By paulgillin | November 5, 2008 - 9:54 pm - Posted in Fake News

In its second round of layoffs in just seven months, the Seattle Times said it will cut 130 to 150 positions, with the ax falling particularly hard on the newsroom. The cutbacks amount to less than 10% of the Times’ overall employment of, but the 35 to 45 positions lost in the newsroom represent 13% to 17% of the 260-person editorial staff. The publisher also vowed to continue to combine and consolidate sections to cut back on production costs. A buyout will be extended for less than one week, after which layoffs will begin.

Parent company Blethen has been desperately trying to cut costs in any way possible, including outsourcing trucking operations and trying to unload a chain of newspapers in Maine. There were reports late last month that a buyer for the newspapers has been found, but all has been quite for the two weeks since then. The Times cut more than 270 positions in April, and the scope of the new round indicates that the deteriorating economy is taking its toll. Indeed, the publisher said the advertising downturn has quickened with the plunging stock market and that even the one bright spot – online advertising – has flattened.

Rival and duopoly partner Post-Intelligencer says it plans no layoffs, but that company has been in an “ironclad” hiring freeze all year and has reduced headcount significantly through attrition. With this newest round of reductions, the Times will have reduced its total staff from 1,879 at the end of 2007 to no more than 1,469, a reduction of about 22% in a single year.

Layoff Log

  • LA Times staffers are girding for yet another round of cuts, this time to the paper’s Washington bureau. An anonymous memo posted on Romenesko late last week claims to detail a meeting with Times D.C. Bureau Chief Doyle McManus in which McManus outlined plans for a consolidated Tribune Co. bureau structure with several papers sharing reporters. The bureau will consist of 24 people, which will require an unspecified number of layoffs, the memo said. This Friday was targeted as the date of the layoff announcement. McManus disputed some of the details of the memo in a posting on Romenesko, but basically affirmed plans for the consolidated bureau structure.
  • The Frederick (Md.) News-Post will lay off 16 employees, including four in the newsroom. No word on what percentage of total employment that represents.

Miscellany

The Gannett Company continues to pointedly ignore a website created by a former employee, even as The Gannett Blog has become a major source of news about job cuts at the company. Now The New York Times has selected Gannett as a poster child of corporate cluelessness in this piece about transparency in the blogosphere. According to the Times, Gannett still refuses to return any inquiries from blog editor Jim Hopkins, despite the fact that the his posts consistently spark dozens or even hundreds of comments. In acting as a virtual water cooler for the entire company, Gannett Blog has become the destination of choice for employees who want to learn what’s really going on at Gannett because the company provides so little information about itself. As the Times notes, in an increasingly transparent business world, silence is no longer an option.


The publisher of The New York Times has a provocative opinion to share. Asked at a recent conference if newspapers will even exist in a decade, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. responded, “We can’t care.” Those three words made the headline, but what Sulzberger was really saying was that the transition from print to digital media will proceed whether or not publishers want it. The Times’ recent moves to build a social network and to take down its paid registration wall are simply recognition of a changing media landscape, he said. Sulzberger believes print will have value far into the future and he chooses to look at the current turmoil in the industry as evolution rather than collapse.

And Finally…

Who is this person to the left? If you were a fan of 1960s sitcoms, you’d know him as one of the most recognizable faces on television but he doesn’t look nearly the same today. Click here to find out. AOL’s Memba Them site has photos of 160 celebrities as you once knew them and shots of those same folks today. It’s a tribute to, er, aging gracefully!

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By paulgillin | April 7, 2008 - 6:34 pm - Posted in Fake News

Circulation is hardest hit, with 45 positions cut. Newsroom is second big loser with 30 laid off and 19 positions frozen. Suburban bureaus to be closed. Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild Blog has the ugly details.

Update: E&P says cuts will total 200, taking into account reductions and frozen open positions. Publisher’s memo says 191. It’s a lot, in any case.

Comments Off on Breaking News: Seattle Times Laying Off 131 People
By paulgillin | January 10, 2008 - 6:23 am - Posted in Fake News, Paywalls

The
Seattle Times Cuts 86 Jobs – Associated Press, Jan. 9, 2008

[Actual layoffs total 31 people; 55 vacant positions won’t be filled. Most of the cuts are in circulation. Since the paper delivers The Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and the Financial Times to the Seattle area, we can assume this indicates broader circulation weakness. -Ed.]

Shrinking Union-Tribune: ‘Doing Less With Less’ – Voiceofsandiego.org, Jan. 7, 2008

Herald-Republic announces job cuts, expense trimming – Yakima Herald.com, Jan. 3, 2007

Quoting: Yakima Herald-Republic has laid off five employees, closed its Sunnyside bureau, and eliminated its zoned edition for the Lower Valley to trim expenses for 2008.

