Newsonomics: Gannett turns back Alden, but it’s just a hiccup before the big rollup in the sky


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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It seems like a return to status quo ante. But the ante may have changed. No surprises: Today, Gannett shareholders officially rejected Alden Global Capital’s amateurish efforts to win board seats and push the country’s biggest newspaper chain by revenue to sell itself. Over the last month-plus, Alden — using the name of its MNG Enterprises, as in MediaNews Group, a moniker it now prefers to its previous Digital First Media — pivoted repeatedly. Seeing its failure on the horizon, it reduced the number of board members it was recommending. Its PR army maintained its fusillade of Gannett-baiting correspondence, which Gannett’s own forces answered. (Do remember that PR jobs now outnumber journalism jobs 6:1, that ratio growing annually.) But all of it, as I’d previewed, stank of failure. But that other scent remains in the air: the sweet aroma of mergers and acquisitions, the coming consolidation of the
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Newsonomics: Bryan Goldberg wants to build Bustle into the “Meredith of the digital age”


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Bryan Goldberg positions himself as a contrarian. While many media owners look to sell, he’s on the hunt for bargains — and he’s finding a few he believes in. While he was outbid by Great Hill Partners for the Gizmodo Media Group, the Bustle Digital Group CEO and founder has added brands like Mic, Gawker, and The Outline to his portfolio, breaking out from his company’s women’s content niche. Having walked away with a chunk of the $200 million Turner paid for Bleacher Report (which he cofounded) in 2012, Goldberg has attracted a fair amount of controversy in the hothouse of the New York City media world. His Bustle Digital Group built itself on what it considered a unique approach to women’s content — an assertion that didn’t win a lot of friends coming from a 30-year-old male hard-charger. Others have pointed to Bustle’s use of lower-priced freelancers to build Continue reading "Newsonomics: Bryan Goldberg wants to build Bustle into the “Meredith of the digital age”"

Newsonomics: The newspaper industry is thirsty for liquidity as it tries to merge its way out of trouble


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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“People think nothing is happening, but that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Everybody is talking to everybody.” That’s the best quick summation I can offer of the first few months of what I called 2019 Consolidation Games back in January. That line, offered last week by one newspaper chain CEO, is echoed by his peers. The early-year big industry game-changing questions seem unchanged:
  • Will Gannett successfully fend off the seemingly inept armored assault of industry heel Alden Global Capital? Is Gannett’s aim to hire a new “name” CEO part of that defense?
  • Will Tribune ever find someone who wants to buy the company or merge with it — at a price it’s willing to accept?
  • Will McClatchy make a new effort to convince Tribune that it’s its last best hope?
These are all questions — involving 4 of the 6 largest newspaper chains in the country — that Continue reading "Newsonomics: The newspaper industry is thirsty for liquidity as it tries to merge its way out of trouble"

Newsonomics: At the new L.A. Times, Norm Pearlstine is doing a little California dreaming


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Last year, on his third attempt — over 46 years — to get a good job in Los Angeles, Norm Pearlstine landed the plum of West Coast plums. Once Patrick Soon-Shiong paid a billionaire’s ransom to free the Los Angeles Times (and San Diego Union-Tribune) from the clutches of Tronc, Pearlstine took on an unexpected role: executive editor of the newest Los Angeles Times. Some snorted that he’d “pulled a Cheney”; Soon-Shiong had hired the Dow Jones/Time Inc./Bloomberg veteran as a key adviser and put him in charge of hiring a new executive editor. But then Soon-Shiong announced that Pearlstine himself, at the incomparably experienced age of 75, would lead the Times’ fractured newsroom. At the time, I wrote that:
It’s easy to look at the hiring of a New Yorker septuagenarian as less than au courant, and yes, the hiring of a younger, even female, editor-in-chief Continue reading "Newsonomics: At the new L.A. Times, Norm Pearlstine is doing a little California dreaming"

Newsonomics: Patrick Soon-Shiong on the L.A. Times’ transmedia future, french-fry tweets, and modernizing the “newspaper” business


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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It was a single weekend phone call three years ago that set Patrick Soon-Shiong on an unexpected path. It was Michael Ferro, whom he barely knew, calling in spring 2016, telling him he’d make the medtech billionaire a “partner” in Tribune Publishing — if he agreed to invest $70.5 million (at a high price per share) and if he would commit immediately. Many corporate twists and turns later, Soon-Shiong ended up buying the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune for a cool half-billion dollars — acknowledging that he “overpaid” in order to save what he considers a vital southern California institution from rule by cost-cutters. All that outlay was just a prelude, though: Soon-Shiong told me (in part one of our three-part series on the new L.A. Times) that he’ll take a further $50 million loss in 2019, the result of his investment in hiring
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Newsonomics: Inside the new L.A. Times, a 100-year vision that bets on tech and top-notch journalism


