Ad Age: Why So Many Media Companies Stumble Globally The few news brands that have succeeded, to greater or lesser degrees, arguably include CNN, Bloomberg, People, Thomson Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times and The Economist. Other contenders are the Associated Press, the BBC, ABC, NBC, maybe CBS, National Public Radio, News Corp. and the top U.K. dailies, said Ken Doctor, the newspaper veteran who's now an analyst at Outsell. "If a news-media organization sees itself as covering the wider world, sees it as its foundation, that in and of itself differentiates it from all the local media -- newspapers, TV, radio -- out there," he said. "If, in addition, it has substantial reporting and editing resources, then it can play. The tough part is the part we're in: Who wins the race to ubiquity and can make it pay off?"
NYT: If The Globe Were Sold, What Price? “The best guesstimate of the real price: a buck. The best of an announced price: between $50 and $100 million,” he wrote in an e-mail message. The devil will be in the details of the obligations that a buyer would assume, he said, adding that “a buck essentially represents a gentleman’s agreement: I take a liability, headache and a distraction off your hands.”
He said that the Times Company could hang on to some pension liabilities or other obligations in exchange for a higher purchase price, a number that would give the appearance that it was getting something for the more than $1 billion it paid 16 years ago. He added that no bank would be interested in financing a deal given how other deals have blown up, so “the owner’s own money is immediately at risk.”
BizTimes.com: Journal Sentinel faces daunting choices “There’s no strategy – this is panic. What we’re likely to see this year (around the country) and what we’ll see in Milwaukee too is (publishers asking) how much they need to cut back and how much they can do to still hold their place in the market. For publishers, it’s about ‘How do we stay alive and stay profitable until we can get to some sort of breathing period?’ (Economic) recovery will not bring back their old business, but it will give them some breathing room.”
AP: Threat to shut Boston Globe shows no paper is saf The threat to close the paper "sends a very clear message to all employees and unions of surviving newspapers — that this is not business as usual. This is uncharted territory....Newspapers all "have a sword over their heads," said Doctor. If the industry wants to survive, he said, "everyone has to give some blood."
If it weren't bad enough to have the Internet spur your job loss, searching for "journalists" on the web will net you this pop-up ad. Talk about careening out of control, there's many "career" choices available, and, if all else, fails, camp.
You can't tell the players these days without an Ajax scorecard. And that's what the folks at the Knight Citizen News Network have just launched, with the work done by iReporter and the Center for Citizens Media, with the project described here. The map is straightforward, 450 pushpins and counting, with good little descriptions of each site on it.
It's "citizen journalism", widely defined.
You'll find serous civic inquiry to music festivals to place-oriented photo displays. What is this stuff, exactly? Well, owing to our times and the freshness of what's now possible, it's all over the board, not a bad thing.
Some more journalistic, some less, some smile-inducing, some soporific.
All in all, I think, this work and the citizen push more widely is just getting Beyond the Usual Suspects. We know those Usual Suspects and the brands they work for. Now there's all kinds of Unusual and much too early to have to sort it all out (but fun to try).
The new project sits well alongside PlaceBlogger, which focuses a little more specifically on, well, place, though there's of course considerable overlap. Both Amy Gahran of iReporter and Lisa Williams of PlaceBlogger won awards from the new Knight Challenge last week.
On the site is a good Things We Like feature, described well as "brief writeups and screen grabs of especially effective or unusual aspects of some of the citizen journalism projects sites." There's a nice little database behind it, with this info:
---year the site was founded
---whether it employs paid staff or professional journalists
---whether it offers training for contributors.
Money feeds change. There are lots of busy hands and fertile minds out there, building the next journalism, though their work is obscured by headlines of destruction. Those hands and minds need to be supported. Their food has so far come from the camaraderie of their colleagues, their own passion and a sense that the next journalism is worth building -- even if no one wants to pay you to do it.
But the bills and the families come, and money has been a crucial missing ingredient. So it's great to see $12 million dedicated to feeding those mouths and fingertips of digital media change, as the Knight Foundation News Challenge announced its first annual awards.