The Herald-Republic will leave several open positions unfilled, including one news reporter job. It will revamp its Spanish-language weekly, El Sol de Yakima, partly by outsourcing some page production to Mexico…”I don’t think it has to negatively affect the product,” [publisher] Shepard said. “Like any business, we can try and do as much or more with a few less folks.”

Sun-Times to cut costs; layoffs loom — chicagotribune.com, Dec. 15, 2007

[The Sun-Times had previously announced plans to cut $10 million in operating expenses, so this is a dramatically more ambitious goals. The CEO is quoted as saying, “We have to accept that the print advertising market may never again reach the levels of the past. We must scale our organization to meet that reality.” – Ed.]


How Garry Steckles can hang around – Chicago Reader Blogs, Jan. 9, 2008

[As the Chicago Sun-Times prepares to cut 30 editorial positions, staffers have come to focus on two employees who have recently been promoted to exempt positions and spared the threat of layoffs. Both are pals of EIC Michael Cooke, and speculation is rampant that that’s what saved them. Worse, this columnist claims, one is effectively a do-nothing consultant. -Ed.]

Cuts at Yakima, Bremerton and byline strike in Maine – Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild Blog

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By paulgillin | November 14, 2007 - 6:58 am - Posted in Paywalls

The Seattle Times minority owner cites an 81 percent ‘loss in value’ – Crosscut Seattle

“McClatchy disclosed on Thursday, Nov. 8, that it wrote off $1.52 billion of the worth of 31 newspapers and other holdings. Buried deep in a quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission was further news that the writedown included a drop of $69.1 million in valuation of McClatchy’s stake in the Seattle Times Co…What McClatchy stated was worth $102.2 million then is thought to be worth a mere $19.0 million now. And as McClatchy noted in this latest SEC filing, it now sees the loss in value of the Seattle Times Co. as ‘other than temporary.'”

‘NYT’ Introduces Comments on Web Stories — But Worries About It – Editor & Publisher, Nov. 4, 2007

“Quietly, without promoting the move, The New York Times began this week publishing on its Web site readers’ comments at the end of certain articles. This is a move The Washington Post and USA Today, and many other newspapers, began long ago.”

[The decision to add moderation to comments adds costs to the revenue-strapped Times, but the Old Gray Lady isn’t yet ready to let go. Says Times‘ Public Editor Clark Hoyt, ““How does the august Times, which has long stood for dignified authority, come to terms with the fractious, democratic culture of the Internet, where readers expect to participate but sometimes do so in coarse, bullying and misinformed ways? The answer so far is cautiously, carefully and with uneven success.” – Ed.]

First FAS-FAX Numbers: Many Top Papers Take Big Hits – Editor & Publisher, Nov. 5, 2007

“Of the top 25 papers in daily circulation (see chart, separate story), only four showed gains…According to an analysis of ABC figures, for 538 daily U.S. newspapers, circulation declined 2.5% to 40,689,617. For 609 papers that filed on Sunday, overall circulation dropped 3.5% to 46,771,486…For the past several years, publishers, particularly those at major metros, have been whittling back on circulation considered to be less useful by advertisers. Those papers fall into the category of other paid, which includes hotel, Newspapers in Education, employee, and third party copies.

“Of course, the trend points to fewer people reading the paper too as single-copy sales, considered a barometer of the industry, is decreasing at larger rates than the overall top line number — somewhere in the ballpark of 5%.”

[Santa Barbara News-Press appears to be especially hard hit. – Ed.]

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By paulgillin | June 2, 2009 - 2:14 pm - Posted in Facebook, Google, Hyper-local

US Newspaper Classified SalesThe Newspaper Association of America made no attempt to draw attention to its release of the first quarter financial results for America’s newspapers — and with good reason.  Sales skidded an unprecedented 29.4%, driven by disasterous results in classified advertising amid the weakest economy in 60 years.  Alan Mutter notes that if this trend continues, the US newspaper industry could close out 2009 with total sales of less than $30 billion — a 40% drop in just four years.

The wreckage is across the board — even online sales were off more than 13% — but the worst-hit sectors were cyclical ones: Employment classified advertising down 67.4%; Real estate classifieds off 45.6% and automotive classifieds down 43.4%.  All in all, classified ad sales were down 42.3% for the quarter. “In records published by the NAA that date to 1950, there is no precedent for the sort of decline suffered in the first three months of this year,” Mutter writes.