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Look past the view of the 105. Beyond it is the unfolding of the 21st century, delayed but now in full force at the Los Angeles Times. That’s my big takeaway from a visit to Patrick Soon-Shiong’s new temple to next-stage journalism. Last summer, he moved his just-purchased L.A. Times (whose lease was expiring) to one of the sprawling L.A.’s least glamorous addresses: 2300 E. Imperial Highway, El Segundo, CA 90245. (Google’s satellite view is revealing.) That move stirred some newsroom complaints early on, though the new address seems to have receded as an issue as Soon-Shiong and editor-in-chief Norm Pearlstine have laid out their fast-paced, if still incremental, visions of a new Times. The visions are big enough, but they stand out even more dramatically in a newspaper business still cutting its way to the future, looking to mergers and acquisitions as a Continue reading "Newsonomics: Inside the new L.A. Times, a 100-year vision that bets on tech and top-notch journalism"

Newsonomics: Tribune’s Thursday night surprise rescrambles the consolidation puzzle


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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In a Thursday evening surprise, Tribune Publishing chairman and CEO Justin Dearborn is out, along with two company executives. Out, here, is a relative term as Dearborn’s three-year tenure, his first ever in the newspaper industry, could net him a payout of $8 million or more, while the other two could take in millions. Tim Knight, currently president of Tribune, will immediately succeed Dearborn as CEO. Could the moves presage the major rollup that’s been increasingly talked about in America’s now-in-play, ever-struggling daily newspaper industry? Does the move tell us anything about the likelihood of Alden Global Capital successfully winning Gannett? What will Tribune, Gannett, Digital First Media, and McClatchy — four of the major U.S. daily chains, all involved in this possible buying, selling, and mating — look like when the newsprint M&A dust settles? The suddenness of Dearborn’s removal suggests that bigger moves are imminent. One Continue reading "Newsonomics: Tribune’s Thursday night surprise rescrambles the consolidation puzzle"

Newsonomics: Let the 2019 Consolidation Games begin! First up: Alden seeks to swallow Gannett


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Alden Global Capital, the most reviled newspaper owner in the business, now wants to buy Gannett, the United States’ largest daily newspaper company. As reported Sunday evening by The Wall Street Journal — and then confirmed via early Monday morning press release — Alden, through its Digital First Media/MNG Enterprise ownership, has offered a 23 percent premium for Gannett. Alden apparently told reporters it had been in recent contact with Gannett about the offer. But later on Sunday night, Gannett’s USA Today told a different tale, with a company source saying “there has been no communication regarding a proposal to the company.” But this morning, an updated version of the story acknowledged Gannett had “officially received an unsolicited proposal to acquire the company.” This may be the first newspaper mergers-and-acquisitions story of 2019, but it definitely won’t be the last. Consolidation (and the cost-cutting that comes with Continue reading "Newsonomics: Let the 2019 Consolidation Games begin! First up: Alden seeks to swallow Gannett"

Newsonomics: 18 lessons for the news business from 2018


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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We live in transgressive, new-Orwellian times. Fact has been subverted by forces beyond our imagination, both newly minted and old school. Truth, elusive truth, is now in the mind of the subscriber. Yes, it is subscribers, along with their digital payments, who are transforming what’s working best among news-originating companies today and laying the groundwork for the early 2020s. With 2019 nearly upon us, we can look at the year past and see a tired decade dragging to a close, with few winners, numerous strugglers, and caravans of losers. Facebook has fallen flatter on its face, The Social Network is in danger of becoming a social disease. Google maintains its primacy, even as its CEO is called to Capitol Hill to explain how the current president’s name somehow appears when “idiot” is typed into its engine. Greed isn’t just good in the minds of many — it’s the long-term strategy Continue reading "Newsonomics: 18 lessons for the news business from 2018"

Newsonomics: 18 lessons for the news business from 2018


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




We live in transgressive, new-Orwellian times. Fact has been subverted by forces beyond our imagination, both newly minted and old school. Truth, elusive truth, is now in the mind of the subscriber. Yes, it is subscribers, along with their digital payments, who are transforming what’s working best among news-originating companies today and laying the groundwork for the early 2020s. With 2019 nearly upon us, we can look at the year past and see a tired decade dragging to a close, with few winners, numerous strugglers, and caravans of losers. Facebook has fallen flatter on its face, The Social Network is in danger of becoming a social disease. Google maintains its primacy, even as its CEO is called to Capitol Hill to explain how the current president’s name somehow appears when “idiot” is typed into its engine. Greed isn’t just good in the minds of many — it’s the long-term strategy Continue reading "Newsonomics: 18 lessons for the news business from 2018"

Newsonomics: Can The Correspondent “unbreak news” in the United States?


