Washington Post Unveils Redesign

WASHINGTON — The Washington Post is introducing a larger typeface and more graphics in its bid to make the print edition easier to read and navigate.

The newspaper also is adding star ratings to movie reviews, new "Local Living" and "Health & Science" sections and another page of opinion.

"We know you're busy, so we're layering in more information in headlines and labeling sections for faster navigation," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli wrote. "And we're using more graphics and other visual elements to tell big, complex stories, a recognition that the digital world has changed expectations and enabled us to do more."

The 132-year-old newspaper had its last major redesign in 1998.

The Post ran an eight-page special section in Monday's print edition explaining the changes, which include:

_ Local Living: The newspaper is replacing its "Home" and "Extra" sections with a section called "Local Living," which will have stories about "personal health and family matters" as well as a guide to arts and entertainment events.

_ Health & Science: Science coverage expands beyond the current half page devoted to it each week.

_ More opinion: Following the addition of another page of commentary on Sundays, the Post is introducing "Washington Forum" on Fridays on "issues being debated in the nation's capital."

_ Appearance: The newspaper is switching fonts to one it says is more easily readable. Headlines are now in upper and lowercase letters instead of mostly uppercase.

In an online chat with Brauchli, some readers complained about the changes.

Brauchli replied that the design would continue to evolve: "There are myriad things we still need to address, probably including rethinking some of the elements in today's redesign that, in the cold light of day, may not work as well as we'd hoped."


Gannett Profit Down 53%, But Beats Estimates

NEW YORK — Net income at Gannett Co. fell 53 percent in the third quarter as the nation's largest newspaper publisher endured another big decline in ad revenue.

The earnings report, released Monday, was the latest to show how newspaper companies have been using cost cutting to stave off losses even as their main source of revenue withers. The results were good enough to send Gannett shares up $1.06, more than 8 percent, to close at $14.06.

Advertising revenue in the publishing division of Gannett, which includes USA Today and more than 80 other newspapers, dropped 28 percent from a year ago. That follows a 32 percent decline in the second quarter and a 34 percent decline in the first.

Gannett highlighted those moderating declines. "We see revenue trends moving in the right direction in our publishing segment," CEO Craig Dubow said on a conference call with analysts.

But comparisons to year-ago figures have been getting easier. By this time in 2008, publishers were already seeing ad declines deepen as the recession intensified.

USA Today sold 493 ad pages compared with 713 in the same quarter a year ago, contributing to a 37 percent fall in revenue at the newspaper. Its circulation also dropped, because the decline in travel cut into USA Today's sales in hotels and airports. Figures to be released next week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations are expected to show that USA Today was supplanted by The Wall Street Journal as the top-selling daily in the U.S. over the six months that ended in September.

Gannett's revenue from its TV stations fell 23 percent to $151.5 million. The drop came largely because of the absence of advertising tied to the Olympics and political campaigns, which contributed $50 million in the same quarter last year.

Overall revenue fell 18 percent to $1.34 billion.

Gannett has been slashing its payroll costs. It eliminated 1,400 positions this summer, 3 percent of the work force, less than a year after a 10 percent cut. The company also has frozen wages, and it imposed unpaid furloughs for most of its U.S. workers earlier in the year.

These moves and falling newsprint costs helped the company earn $73.8 million, or 31 cents per share, in the most recent quarter. That was down from $158.1 million, or 69 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding unusual charges for severance and the declining value of certain assets, Gannett said it would have earned 44 cents per share. On that basis, analysts expected 41 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. On Sept. 29, Gannett guided analysts to expect 39 cents to 42 cents per share.

In one positive sign for the company's finances, Gannett raised $500 million selling bonds at the beginning of the month. It will pay fairly high interest: 8.75 percent for $250 million due in 2014 and 9.375 percent for $250 million due in 2017. But analysts said the rates would have been even higher earlier in the year, indicating that credit markets are now more optimistic about Gannett's prospects. Gannett originally intended to raise $400 million before deciding to seek more.

Although Gannett still has about $3.3 billion of debt outstanding, the recent sale helped pay off some notes that were maturing in 2011 and 2012. Gannett says 25 percent of its debt now doesn't come due for at least five years.

Gannett has promised lenders it will keep its debt load below 3.5 times its earnings before income taxes, depreciation and amortization. Gannett's ratio stood at 3.03 at the end of September. That was up slightly from the end of June, but the company said it expects the ratio to decline again in the fourth quarter.


Michael Sigman: CDs and Ardi and Vooks, Oh My!

CDs. Ardi. Gourmet. Vooks.

It's a digital, astonishing, sad, hilarious time to be alive.

The CD, which just celebrated its twenty-seventh anniversary, continues its path toward extinction. Sound Scan reports that even this year's multi-million-unit Michael Jackson and Beatles bonanzas haven't stopped album sales from dropping 13.9 percent from 2008, which itself saw a 14 percent decline from 2007.

At least one skeptic, present at its birth, always thought CDs were a fad. George Albert, late owner of the now-defunct music trade magazine Cashbox, opposed the CD format like a creationist dismisses Darwin. Years after they accounted for the overwhelming majority of recorded music sales, he'd tell anyone who'd listen, "CDs are a hype. Truck drivers only buy eight-track tapes, and that will never change."

Eight-tracks, of course, had long before gone the way of the Conestoga wagon, soon to be joined by George and his magazine. (Like all fundamentalists, George was a bit delusional. He liked to remind me, "Mike, I got you staawwted in this business." He didn't.)