Slate’s Jack Shafer has a historical review of the factors that got the newspaper industry into this fix.  Publishers knew by the 1970s that they were toast, he says.  Demographic factors were to blame.  The flight of professionals out of the cities and into the suburbs challenge the economic model of the big dailies, and their halfhearted attempts to regain momentum mostly failed.  Some executives took consolation in the fact that their circulation was growing despite the reality that the gains badly lack lagged overall population growth.  The game was really over long before the story began to show up in the financial results.

More Fodder for Pay-Wall Debate

In the continuing debate over whether newspapers should charge for content, Martin Langeveld contributes perspective from Albert Sun, a University of Pennsylvania math and economics student with an interest in journalism.

Speaking at a recent conference put on by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute  at the Missouri School of Journalism, Sun suggested that newspapers shouldn’t be too monolithic in their approach to pricing.  Rather, they should take inspiration from the airline industry, which charges different prices for the same seats depending on traveler needs.

In the same manner, newspapers should look at their product as a collection of boutique services, each with different price tiers depending upon perceived value.  For example, a casual reader may pay nothing for a weather forecast, but a weather bug might part with $10 a month for detailed technical reports and historical records. Langeveld writes:

Establishing a single price point for online content…might work for a time but is not revenue-maximizing in the long run.  The right way entails the exploitation of a variety of niches all along the curve – and therein lies the problem, since the culture of newspapers is still mainly that of a monolithic, one-size-fits-all daily product, whether in print or online.

In another post, Langeveld flags a quote from Denver Post publisher and MediaNews Group CEO  Dean Singleton in an interview with the Colorado Statesman:

We will be moving away from giving away most of our content online. We will be redoing our online to appeal certainly to a younger audience than the print does, but we’ll have less and less newspaper-generated content and more and more information listings and user-generated content.

Devalued Journalists Fight Back

We've been outsourced Two stories caught our eye this week about journalists attempting to skewer the current trend toward devaluing their profession.

Three Connecticut alternative publications – the Hartford Advocate, New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weeklyoutsourced all of the editorial content for last week’s issue to freelance journalists in India. But instead of burying the move, the papers actively promoted debate with a provocative headline: “Sorry, we’ve Been Outsourced. This Issue Made In India.” And to drive home the absurdity of the whole affair, the editors assigned Indian journalists to principally cover local news, entertainment and culture.

The move had elements of a publicity stunt playing off of American capitalism’s current love affair with all things Indian. However, editors made a sincere effort to see the project through, producing nine stories about local affairs written by reporters half a world away. They wrote about their experience:

If our owners want to replace us with Indians, all we can say is good luck! If they find locating, hiring and keeping after these writers half the challenge we did, they might think twice about replacing us. Far from giving us a week off, it took practically the entire editorial staff to assign, edit, manage and assemble this project.

The myth that Indian reporters work for peanuts was belied by one Indian veteran who asked for $1 a word, which is less than what the publishers pay in the US. The experiment also had its lighthearted moments such as when one overseas journalist shared a vindaloo recipe with the publicist for a mind-reading act.


Michelle Rafter writes about the questionable editorial oversight practices at content aggregators. These Web-based organizations, which principally republish material from contributors in exchange for a share of the revenue, have been labeled in some quarters as the future of journalism.  If so, then the experience of Los Angeles freelancer L. J. Williamson indicates that they have a long way to go.

Williamson wrote a series of articles for Examiner.com, a string of localized aggregation sites targeting major cities.  She noticed that her stories were passing through to the site with little or no editing.  Editors seemed far more interested in traffic-driving strategies.  So Williamson began concocting increasingly outrageous topics full of  “exaggerations and half-truths. I also wrote a series of preposterous articles on topics like why peanuts should be banned, why panic was a totally appropriate response to the swine flu outbreak, and why schoolchildren were likely to die if they were allowed to play dangerous games such as tag,” she wrote in an e-mail to Mediabistro.com’s Daily FishbowlLA. “And no one at Examiner noticed or cared what I said or did for quite some time.”

Williamson was finally outed by lawyers for one party that was victimized by her reports.  She was “fired” from a job that had never paid her and had to settle for the satisfaction of telling her story to the world.

Miscellany

The Wall Street Journal says a private equity firm, HM Capital, is close to a deal to acquire Blethen Maine Newspapers, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, and two smaller newspapers. The small chain has been on the block for more than a year, during which time it has become an albatross around the neck of the Seattle Times, which owns Blethen.


The Nieman Foundation has suspended its annual conference on narrative journalism, dealing another blow to the already dwindling support for long-form storytelling.


The long-form clearly isn’t dead at Denver-based 5280 magazine.  It has an Investigation Of The Circumstances Leading Up To The Closure Of The Rocky Mountain News that runs to nearly 10,000 words.  We haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but feel free to knock yourself out and send us a summary.