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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How zen is a non-breaking news notification? We may find out in 2019. Today, the ambitious, contrarian founders of Dutch phenomenon De Correspondent launch a $2.5 million funding campaign to fund the launch of a sibling publication, The Correspondent, in the U.S. That initiative has been gestating for almost two years, ever since editor Rob Wijnberg and CEO Ernst-Jan Pfauth first set their sights on an American market 20 times the size of their native Netherlands. “The slogan we use for The Correspondent in the United States is going to be ‘Unbreaking news,'” Wijnberg told me last week. “That kind of summarizes it. We’re not ‘breaking news,’ and we don’t want to be breaking news, because it’s part of making us cynical and divided and less informed about the world. Let’s try something different.” If we could all read Dutch, we’d see that “unbreaking news” Continue reading "Newsonomics: Can The Correspondent “unbreak news” in the United States?"

Newsonomics: Newspapers are shells of their former selves. So who’s going to build what comes next in local?


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Neil Chase knows the painful realities of managing and motivating a daily newsroom in 2018. “You can’t ask dedicated, veteran career journalists to completely change the way they work without explaining why,” the Mercury News executive editor said at a panel discussion I moderated at Stanford two weeks ago. (The panel’s fitting title? “The Last Stand for Local News.”) “So I shared some very simple charts with the newsroom, showing the decline in our circulation and staffing over the past decade, and how that trajectory would put us out of business in the mid-2020s if we don’t make some drastic changes. We then started talking about reorienting the newsroom to serve a digital subscription audience, and we’ve made major progress since.” Chase knows that his staff can still churn out great work, as do many of the 23,000 or so remaining journalists in U.S. daily newsrooms. But Continue reading "Newsonomics: Newspapers are shells of their former selves. So who’s going to build what comes next in local?"

Newsonomics: “Digital defeats print” is the headline as Gannett steps away from printed election results


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Editors have long had to battle deadlines on election nights across America — pushing press runs to the last possible moment in order to get the most complete results into the next morning’s paper. Print is many things, but it isn’t a great real-time medium. Now, though, Gannett is throwing the digital switch. Across its 109 local markets, readers will be directed — starting this Sunday, as editors are being urged to prepare readers in advance — to head to its digital sites for results. The idea: Recognize and act on the cultural changes — among readers and in newsrooms — to embrace real-time media for real-time news. (And save a little money on newsprint.) When long-time readers of the Des Moines Register, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, or Fort Myers News-Press open up their papers Wednesday morning, they’ll see hardly anything in the way of results. They may Continue reading "Newsonomics: “Digital defeats print” is the headline as Gannett steps away from printed election results"

Newsonomics: With an expanding Wirecutter, The New York Times is doubling down on diversification


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Imagine a world in which Donald Trump is no longer President.       No, really. Okay, if that concept’s beyond your immediate comprehension, let’s make the question a bit more concrete: Imagine what’ll happen to the news business in a world in which Donald Trump is no longer president. Yes, the Trump Bump in digital subscriptions is long gone, replaced by a steadier, lower-key growth rate for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. But traffic continues to go through the roof, alongside the nation’s temper. No one has ever seen news days, or news weeks, like this. Like all things, it’s unlikely to last. So the business question: If you ran a news company and could anticipate this future non-Trump time — one in which national attention isn’t riveted to every god-forbid smartphone notification — how might you prepare? You might pay more and more attention Continue reading "Newsonomics: With an expanding Wirecutter, The New York Times is doubling down on diversification"

Newsonomics: The Washington Post’s ambitions for Arc have grown — to a Bezosian scale


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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In the blink of a digital era, The Washington Post’s Arc publishing platform has sprinted from an experiment to a full-on strategic business. Arc is now used by more than 30 clients operating more than 100 sites on four continents. It’s not the industry standard, but it’s not too early to call it an industry standard. But its ambitions are still nowhere near met. Now the Post is moving Arc into a new phase, talking of a connective effect that could impact the face of the business formerly known as “newspapering.” Arc wants to be more than a technology stack — it wants to be a network. “Arc is reaching a critical mass of most of the advertising markets in the United States, the major markets,” Shailesh Prakash, chief product and information officer for the Post, told me recently, listing off cities where it has customers — New
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Newsonomics: Could a McClatchy-Tronc merger help local newspapers transition to digital?


