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January 25, 2007 / Toby Dayton

Daily Papers Still Don’t Get It

As expected, 2007 is picking up right where 2006 left off in terms of feverish activity in the media and publishing spaces with a bunch of stories concerning daily newspapers all coming out this morning. The Boston Globe eliminated all of its foreign bureaus in an effort to cut costs, the L.A. Times created and filled a new position – Innovation Editor, and Rupert Murdoch has teamed up with the Chandler family in their bid to buy Tribune. It also looks like Tribune is pretty unhappy with the three offers it received as they are going back to companies that went though due diligence but declined to make an offer to see if they might make a bid. Australia’s Macquarie Media Group agreed to a deal to pay $80 million for American Consolidated Media and Valley Newspaper Holdings which own 40 newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma. And locally in Minnesota, American Community Newspapers, which owns 43 weeklies in Minnesota and other publications in Dallas and Washington D.C., will sell its business to Courtside Acquisition Corp. for $165 million.

But the best news of all comes out of Philadelphia, from the new owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer. After laying off 71 people from the newsroom staff, Brian Tierney announced that he was going to invest $20 million in improvements into the paper. These upgrades include new distribution boxes outside of McDonald’s, plant equipment upgrades, and new features in the paper. Those new features include a dumbed-down, over-simplified ‘Express’ section of news (sponsored by Commerce Bank), and a TV guide section (sponsored by Comcast). The paper also announced some web initiatives centered around launching auto and real estate classified sites. And finally, the ubiquitous “relaunch” of their main site ‘sometime next quarter’ was announced. What a joke. Other than maybe the web stuff, which has the dubious distinction of sounding like just about every web start-up that will be ‘overhauling its site sometime in the next 3 months,’ the changes amount to nothing more than basic maintenance and advertising disguised as content. When are papers going to learn that it’s the 71 people fired from the newsroom that create a unique value proposition in the marketplace, not the TV listings or the bite-sized rehashing of news found inside the paper. If this is what we can expect from the new wave of private equity buyers that are sinking cash into major metro dailies, the death of the daily newspaper in most metro markets might occur sooner than anyone could ever have imagined.

[tags]Death of Newspapers, Daily Newspapers, Publishing, Media Acquisitions, Newspaper Layoffs[/tags]