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

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

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

Newsonomics: Could a McClatchy-Tronc merger help local newspapers transition to digital?

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

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

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

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

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"