Print magazines -- especially local and niche-oriented publications -- aren't endangered, but their numbers are thinning faster than trees in the Brazilian rain forest. When publishing giant Conde Nast closed Gourmet and three other titles last week, the number of North American magazine fatalities rose to 383 for the first nine months of this year, according to mediafinder.com; 64 more converted from print to online-only. These numbers are somewhat less disastrous than 2008 and 2007, which saw 613 and 643 closings, respectively. But maybe that's because there are just fewer magazines left to fold. On the bright side, fewer trees have to be felled to provide paper, which is helpful because there are also fewer trees to fell.

Gourmet wasn't just the best food magazine. Its gifted editors -- including Jane Montant from 1980-91 and Ruth Reichl for the past 10 years -- regularly published brilliant essays on a variety of subjects by the likes of M.F.K. Fisher, Ray Bradbury, George Plimpton, Jonathan Gold and the late David Foster Wallace, whose memorable "Consider the Lobster" in 2004 explored the morality of boiling living beings alive. Thankfully, many of these pieces can still be found at gourmet.com.

Extinction doesn't have to mean eternal obscurity. An international group of scientists (led by Kent State's Owen Lovejoy) has analyzed the fossils of Ardi, a humanoid being that 4.4 million years ago apparently leapt from the trees to launch the human family tree. Ardi thus retakes the evolutionary stage as experts sift through thousands of pages of material, much of which is available to the general public here.

Of course, scientific proof is no more impressive to millions of Christian fundamentalists than CD vs. eight-track stats were to George Albert. According to John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas -- whose offices are just down the street from The Mel Brooks Institute for the Very, Very Nervous -- "This is a meaningless discovery of another ape. As far as the creationist community is concerned, this is a big yawn. There is nothing about Ardi that has anything to do with the evolution of man." And what about the fossil record? That's easy for the creationist community: an omnipotent God with an instinct for meddling could easily bury fossils that look millions of years old any time He wants.

It's unknowable whether the next stage in the evolution of books will be the "vook" -- which joins "DigiScent iSmell" and "*ist" in the absurd-names- for-tech-products hall of fame -- but let's hope not. According to Ellie Hirschhorn, chief digital officer -- as opposed to an analog officer? -- of Simon & Schuster, the publisher that just introduced the first line of the creatures, the vook is "a game-changing model for reading in the age of digital multimedia, the first viable combination of text and video that is user-friendly and that addresses today's multitasking audience and how it absorbs information and entertainment."

Vooks aren't inherently bad. As the critic David Finkle noted in a recent blog, "Okay, I'll concede that books concerned with, say, fitness, can benefit from video segments. But fiction?"

One of Simon & Schuster's initial vooks is Promises, the thirty-seventh novel by best-selling author Jude Deveraux, who explained that she "had to take a little bit of scenes out to make room for the video." Given that philosophy -- and grammar -- S&S might do well to take Finkle's advice and "release the video and forget the book."

It can be exhilarating to contemplate the digital and evolutionary future. But I don't know if I could bear a world of "vookcases," "vook reports" and, God forbid, a New York Review of Vooks.



Big Ad Agencies Urge DOJ To Approve Yahoo-Microsoft Search Ad Partnership

In a sign of how much the big ad agencies want an alternative to Google (NSDQ: GOOG), all four major ad holding companies, along with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, are now publicly urging the Department of Justice to approve the Microsoft-Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) search ad partnership. In a letter to the Department of Justice, the top execs at Publicis, WPP, Interpublic, and Omnicom, along with AAAA CEO Nancy Hill, say that “this proposal enhances competition, and should be allowed to take effect as soon as possible.”

It’s not the first time that many of the executives have come out in favor of the deal—WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, for instance, has said that the deal would likely make search advertising cheaper. However, it once again shows that the execs consider the loss of Yahoo as a search competitor to be less important than the creation of what they hope will be a viable Google counterweight. It also indicates that Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Yahoo’s efforts to win over the agencies have worked. After the deal was signed, some of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz’s first calls were reportedly to Publicis CEO Maurice Levy and to Sorrell.

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@Variety Ent/Tech Summit: More ‘Cheap’ M&A Deals By Big Media Companies On The Horizon

Online ad spending and M&A forecasts are a dime-a-dozen – but that hasn’t stopped investment research firms like Soleil-Media Metrics from continuing to make them. Laura Martin, the firm’s managing director, told Variety Tech/Ent Summit attendees that she’s seeing signs – particularly in the advertising industry – that the economic recovery being bantered about is genuine.

“With the exception of local spend lagging national, everything we see and hear coming out of companies like Disney, Fox and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) leads us to believe that this isn’t just a headfake in terms of [an ad] rebound,” she said. She suggested that the next few rounds of earnings reports would show “robust performance” from the big media companies – partly because of the return of ad spend—but also because they’d already “cut 10 to 20 percent of their costs,” and aren’t able to spend money fast enough to undo the gain.

Martin (pictured center) also said there would be so much consolidation in the media landscape, that a year from now, the market will look “nothing like it does today.” At issue are the credit markets—which are still locked up compared to two years ago. “Companies can’t sell their assets the way they could before,” Martin said. “That’s why if you’re Marvel (NYSE: MVL), you sold cheap to Disney (NYSE: DIS). Or you sell cheap to News Corp (NYSE: NWS). or Comcast.”