Writing on True/Slant, Ethan Porter says Matt Drudge’s popularity is waning. A Drudge Report story last week about a potentially incendiary quote from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went nowhere, he says.  Could Drudge’s conservative politics be losing favor in a recession wracked world? Dare we be so hopeful?


McClatchy Watch catches the Miami Herald in the act of promoting circulation with an offer of a free subscription to a magazine that hasn’t been published in two years.

By paulgillin | January 11, 2009 - 8:55 am - Posted in Facebook

Steve_SwartzThe Seattle Post-Intelligencer, an institution in the great northwest for 146 years, is for sale. If no buyer is found within 60 days, the paper will close, idling 170 people. Even if a buyer emerges, it’s almost certain that the P-I will end print operations.

The sobering news was delivered by Steven Swartz (left), president of Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division, in an address to P-I employees Friday while police scanners buzzed and phones rang in the background (here’s the video). Swartz didn’t take questions but he didn’t mince words either. “One thing is clear: At the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in printed form,” he said. “Since 2000, the P-I has lost money each year, and the losses have…continued to escalate.”

Swartz decisively ruled out any possibility that Hearst would attempt to keep the P-I afloat by combining it with the rival Seattle Times. “It is not our intention to attempt to acquire the Seattle Times,” he told the newsroom.

Seattlepi.com has a lengthy news analysis of the event, including quotes from local dignitaries and readers (“I buy the papers for the puzzles,” says one) and an analysis of the likelihood of rescue. The consensus is that the likehood is slim to none, barring intervention by a Microsoft millionaire.  “Right now there are 30 or more newspapers on the market that are profitable, and they’re not selling. So why would anyone buy a paper that’s losing money?” asks one anonymous executive.

They’re not exactly celebrating across town at the Seattle Times, however. The news story in the crosstown rival is a little more blunt in its assessment: “[T]he venerable newspaper — at least in its printed form — almost certainly will fold, industry observers say.” It also devotes more attention the contractual and legal issues than does the seattlepi.com account, which focuses more on the human impact.

In a related analysis story, the Times acknowledges that its rival’s likely closure will be to its benefit, but that doesn’t equate to prosperity. The two Seattle dailies have worked under a joint operating agreement since 1993 in which the P-I shared in a portion of the profits of its competitor. With that albatross lifted from its shoulders – and with the likelihood that a portion of the P-I‘s 117,000 subscribers will join its subscriber rolls – the development is a relief for the Blethen family, which has been besieged by bad news over the last year. But the financial state of the Times is so dire that its rival’s closure is more likely to guarantee survival than prosperity.  Here’s a list of stories we’ve covered. Search the page for “Seattle Times” for details.

Other coverage

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By paulgillin | December 24, 2008 - 9:35 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Solutions

Don’t forget to take our poll: Will the Detroit Experiment Succeed?

Want it? The Seattle Times Building

Want it? The Seattle Times Building

Few newspapers in the US are in worse shape that the Seattle Times, reports its rival, the Post-Intelligencer. How bad is it? “Dire,” in the words of Times Senior Vice President Alayne Fardella, who announced yesterday that the company will now freeze the pensions of non-union workers in addition to requiring them to take unpaid vacation. “It has been and continues to be a long and difficult fight for our survival.”

The Seattle Times Co. holds $91 million in debt, which is secured by a parking lot. The company  borrowed $233 million in 1998 to buy a string of newspapers in Maine which are now a white elephant that no one wants to take off its hands. The company has put up two of its four Seattle properties for sale. McClatchy Co.’s stake in the business, which it acquired for $102.2 million in 2006, is now worth less than $8 million. But they do have that parking lot.

McClatchy itself has to be considered a candidate for the endangered species list. Its stock closed at 75 cents a share yesterday, down from a high of nearly $71 five years ago. Its $5 million in cash is down from $30 million at the end of last year.  Having had no luck selling its newspapers, the company is now trying to sell property to stay alive. However, that may also be a losing strategy. At least a half dozen newspapers are trying to unload property right now, but buyers have every reason to wait them out, says an AP report. As publishers become more desperate to generate cash to meet debt obligations, they’ll further cut asking prices. This is also a terrible time to be selling real estate, which makes sellers even more desperate.

Success Without the Web

New York Times media critic David Carr is an staunch print guy and he found an ally in the TriCityNews (yes, that’s really all there is to its website), an alternative weekly out of Asbury Park, NJ that has thrived for a decade and is still growing 10% annually by aggressively ignoring the Web. Carr quotes publisher Dan Jacobson expressing astonishment that any print publisher would choose to undermine its  business by giving its product away for free. “Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads?” he asks. TriCityNews has never raised its advertising rates in 10 years and its costs are cheap enough that even small businesses can buy full-page ads.