Yes, it's only $12 million, but it can sustain lots of good work, and as importantly send a message to others that it is time to fund innovation.
I've been talking with lots of people out there, young, relatively inexperienced journalists to wizened veterans of the trade, and there's much readiness to see what can be created. It comes on the heels of the acknowledgement that the news business as it exists today is in for only more pain, and that it's time to seed journalism in new ways. The enthusiasm is palpable, and the Knight Foundation's example will only stoke it.
Amy Gahran, Jay Rosen, KickApps, Knight Foundation, Knight News Challenge, Lisa Williams, MIT Center for Future Civic Media, MIT Media Lab, NeighborhoodAmerica, Nora Paul, Paul Grabowicz, Pluck, ProAm Journalism, Rich Gordon, Richard Anderson, Village Soup
Good, detailed piece on the state of newspaper website audience metrics by Jennifer Saba on Editor and Publisher. A key phrase:
Though taking action to audit numbers is barely at a simmer now, it could reach the boiling point in the near future -- something that publishers, advertisers and ABC acknowledge.
Saba points out early in the piece how all over the board are the numbers associated with newspaper websites -- noting how the Houston Chronicle was represented by three different numbers for September, 2006: 6.5 million uniques, according to ABCi; 3.5 million uniques according to Nielsen/Net Ratings and 2 million according to Comscore. That's not an insignificant difference. Why the difference? Basically, given the newsness of this all, there's no one accepted way to count, and pop-up windows and now Ajax pages compound the problem.
KQED pledge drive, day 143, I believe. Like a lot of public radio listeners, I depend on the lifeline of in-depth news and witty features, and I hate the four weeks of the year or so that when that flow is interrupted by The Pledge Drive. I know it's not public radio's fault. Its "business model" demands the lowly pleading and rote readings of need, a town cryer crying for support.
Why do I get the plea, I wonder? I've been paying into the kitty for a decade. Yet with broadcast media, I have to get the same appeal as the freeloader down the block. But what about customization? What about a customized stream, or least two streams? Say one stream for the members -- no hectoring, maybe just a single daily ask to increase giving -- and another for the freeloaders. Then, the freeloaders can end their pain, able to listen to the entirety of programs once they pony up. It's a method websites use -- pay for ad-free pages on Salon for instance -- and one that might work to everyone's advantage. And it's one stream that can't start flowing too soon.
When will American newspaper companies press Google for a piece of the pie?
There’s precedent, and the time is right for U.S. publishers to band together – a la the consortium agreement with Yahoo – and get a deal done.
In last couple of months, both Agence France Presse and Belgium-based Copiepresse made peace in their long-standing cases with Google. “Fair use” watchers wondered what would happen when a D.C. court heard the AFP case. The question simply: In the Internet age, can aggregators grab headlines and story briefs and put them on their own sites, without compensating publishers? American publishers have
been reluctant to seek a court ruling on that question. It’s long been debated in corporate suites: might a court ruling provided a negotiating hammer. But the conclusion among news corporate counsel has been: it’s an iffy case to win. And now we won’t know how it might have turned out.
While mulling legal vagaries, news companies have convinced themselves that they do get some value from all those links out there. As Wall Street Journal reporter and All Things D founder Kara Swisher put it at the late April Econ Social Media conference organized by paidcontent.org, “Sure, Google’s a parasite, but it’s a good parasite.”
How good a parasite is one of the questions.
What exactly due we make of that sucking sound emanating from Mountain View?
Because the war has come to define the geopolitics of the first decade of the Twenty-First Century? Because untold thousands have died and millions have been displaced? Because readers need to know what's going on?
It's not a philosophical question, as global news coverage scales back. Large metros -- from the L.A. Times to Dallas Morning News to Philadelphia Inquirer -- have all scaled back their international bureaus. More cuts are coming. Those cutbacks raise the profile and importance of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC -- and of two wires on which we depend for so much daily coverage, AP and Reuters. Their editorial numbers are often under-estimated: AP has about 3000 journalists and Reuters has about 2400.
It's Reuters that is the story of the week.
