It took 18 on-again, off-again months of negotiation, but give credit to the "Seven Amigos", those emerging mid-tier newspaper companies now starting to flex their muscles as the industry's long-time Big 3 break apart. The companies -- MediaNews, Hearst, Scripps, Cox, Lee, Belo and Journal Register -- hammered out a deal with Yahoo that promises to set new precedents for the industry. It's a wide-ranging deal, covering everything from recruitment classifieds distribution (through Yahoo HotJobs), local news distribution (presumably through Yahoo News) and lots more to come as Yahoo makes technology and tools available to its new newspaper partners -- and more deeply partners with them through its Yahoo Publisher Network search and contextual ad network.
Lots to think about here, but let's start with our Nine Questions.
1. Is this another nail in the TKG coffin? Knight Ridder (then #2) is gone and Tribune (now #3) is going away, effectively putting to an end what has been the newspaper industry's leading classified players. Along with #1 Gannett, TKG invested heavily, building up CareerBuilder, with good success, and Classified Ventures (cars, apartments+), with less. The Amigos, over the years, have made a number of plays of their own, including PowerOne. Largely shut out though from real participation in the TKG plays, they had no play that really competed with TKG's. Now they do.
2. Don't we see the end of an era, a sense that the newspaper industry will act in concert going forward? We read about the ghost of the New Century Network in the Yahoo deal stories. That industry-wide attempt to take on the Internet as an industry died on ego overload in 1998. Now these seven companies are aligned with Yahoo as the former TKG goes about its own recruitment business and and as Monster revs up its moves to make new newspaper partner friends. As recruitment goes, so may go the industry generally -- in classifieds, in advertising generally, in technology and platform, and, overall, in news.
3. What are the terms and terms of the deals? Each of the seven companies signed separate deals -- amigos to a point. Presumably, their deal points are the same, but who knows the whole picture, other than Yahoo? The newspaper companies clearly bargain that they'll get more eyeballs for their recruitment (+) advertisers, and just as clearly they're giving away revenue they never before gave away to get it. So it's in all in the revenue split. Does that split vary with volume, over time, based on performance? As we project into 2010, will the newspaper companies have bought a new, substantially growing revenue stream, or settled into a secondary supplier role to Yahoo, or both?
4. Now that the Yahoo deal is done, what will follow? Will these seven companies move on other deals with the other major distribution channels of our time -- Google, MSN, AOL, eBay, Amazon -- harnessing their power? How will Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy (which took over part of Knight Ridder's stakes in those joint ventures) respond? How about the Times and the Post; will they see a new need to buddy up in classifieds?
5. Is this really "the meeting of old, old-media companies and the new, old-media company, Yahoo," as Jeff Jarvis puts it? Maybe, in the long term, but in the short, there's still billions in recruitment revenue. Yes, the craigslist Effect is sucking tens of millions out of the industry -- better connecting companies and jobseekers for nothing or next to it. Still, over the next three years -- an eternity to Yahoo CEO Terry Semel and MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton (who helmed the deal), there's a lot of money to be made.
6. What kinds of technology will Yahoo provide to the newspaper companies? Certainly, they are going to make use of the HotJobs platform. What about tagging (delicious), photos (Flickr), personalization (MyYahoo), entertainment (the old Upcoming.com platform)+++. And eventually: what about a full-service, inter-operable content and ad management platform? Pipedream or inevitability?
7. What about the branding? As part of the deal, Yahoo HotJobs is getting branding on print recruitment sections. That idea follows on the CareerBuilder print branding that originated a few years ago. How big will the branded be, a print "powered-by" motif, or big labels? How much Yahoo gain with that kind of placement and promotion?
8. Will this deal put fizz in the RC Cola of Yahoo Hot Jobs EVP Dan Finnigan? Finnigan, former head of Knight Ridder Digital, loved to talk about there being room for only three competitors in any Internet business space. "You've got your Coke, your Pepsi and your RC Cola," was his mantra.
His RC Cola had -- Yahoo HotJobs -- had become a more distant third to CareerBuilder and Monster. Now this deal may help revive it, and give headaches to his more highly caffeinated competitors.
9. Is this an historical reckoning we'll look back on? In doing the Yahoo deal, these seven companies -- representing 176 papers, parts of 13 of the nation’s 15 largest markets and somewhat less than a quarter of the industry’s readership, including Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, Denver, and St. Louis -- acknowledge some basic truths. Among them: we're content companies, but we're no longer really pretending to be major distribution channels or technology companies. And our position in the ad markets -- which we used to own - is now diminished. We need help to survive. Are the newspaper companies readying themselves to make peace with Google Base?
Nine to start. More to come. What's your question?