Carr clearly loves this whole idea, but Recovering Journalist Mark Potts sees few lessons for major metro dailies in Asbury Park. The paper only has three employees, for cryin’ out loud, he notes. “Many small community papers, with and without Web sites, are doing just fine, and will continue to do so,” Potts writes. “Web or not, their readers have almost no place else to go.” He’s right, you  know. Pat Thornton chimes in with the observation that publisher Jacobson isn’t quoted once talking about journalism. He speculates that the paper is basically a community advertiser and that local news coverage has little to do with its success.

Sun, Post Head Toward Indistinguishability

Timothy A. Franklin is stepping down as editor of The Baltimore Sun, the Associated Press reports. He’ll be replaced on Jan. 1 by J. Montgomery Cook, who’s currently director of content development for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. Franklin is head off to Indiana University to chair a new sports journalism program at his alma mater. He said his decision was unrelated to the turmoil at the Sun, which has shed more than 150 jobs this year. The AP report provides a helpful graphic showing where Baltimore is. Meanwhile, in a move designed to make both newspapers less relevant to their local audiences, the Sun and the Washington Post have a new deal to share articles and photos. This will make two major metro dailies less than 40 miles apart from each other even harder to tell apart.

Miscellany

Now that Detroit’s News and Free Press have broken the ice by backing away from daily frequency, everyone is jumping into the pond. The University of Missouri-backed Columbia Missourian will eliminate Saturday and Monday editions in a bid to save $350,000 annually. And the Klamath Falls (Ore.) Herald and News will mess with time itself by cutting it Monday edition and introducing a new “Monday on Sunday” section. We know that readers just can’t wait to get started thinking about the first day of the work week when they’re enjoying their Sunday morning coffee.


Nine weekly newspapers in Connecticut will close in January if a buyer isn’t found in the next week. It looks like a done deal, though, since the staffs have already reportedly been laid off.


The New York Times has admitted that a letter to the editor from the mayor of Paris criticizing Caroline Kennedy’s bid for Senator Clinton’s seat is a fake. The letter characterized Kennedy’s ambitions as being “in very poor taste,” which was not the kind of language Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe would ordinarily use, according to one French editor. She called the mayor’s office, which also professed surprise.  The Times said it’s reviewing its authentication policies. Editor & Publisher has more.


We briefly thought we were back in 1996 when we read that GateHouse Media is suing the Boston Globe for linking to its stories. So-called “deep linking” suits went out of fashion a decade ago. Of course, with its shares trading at four cents, GateHouse may be out for whatever it can get. We think “frivolous” is too generous a term for this threat.  We agree with Jeff Jarvis and will leave it at that.


Death Watch editor Paul Gillin was interviewed for an hour on Bob Andelman’s Mr. Media show on Blog Talk Radio yesterday. Click the link to listen or see the Blog Talk Radio widget in the sidebar to the left.

And Finally…

elf_yourselfMore than 30 million people have Elfed Themselves, making this three-year-old OfficeMax promotion one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns in history. Better hurry before it’s too late!

By paulgillin | October 20, 2008 - 10:33 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Google, Hyper-local, Solutions

More papers are dropping the Associated Press. The Columbus Dispatch becomes the latest media entity to just say no to the wire service, following by just days Tribune Co.’s blockbuster announcement that it would exit the consortium. The AP’s costs are a sore spot with budget-challenged publishers, as are its tendency to compete with them online.  Editors are frustrated by new rules that require them to insert tags on stories they contribute to the wire service, which the AP then publishes through its numerous Internet channels.  The editors complain that revenue-generating traffic is thus diverted to the AP from their own web sites.

The AP claims new pricing will cut newspapers costs by about 10% beginning next year and that it will share ad revenues with members.  Publishers, though, say the lower prices aren’t enough. The AP’s fees can exceed $1 million annually at some newsrooms, which is about the same cost as 12 to 15 salaries.  In light of the need to cut costs, newspapers are coming up with creative alternatives, including regional consortia and citizen contributions. The New York Times account says defectors will also turn to less expensive newswires to cover the void left by the AP.

Pundits Disagree on Media’s Future

The director of digital at the UK’s Guardian Media Group forecast two years of “carnage” in the traditional media industry.  Emily Bell said she could see five national newspapers in Britain going under during the next two years as well as “the regional press heading for complete market failure.”  Even successful media companies will have to prepare for a long period of losses, she said.  The culprit is undifferentiated content driven by the traditional role of media as representatives of their customers, rather than participants in a conversation.  The only way to avoid irrelevance is to change this mindset, Bell believes.

