Quoting from Media Post: “The survey of 3,000 local Web publishers found that newspaper sites garnered 26.9% of total local online advertising dollars, and also forecast big increases in spending for online video in particular in 2008. Overall, in 2007 newspaper Web sites netted over $2 billion in local online advertising. Thus, according to Borrell, they dwarfed online Yellow Pages sites…” The researcher says the secret is that newspapers are learning to sell better to local advertisers.

And finally…

Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye quit 23 years after joining the paper and one month after being forced to lay off nearly 20% of his newsroom staff. “All good things in life come to an end sooner or later, even my love affair with the Daily News,” he wrote. with characteristic bluntness. Noted the E&P writeup: “During his tenure at the Daily News, Kaye became the public face of the newspaper, and his bombastic personality and scathing criticism of Los Angeles City Hall shaped the editorial pages of the paper.”

Hartford Courant t-shirt

Romenesko treats us to t-shirts given out at a recent Hartford Courant awards event.

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By paulgillin | March 19, 2008 - 7:52 am - Posted in Fake News, Google

Hapless Sun-Times May Be Next Big Downturn Victim

Historic Sun-TimesCould the Chicago Sun-Times be the next big city daily to shut down? Read this BusinessWeek profile and you’ll probably come to that conclusion. Once a hard-hitting scourge of local politicians, the Sun-Times has been slammed by a combination of the industry downturn and management misdeeds that landed two former executives in jail. Having hacked away at costs in an effort to stabilize the ship, the paper that once won seven Pulitzers in one 20-year stretch is now reduced to haranguing rival Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell while also outsourcing its delivery to him. Concludes BW: “it’s hard to see how the Sun-Times will be around much past its 61st birthday next year.”

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times Media Group (STMG) reported a dismal fourth quarter 2007 net loss of $59.1 million, up from $34.6 million a year earlier. Editor & Publisher notes that “STMG, which publishes about 100 dailies and non-dailies in the Chicago market, is in the midst of a study of ‘strategic alternatives,’ including a sale of all or part of the company.”And to highlight how bad things are, “STMG launched a plan to reduce operating costs by $50 million by June 30, 2008. Among the measures the company undertook was outsourcing distribution to the rival Chicago Tribune, outsourcing ad production, newsroom and management layoffs, and folding some newspapers.” Can you imagine outsourcing distribution to your competitor?

Profitless in Seattle

Wanna buy a newspaper? Or three of them, actually. The Seattle Times. Co. is trying to unwind its ill-advised 1998 decision to go into debt to buy three newspapers in Maine. Apparently, the purchase was homage to the paper’s founder, who hailed from the Pine Tree State. However, the cash-strapped company can no longer afford such folly and is looking to dump the Portland Press Herald, Waterville Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal. There’s even talk that Portland’s newspaper union might buy the local rag. Perhaps that’d be a way to restore the 27 jobs the paper recently cut.

Dow Jones Surveys the Damage

Regular NDW readers won’t find much new in this Dow Jones story about the perilous state of the U.S. newspaper industry, but it is a good wrap-up of recent events. It’s generous to the industry in recounting why newspapers didn’t invest more aggressively online a few years ago. Quoting:

“For one, many newspapers were scared away from online ventures when the dot- com boom turned to a bust in 2000. In order to fully nip online competition in the bud, however, newspapers would have needed to invest heavily in burgeoning Web ventures before those entities got too expensive. For many newspapers, that kind of investment was not within their means.”

Not within their means. That’s like driving a car on bald tires because new ones are not within your means. Newspapers have had gross profit margins of more than 20% for decades. There were plenty of “means” to invest if owners had simply seen the bullet train that was heading at them. The post-bubble period was the best time in a decade to buy into the Internet. So why didn’t any newspaper companies do that?

The best quote in the story comes from McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt, who told a December conference that a “significant portion” of the current troubles the industry faces are “cyclical.” Right. So is global warming.

Envisioning the Future of Journalism

The Editors Weblog interviews Jim Brady, Executive Editor of, who provides sensible insight on the future of journalism. Newspapers aren’t going away, he says, but many smaller papers are finding that the economies of scale of online publishing make it a more sensible route that newsprint. Journalism itself will also evolve to include more reader interaction, with readers doing more of the legwork. “Iif journalists allow readers, not to investigate for them, but to help them flag and acquire easily accessible information, it makes investigative journalism easier to do than it was fifteen years ago, when the journalists had to make dozens of phone calls and go down to the public library.”

Online Media Baron’s Advice: Blow It All Up

Billionaire entrepeneur and former AOL top executive Ted Leonsis has a 10-point plan to rescue the newspaper business. It basically comes down to blowing up the existing model, going entirely online and distributing through every available channel. Oh, and search-optimizing. Veteran journalists will love this suggestion:”Get rid of senior editors. Turn them into algorithmic managers…Knowing statistically what content gets the best click through across all media is a key deliverable. Newspapers need math majors running big swaths of the organization…There are too many English majors in key positions.”

