The Knight Ridder/McClatchy deal feels like it has been playing out in slow motion. First pushed to put itself on the market in November, the deal should finally finalize around July 1. That's when all the golden parachutes should be deployed and all the properties change hands. McClatchy, buyer of KR, has been busy auctioning off the 12 low-margin newspapers it didn't want to keep. It's announced auctions and declared winners and losers of half of the 12, even though it hasn't officially bought what it's selling.
With the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Saint Paul Pioneer Press and Monterey Herald going to Media News and the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News going to Philadelphia Media Holdings, put together by a local business consortium, all the most important dominoes have fallen.
And as suggested here in March, newspaper companies may be smartening up, using the newspaper consolidation process as a way of building national scale.
What's likely to emerge as details of the sales become public is this: CareerBuilder will become the recruitment site for the America's top 4 newspaper companies. I've got it on good authority that Media News, as part of the Merc sales deal, will get a piece of CareerBuilder. CEO Dean Singleton, then, presumably will bring in other of his 49 properties to the CareerBuilder fold, along with four new papers.
Media News is becoming the fourth biggest newspaper company, by circulation, with its 53 properties. Ahead of it are Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune, all of whom will be owners of CareerBuilder as well, with McClatchy acquiring its place via the KR deal, and sharing a piece of it with Media News.
Add it up and CareerBuilder becomes the default newspaper recruitment play, even more dominant than it has been.
How dominant? It is the online/print revenue engine for most of the newspaper companies in it, eclipsing revenue from traditional branded CPM ads, Google/Yahoo+ paid search ads and everything else.
Take Tribune CEO Dennis Fitzsimon's assessment of the jewel at the Tribune annual meeting, as reported in E and P:
But Fitzsimons made CareerBuilder.com exhibit number one in the case for optimism. He said the jobs site's monthly unique visitors now total 22 million--nearly double the 12 million visitors to Monster.com, the online pioneer in help-wanted. This year, CareerBuilder.com -- a partnership of Tribune, Knight Ridder and Gannett Co. -- will surpass Monster.com in revenue, he added.
"Everybody said we couldn't win with CareerBuilder -- and we did win," Fitzsimons says. "And we will win."
CareerBuilder has a host of issues.
- How much should it continue with or sign up newspaper affiliates from outside its ownership group, and how much should it rely on its own better-trained, better-targeted, better-motivated team?
- How does it meet the challenge of big companies moving quickly forward with smarter recruitment tools that allow the direct locating and hiring of talent?
- What about craigslist, oodle, vast and the like?
- How many dollars does it need to pour into renewing and making new distribution deals to get traffic? Monster often seems everywhere, now sponsoring the MLB All-Star ballot.
- Is a closer deal with Yahoo and Yahoo Hot Jobs worth it, combining forces in one way or another to vanquish the Monster?
Network, network, network. That's the lesson that AOL, MSN, Yahoo and Google should have pounded into newspaper heads long ago. CareerBuilder is just about there.
Now how about a truly national network for that pesky thing called news?