However, the global leader for entertainment and media practice at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Hong Kong begs to differ. “Traditional media isn’t dead yet and won’t be for the next five years, ” Marcel Fenez told the World Association of Newspapers readership conference, Despite its rapid growth, digital advertising will represent just 10 per cent of total advertising for newspapers by 2012, he said. He forecast that global newspaper advertising (including digital) will grow 2.9 percent to $136.8 billion during that time.  Part of traditional media’s advantage is its willingness to collaborate, he noted.  By not trying to “gouge the other guy’s eyes out,” media companies can come up with the kind of creative partnerships that stymie other industries.

Another speaker at the same conference danced on the hyper-local theme. Randy Bennett, vice president for business development at the Newspaper Association of America, said newspapers need to fight back against stagnant readership growth by becoming the destination of choice for local activity. “We must be a trusted source for all relevant content created by us, or others – professionals or amateurs,” Bennett said. “We must give users a tool for extracting the content they need and create a platform for interactive conversation.” Is there a business model in all this?  Bennett admitted he was unaware of one but expected that large sites would come up with something

When Bad News is Good News

Publishers know that bad news sells, and new data from Nielsen Online proves that point. The service’s tally of unique visitors at the nation’s top newspaper Web sites in September showed that all but one (the Village Voice) were up by double- or even triple- digit percentages. The big winner was the Anchorage Daily News, which enjoyed a 928% spike in unique visitors, presumably due to interest in native daughter and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.


The irony of the financial crisis is that it has also been good for some segments of the publishing business. Reuters says business media are enjoying a short-term lift in readership and ad dollars, thanks to all the attention being drawn by Wall Street’s financial crisis. The question is what happens after reader interest cools? The long-term slowdown in advertising in conventional media is likely to continue and perhaps worsen beginning in the first quarter of 2009, experts predict.

Miscellany

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch says the unprecedented global financial crisis presents a buying opportunity for his company. Speaking at the company’s annual meeting on Friday, Murdoch said News Corp. just turned in its sixth straight year of record earnings and is sitting on $5 billion in cash, making it well prepared for further downturns in credit markets. The company has also renegotiated its credit lines to allow for longer payback periods.

No one, including News Corp. has been left untouched by the mess on Wall St., Murdoch said.  ”It has weakened advertising markets and beaten down our share price,” the 77-year-old CEO said. “We have prepared ourself well for this day.” With next year presenting “unprecedented challenges,”  News Corp. will look for acquisitions in growth businesses. India, eastern Europe and Asia have the most promise, Murdoch said. He also expressed “great confidence in our future,” apparently referring to News Corp.’s future, not necessarily everybody else’s.


A team of enterprising publishers in the UK has produced a four-page newspaper created entirely by hand. “Every word and every image and every mark of any kind in The Manual was drawn by a team of volunteers – mostly illustrators,” a blog entry says. “Each copy of the paper has been numbered in a limited edition of around 100.” The experiment foresees a day when “handmade qualities can transform newspapers from ‘junk’ to collectable.” Sounds like a neat idea.


Just two months after Puerto Rico lost its only daily English-language newspaper, a new suitor has stepped in. The Puerto Rico Daily Sun will be available starting this Wednesday by subscription and at newsstands. The paper will be staffed largely by members of the now-defunct San Juan Star. Few details were released. The publisher said an upcoming press conference would reveal more.


The Seattle Times Co. may be close to selling its newspapers in Maine, but that probably won’t save it from having to make deep cuts early in the new year.  Al Diamon, Maine’s most widely-read media critic, reports that “two informed sources in the newspaper industry” says a company called Maine Media Investments could buy the Blethen Maine Newspapers by the end of the month. The chain has been an albatross for the Seattle Times, which has enough of its own problems on the opposite coast. Diamon quotes sources as saying more deep cuts are expected in January.


The new executive editor of the Merced Sun-Star in California’s heartland mixes metaphors and crows about his performance at the free throw line in one of the more delightfully clueless homespun essays we’ve seen by a scribe in a while. Our favorite line is this drug reference (emphasis added): “The newsroom…is down to seeds and stems in terms of numbers of reporters, photographers, copy editors and sports writers.” Someone should put Mike Tharp in touch with the Merced County Sheriff’s department, which destroyed about six tons of marijuana plants the previous day.