As Thomson swallows Reuters, how Reuters news operation will be affected is at question. So this is how Tom Glocer, current CEO of Reuters and would-be CEO of the new Thomson, answers the question, in today's Times:
“Covering the war in Iraq is so central to what
oil traders need to know, what the markets need to know,” he said. “I
can’t imagine a general news story that doesn’t have relevance to the
Relevance to markets, who have been responsible for 90% of Reuters revenue and 95% of its profits. Relevance to those that pay the freight. It's not a new concept, but for Reuters -- long driven by public interest principles of the Reuters Trust. Those trust principles are a good example of the old rules, the rules that say, yes, advertisers pay most of the freight, subscribers pay a small, but meaningful part of it and that the public's right to know is right up there with profit-seeking as a reason for being.
Anyone who's ever worked in a news company knows there are all kinds of a real-life trade-offs, always budgetary ones, sometimes the pressures of car dealers or home builders or publisher's friends. But that principle of generally trying to serve the public iinterest is paramount.
That's why Tom Glocer's first, big public answer to "Why cover news?" is so troubling.
There's nothing like having a big brother in Redmond. That may be one of the lessons of today's announcement that Microsoft is picking up a four percent stake in CareerBuilder. The market's been watching CareerBuilder and what moves it would make in light of the Yahoo/newspaper consortium deal. So those newspaper partners took on a big brother in Sunnyvale, and CareerBuilder may feel a bit safer cozying up a bit more to Yahoo's rival (and potential acquirer) to the north.
Certainly, four per cent is not much of a stake and only reduces Gannett's and Tribune's stakes a bit, to 40.8%, with McClatchy dropping to 14.4%. But why would Microsoft do it? Certainly, it can pick up seats at Wrigley Field anytime it wants already (and this perk may be gone if Sam Zell does take control of the "New Tribune" and sells off the Cubbies).
Could it be that Microsoft would like a little closer seat at the table of "local," doing what it does best -- study, study, study and then act.
When I heard today's news I remembered an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, from the New York Times in January, with this curious quote about the Microsoft's ahead-of-its-time online city guide service,
which it sold off in 1999.
“But Sidewalk was really aimed at what we now call local search,” Mr. Ballmer says. “Sidewalk is one we should not have gotten out of.”
Now recruitment isn't just local, and four percent's not much of a stake. But it could be a small Trojan Horse.
For CB's owners, the deal makes a good deal of a sense beyond acquiring a bit of family protection. CB's spent a lot over the years, securing prominence of its listings on MSN. This agreement commits it to pay as much as (performance-based) $443 million through 2013 for that privilege. They'd hope that in addition to their cash, Microsoft is incented to look for every opportunity to push the brand, for instance on mobile as mobile recruitment becomes more used.
Beyond, that CB CEO Matt Ferguson's explanation holds water:
"Microsoft's equity stake builds on this successful relationship and establishes a global alliance with one of the world's most ubiquitous technology powerhouses. It enables CareerBuilder to continue to grow faster in the U.S. than any other job site while leveraging a strong international platform to quickly enter new markets in Europe and all over the world."
The world's gone wall-crazy in the last couple of years, with the ancient wisdom of China's great wall applied to the U.S./Mexico border, Israel's West Bank and now the neighborhoods of Baghdad.
Now we're about
to see the viability of another kind of wall, the firewalls of family ownership
long ago erected by the Sulzbergers, the Grahams, the McClatchys and, most immediately, the Bancrofts. Each of those families has a proud
newspaper history, the New York Times, Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers,
and Dow Jones, respectively. Do these two-class share
ownerships really act as a bulwark against forced sale to the highest bidder,
or will enough gold tossed over the wall entice or force the guardians to open
As first Knight
Ridder and then Tribune, both one-class companies, succumbed to what turned out
to be irrational shareholder pressure (nobody really got much lucre out of
those sales), the cry went out: they should have had two-class family
Murdoch is testing the notion of what protection really means. He knew tossing
a small bag of gold over the wall would make it easy for the Bancrofts to pick
it up and heave it back. He expected that his weighty 65% premium would make
that return more difficult.