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Could McClatchy unexpectedly join Gannett and GateHouse as survivors in the game of the American daily newspaper consolidation? Could California become a new epicenter of the American local newspaper business? Could Patrick Soon-Shiong have found a bigger lab to test his theories of AI-enhanced journalism? As we learned over the weekend, the newspaper chain Tronc may be entertaining multiple suitors — or might just be trying to juice a lukewarm market. As the Chicago Tribune revealed late Friday, McClatchy had emerged as an unlikely dark horse in the bidding. That emergence opens up an array of fascinating scenarios for the fast-paced consolidation of daily newspapering amid its continued business downturn. With the help of a number of confidential sources in and around the potential transactions, let’s explore them. (McClatchy, Tronc, and the Los Angeles Times each declined comment for this story.) First, consider Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire and new Continue reading "Newsonomics: Could a McClatchy-Tronc merger help local newspapers transition to digital?"

Newsonomics: What the anonymous New York Times op-ed shows us about the press now


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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In 1954, at the moment history tells us that Sen. Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt had already lost some of its power,  he still held a 35 percent approval rating among Americans, down only 10 points from four years earlier. Twenty years later, after the Senate Watergate Committee opened its hearings and news accounts had pilloried Richard Nixon, he still held a 44 percent approval rating. Even about a year later, as he awaited his getaway helicopter, a quarter of Americans thought highly of him. Now, 45 years later, the 45th president finds himself seemingly cornered by criminal convictions of his associates, the most unflattering of tell-all portraits, and one of his own anonymously belittling him in the pages of The New York Times, Trump tests the bottom of 40th percentile in recent polls. This history matters, as we try to put into perspective the week’s escalation in the unprecedented Continue reading "Newsonomics: What the anonymous New York Times op-ed shows us about the press now"

Newsonomics: The tariffs are gone, but the burden of print weighs heavier and heavier


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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The newspaper tariffs are dead. How big a difference will that make to those whose businesses still depends on dead trees? On Wednesday, the International Trade Commission —like numerous judicial or regulatory bodies before it in the Trump era — reversed the tariffs that the Commerce Department had placed on Canadian newsprint. The unanimous 5-0 decision surprised many, even though the ill-considered tariffs were silly, ignoring the actual way the newsprint trade has long been structured. The whole effort symbolized the times: a private equity company, recently buying into an established industry, looking for a quick buck, and using the politicized trade environment to do it. Even as the tariffs go away, it’s essential to understand that they represent only a small part of the problem that daily newspaper publishers now face. Though that black swan of tariff doom has flown away — an appeal of the decision by NORPAC,
Continue reading "Newsonomics: The tariffs are gone, but the burden of print weighs heavier and heavier"

Newsonomics: It looks like Tronc is about to be chopped up and sold for parts


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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While it still requires some deal jiu-jitsu, Tronc looks to be on the brink of being broken up. Will Wyatt’s new Donerail Group, several confidential sources tell me, has now gotten the financing in place to do a deal to buy Tronc. Donerail would purchase Tronc’s 10 daily newspaper properties, take the company private, and then most likely sell the papers off to individual buyers — some of whom it already has lined up. Tronc’s been in play, quietly, for much of the year, but several pieces of the deal puzzle have only just fallen into place. (Donerail’s interest was first reported in early August by Reuters.) But it’s now become clear, through multiple insider accounts, how such a deal may work. A completed deal would likely come in as a $640 million to $700 million transaction. That would value Tronc shares somewhere above the $18 Continue reading "Newsonomics: It looks like Tronc is about to be chopped up and sold for parts"

Newsonomics: Now it’s Facebook that’s facing unwanted attention


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Lab


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Attention. Attention! The digital cognoscenti long ago figured out that consumers of “digital” services paid not in dollars but in attention. We laughed about the monetizing of eyeballs. We joked about the devilish bargain we’d made with “the platforms,” even as some conjectured that those platforms might become so big and powerful that few publishers or brands would maintain their own big expensive sites and apps. But now, as we see hatred and division multiply across North America and Europe, instigated by malicious use of the technology that was supposed to make us freer and better, we’re paying a different kind of attention. Late, but better than never. We, as consumers of news and information, have become increasingly uncomfortable with the unasked-for attention as every twitch and touch of our screens is captured. It was one thing to feel increasingly unsettled about how platforms gathered up our individual actions for Continue reading "Newsonomics: Now it’s Facebook that’s facing unwanted attention"