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By paulgillin | September 24, 2008 - 7:48 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Hyper-local, Solutions

Technorati has come out with its annual State of the Blogosphere report and some numbers are truly eye-popping. The site found blogs in 81 languages and daily posts are closing in on one million. Nearly 185 million people have started a blog (although most don’t tend them regularly). Newspapers have the bug: 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs. Four in five bloggers post brand or product reviews and 90% of bloggers say they post about the brands they love or hate. Most bloggers who accept advertising make a profit. Technorati did a big survey and got comments from various media influencers. We haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but if you’re interested in publishing, you should check it out.

Meanwhile, The Politico, which is one of the more promising Web-only journalism ventures, is expanding. It will add employees, grow circulation of its Washington-area newspaper and and print more often. The staff will be expanded to at least 105 from its current 85. Circulation of its Capitol Hill newspaper will be increased 20% to 32,000 and a Monday issue will be added. All this will happen after the election, which is The Politico’s busiest season, but officials said there’s going to be plenty of news to keep people busy. Also, they expect to reach profitability next year, far ahead of schedule.

And perhaps there’s gold in them thar websites. BIA Financial Network and Borrell Associates have a new study that estimates that newspaper websites are the most lucrative local media around, with valuations of the largest properties reaching $450 million. That makes local alternatives like TV and radio small potatoes in comparison. “Given their growth potential, the value multiples of media Web sites may be 2 to 4 times that of the core business,” the BIA president is quoted as saying. The study also praises the strong cash flow at media websites. The problem is that growth is slowing. BTW, the $450 million number is only for the largest properties, so don’t get too excited. We estimate the market value of Newspaper Death Watch is about $1.23.

Miscellany

In the department of publishers that still don’t get it, we’d like to include The American Scholar, which publishes a provocative list of “12 Questions about the future of journalism” by Bill Kovach without offering visitors a way to respond. Um, guys, that’s part of the problem.


In chaos, there is opportunity, or at least that’s what Michelle Rafter says. She points to new launches at Slate, The Wall Street Journal, Silicon Valley Insider and Forbes as evidence that there’s opportunity in business journalism right now. Just make sure you get cash up front.


Death is good business, it seems. Tributes.com, which runs obituaries and related memorial messages, is teaming up with The Wall Street Journal to create a print counterpart to the website. For $80, you can buy a listing on Tributes.com where you can post photos and memories of a departed loved one. Now, for an additional $250, you can run your message in a dying medium, too. Tributes is a startup that was spun out of Eons, a social network for the over-50 crowd. Both are the brainchildren of Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor.


In the 80s, New York City brought us the Village People. Now it brings us TimesPeople. That’s The New York Times‘ new social network. “TimesPeople provides NYTimes.com readers with a way to share their thoughts and recommendations about The Times‘s content with other readers, making their public activities on the site more open,” says a company press release. Apparently you can only share your thoughts about Times content, not anybody else’s, which we suppose makes sense. You can also see the most recommended articles. The Times is a latecomer to the social networking world, trailing The Wall Street Journal by a whole eight days.


Scott Karp analyzes Matt Drudge’s influence and concludes “It’s the Links, Stupid.” The action in online publishing is in filtering and linking, not corralling your audience, he says. Drudge is successful because he tells cable TV and radio reporters what’s important and that shapes their daily broadcasts. Newspapers, in contrast, tend to tell people only what’s important in their pages on any one day, and that’s far less interesting to readers than a guide to that vast Worldwide Web. “In the web media era, when all news content is accessible by anyone, anywhere in the world, and no news brands no longer have a monopoly over news distribution, the power of influence lies in the ability to FILTER the vast sea of news,” he writes.

Layoff Log

  • The Anchorage Daily News is reducing its staff by about 10%, laying off 13 employees and holding another dozen positions vacant.
  • The Raleigh News & Observer has started making cuts after only 16 newsroom employees accepted a buyout offer. Its editorial cartoonist, a 33-year veteran, and ombudsmen will be cut back to part-time but their jobs won’t be eliminated.
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is going to buy out or lay off workers unless it gets concessions from its unions. Between 10 and 20 Teamsters will lose their jobs, according to a union spokesman, but that’s just the beginning. The paper’s Ohio parent has been losing money for years and is threatening to sell its Pittsburgh property.
  • As if the Seattle Times Co. didn’t need more headaches, now the truck drivers are threatening to strike. About 70 truckers could walk off the job on Oct. 21 in protest over the company’s bid to outsource its trucking to Penske Logistics.
  • Threats by the publisher of the Newark Star-Ledger to close the paper if cost-cutting goals can’t be met have apparently put a bee in the Jockey shorts of the local union. The union representing 400 mailers at the paper agreed by a 10-1 margin to a three-year wage freeze and buyouts of a quarter of its members. The Star-Ledger is still looking to buy out another 200 of its 750 full-time nonunion employees.
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By paulgillin | July 22, 2008 - 7:30 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Hyper-local

As editors and bloggers have combed through the Changing Newsroom” study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism over the last couple of days, they’ve increasingly focused on the study’s findings that editors are, on the whole, positive about the future.