It’s a welcome
sign that the family has apparently mustered the strength to hurl it back anyhow,
but you have to believe Rupert knew that they might. What’s his next step,
upping his bid beyond the premium of $450 million the 300-plus members of the
family would take in? Does he think he can make it sufficiently financially
attractive that he can pull away 15-20% of the family votes? Or is he planning on
riling up the hungry-for-windfall Class A shareholders, both legally testing
the Bancrofts’ responsibilities to them or just pressuring them in the courts of
public opinion to do “the smart thing.”
Maybe this offer
will just blow away, and we’ll have affirmation of the firewall. Or maybe we’ll
see the holes in it. News Corp’s “friendly” assault isn’t lost on all of those
families, who must be having some interesting conversations. Of course, this
issue has been recently joined as the Sulzbergers have skirmished with Morgan
Stanley, which has pushed to replace that hopelessly old-fashioned two-class
NYT system with a capital-friendly single-class system. It’s all in the
innocent spirit, of course, of simply “maximizing shareholder value.”
AmericaLakeWoebegonSounds so good,
but here’s the rub. Those two-tier companies just happen to put out
above-average newspapers. And no, America's not Lake Woebegon where all the newspapers are above average.
Sure there are above-average papers published by single-class public
companies and by private companies, but when you top the list with the New York
Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, you see a clear a trend.
Rupert Murdoch must be hanging out with Donald Rumsfeld. Today's $65 premium, at $60 a share, for Dow Jones, is an absolute corporate shock-and-awe move. If you want to knock the breath out of the industry, you don't offer a 20% premium, you go high.
The offer, of course, was the first amazement of the day. The second: the DJ offer sent newspaper stocks overall in an uncharacteristic direction: UP.
McClatchy up 2.0%. Gannett, up 1.9%. Lee up 3.8%. New York Times up 6.5%. Washington Post up 2.9. Only Tribune, already spoken for (but with a low $25 million break-up fee in the deal), stayed flat.
The first reaction to the news is plainly a confused one. News Corp isn't offering a 65% premium for newspaper assets. This is a broadcast/digital play for top-branded business/finance content and audience.
Broadcast? Rupert's new baby is the soon-to-be-born Fox Business News Channel. Roger Ailes has trash-talked competitor CNBC, owned by GE. So in part,
News Corp's Dow Jones play is timed to make its business channel launch
highly successul as it tries to upend the CNBC-Wall Street Journal
partnership and become the lead player in global TV business news. Think of all that News Corp distribution power on cable across the known world. Think of the first five channels -- all Fox as I recall -- as you settle into your JetBlue seat.
We've got to distinguish a couple of things here as we look at the differences between DJ and the rest of the news pack.
business/finance content, sites and audience are among the
highest-performing in the digital marketplace, while general news
content, sites and audience are hurting.
Number two, the brands
involved -- Wall Street Journal and Barrons, and even Marketwatch
to a degree, have equity. When you combine content, sites, audience and
brands, you have a future proposition far more valuable than the
average newspaper company. Only the New York Times . make a claim, a partial
one though, to similar attributes.
When dawn beckons, expect most newspaper stocks to come back to their recent valuations.
Clearly, it's in part Rich Zannino's recent reorganization of Dow Jones that is responsible for this offer. The reorg
has set Dow Jones on a course to profit from the digital future, and clearly stated that potential. In addition to Rupert's ego and the broadcast synergies, Murdoch likes that direction and thinks Dow Jones is
undervalued today, given its future earnings potential.
Potential. That's an important word here. The Bancroft family its lack of interest, as simultaneously financial analysts say, hey, not so fast.
Potential is also a good word as we look at the future of the business/finance space online. As in all sectors, they'll be two, maybe three, winners, when we look back from 2012. Dow Jones is in the race, as in Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and Time Inc. (Ann Moore's heightened the profile of her Fortune, Business 2.0 and Money properties online). Expect competition and roll-up, and it's only fitting Rupert's fired this big shot.
Bloomberg, Business 2.0 Magazine, CNBC, Dow Jones, Financial Times, Fortune Magazine, FT, Gannett, Lee, McClatchy, New York Times, News Corp, Reuters, Rich Zannino, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Time Inc. Money Magazine, Washington Post