Milestone Award for New-Media Publisher

Joshua Micah MarshallA landmark event in online journalism occurred in late February, when Talking Points Memo was awarded a George Polk Award for its coverage of the firing of eight United States attorneys. This New York Times account points to the difference between the new breed of online reporting and traditional print journalism. Chief among them is the involvement of readers in the process. “There are thousands who have contributed some information over the last year,” the paper quotes Talking Point’s Joshua Micah Marshall as saying. Marshall has even been known to give “assignments” to his readers, asking them to comb through official documents. His journalism also mixes original reporting with generous links to other information online. It’s very Wikipedia-like. And it’s working. The reader- and advertising-funded site gets about 400,000 page views a day and has about 750,000 unique visitors a month.

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By paulgillin | January 16, 2008 - 8:19 am - Posted in Fake News, Paywalls

Dramatic Losses Force Union-Tribune to Lay Off Employees –, Jan. 16, 2008
[The paper, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, has cut about 15% of its newsroom employees in the last three years as Sunday circulation has plummeted 19%. Owner Copley Press’s Washington, D.C. office has been cut in half. Copley CEO Gene Bell wrote in a memo: “[A]ll communications media now face destructive competitive forces seldom seen before…never in our history have we faced revenue losses as dramatic as those of the last 12 months.” -Ed.]

Beaver County newspaper announces employee layoffs – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jan. 15, 2008
The Beaver County Times in Bridgewater announced Monday that it has laid off 10 full-time and 11 part-time employees in what it calls an effort to eliminate duplication of duties and to streamline production.

[Newport News] Daily Press to cut 14 jobs —, Jan. 14, 2008
[The Newport News paper has cut nearly 100 jobs in recent years as circulation has shrunk 20% since 1995. -Ed.]

Post-Tribune workers face layoffs – NWITimes, Jan. 12, 2008
[The northern Indiana newspaper is cutting 20 positions as part of the broad cost-reduction initiative by parent Sun-Times Media Group. – Ed.]

Allentown, Seattle newspapers will cut jobs – Reuters, Jan. 9, 2008
[I’ve already noted the cuts at the Seattle Times. The new information is about the loss of 10 positions at the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. This appears to be less than 5% of total staff. -Ed.]

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Read All About It – The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 28, 2007

[As Wall Street Journal Deputy Managing Editor Paul E. Steiger prepares to step out the door, he pens a thoughtful and dispassionate retrospective on what calls “the collapse of metro newspapers’ business model.” The 40-yet newspaper veteran chronicles the rise of the dominant media companies in the 60 and 70s that led to the post-Watergate “golden age of journalism.” He also tells of some of the spending excesses of that time that may have created too high a comfort level at the dominant dailies.

You’ll find some tidbits about the internal struggles at the Journal during the early days of the Internet. Steiger’s also right in pointing out that most newspapers’ early online efforts were half-hearted and unoriginal. This is ultimately a narrative on the industry’s decline, not an opinion piece about what should be or what should have been. In that respect, it’s frustrating to read. One would hope that a veteran with Steiger’s perspective would offer some opinon about what the industry should do, but he mainly sticks to the story line. In closing, however, he notes that he’s leaving the Journal to head up a small online investigative reporting group funded by two philanthropists. Perhaps his transition to the digital world is the most telling statement of all. – Ed.]

Switching sides – San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dec. 27, 2007
[A Bay Area alternative paper chronicles the diffusion of laid-off journalists into public relations jobs. While many are working for politicians and state agencies, some are in moving into the commercial sphere as well. Will the spinmeistering profession benefit from the addition of more seasoned journalists to the corps? – Ed.]

Seattle Times publisher hints at deep cuts – Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec. 27, 2007
“In his e-mail, [Seattle Times Publisher and Chief Executive Frank ] Blethen said revenue from print ads will be down by about 9 percent in 2007, with a similar decline expected in 2008. For combined 2007 and 2008, print revenue losses will be about $33 million, he said. In 2000, the paper booked $270 million in ad revenue, while in 2007, it fell below $200 million, he said. ‘Our Seattle Times newspaper losses for the decade will exceed $40 million — a staggering number,’ he wrote.”

U.S. media face troubling 2008 – Toronto Globe and Mail, Nov. 26, 2007
“Experts say advertisers need to remain competitive in a tighteningmarket while keeping costs down, making them likely to boost spending in areas more directly linked to commerce, such as Web search queries. That would benefit companies like Google Inc., Inc. and eBay Inc. But television networks like CBS or NBC and Web companies like Yahoo Inc. that rely on brand advertising could suffer.”

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By paulgillin | September 30, 2007 - 5:09 am - Posted in Fake News
  • Writing for the Seattle Times, John Harner visits a couple of veteran journalists and turns up all the stereotypes about bloggers. It will be a step forward when journalists stop dismissing bloggers as just a bunch of undisciplined vermin and start working with this democratic medium to make it better.
  • MediaPost cites the unusually dire language financial firms use in recent forecasts for the newspaper industry. Moody’s lowered its outlook for the New York Times Co. to a rare “negative” rating. Fitch Ratings noted that at least half the recent declines in revenue are due to “secular” rather than “cyclical” factors. That means that money ain’t coming back. Fitch then piles on by forecasting that newspapers’ online revenue will be under continuous pressure from the large number of alternative venues that advertisers have there.
  • Maybe the salvation of print is scratch-n-sniff advertising, which is being tried out by the LA Times, according to Forbes. At least that’s one idea that can’t be duplicated online. Or can it? Back in the dot-com bubble, a startup called DigiScents invented a product that could transmit smells over the Internet. A company called TriScenx is still pushing the concept. It takes all kinds.

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