Newspaper editors optimistic despite downs” was UPI’s headline. Writing on Conde Nast, Jeff Bercovici focuses on all the good news in the study and observes that newspapers are “very sensibly shifting their resources away from areas where their efforts can easily be duplicated and into the sorts of coverage where they can best distinguish themselves from competitors in all media.”

How can crusty old news editors remain positive amid the drumbeat of dreadful news that’s afflicting the industry? We can only speculate, but that’s what blogs do.

For one thing, perhaps there aren’t as many crusty old news editors any more. Layoffs have washed out a lot of the old guard. Some of them now content themselves blogging about the good old days, although a few still run editorial departments. Mostly, though, the editors who are left are the fighters, and fighters tend to think positively.

There’s also a silver lining to any crisis: the opportunity to focus and rethink the business. In that spirit, the most remarkable section of the Pew study is the chapter about the future. Read it to see quotes from veteran editors who believe the downsizing has required them to become more resourceful, creative and open-minded. In the words of Miami Herald Managing Editor David Wilson, – Through all that- ™s happened over the last few years, the quality of our work is among the best I- ™ve seen- ”and I- ™ve been here 31 years.- 

The study also reports that editors are more involved than ever in trying to identify new revenue streams, even offering an investigative reporting project for sale on Amazon in one case. What’s more, editors don’t think this breach of the traditional ad/edit wall is such a terrible thing. Some are actually invigorated by the idea of becoming more involved in the success of the business.

“They are working hard, innovating, making changes,” says the report. “They may have fewer reporters and less space to work with, [but] they are certain that what they are producing today is better than what they produced a few years ago.”

We’ve noted before the importance of discarding assumptions. It’s hard to do, but it’s the essential first step toward envisioning the future. The inspiring message from the Pew research is that the editors who are working through the ritual destruction of their industry are discarding assumptions en masse and finding that there really are better ways to do their jobs.

Curmudgeons persist but, as Jeff Jarvis notes, they are being marginalized. Times of crisis are also times to rethink everything. That appears to be the bright spot in the industry right now.

Layoff Log

The Tribune Co.-owned Allentown Morning Call will cut 35 to 40 newsroom positions, according to a memo from the publisher posted on Tell Zell. The Morning Call did a small buyout in March, but this appears to be much more sweeping, amounting to more than a quarter of the news staff, according the blog.


Also in stealth mode is the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Co. property which is cutting its 290-person news staff by 20% but choosing not to report it. Commenting on the paper’s decision not to tell its customers about significant changes to the product they pay for, Editor Earl Maucker comments, ironically, “It serves nobody’s interest to put it out ahead of time. As I’ve found, it gets butchered in the media.”


There are bad times all over the Sunshine State. The Fort Myers News-Press is laying off 36 people, eliminating some unfilled positions and killing a weekly supplement targeted at Hispanic readers. We hope Publisher Carol Hudler is wrong in calling the region’s economic climate “the worst local economy since perhaps the crash of 1929.” In fact, the economy did pretty well in 1929. The worst years of the Great Depression were from 1933-1937.


The beleaguered staffs at Maine’s Portland Press-Herald and Sunday Maine Telegram are bracing for the fourth set of layoffs in 12 months. The problem is that owner Seattle Times Co. can’t find a buyer for its Maine Newspaper Death Watch – º Edit – ” WordPressholdings, so it keeps cutting and cutting in an effort to prop up the finances. This layoff will take out 10% of the remaining 85 news staffers. Crosscut Seattle has exhaustive background. There’s also a depressing blog devoted to this situation.


Laid-off newspaper employees and their colleagues are increasingly taking to the street to publicize their plight. Baltimore Sun employees staged a rally last week, complete with 100 empty chairs to symbolize lost jobs. Alan Mutter asks if this is really an appropriate response, or if the protests might actually backfire and cause subscriber flight. What do you think? Is all the publicity about the death of newspapers actually worsening the industry’s decline? Maybe they’re on to something at the Sun-Sentinel.


Tell Zell reprints some of the farewell memos that went out last Friday as laid-of LA Times staffers packed their bags. Journalists write some of their best stuff at times like these.

And Finally

Our WordPress template chokes when we try to embed video, so we’ll have to settle for a link. If you want to understand the macroeconomic and demographic shifts that are disrupting this and so many other industries, spend eight minutes watching this video. You will be riveted.

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