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December 15, 2008 / Toby Dayton

Will Google Buy The New York Times and Other Important Stories

The deluge of notable stories has surpassed by ability to keep up, so once again, I am forced to simply list the highlights…

• Will Google buy the New York Times? Despite the fact that the Sulzbergers have indicated they are not interested in selling, I would say the odds are getting better and better every month, and either way, Google will enter the news & journalism business either by buying the Times or other high-quality media assets, or supporting non-profits such as MinnPost in a significant way through its foundation.

• Detroit Media Partnership, which operates the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, will be stopping home-delivery of print editions most days of the week. The Free Press, owned by Gannett, and the News, owned by MediaNews Group, are operated by Detroit Media under a joint operating agreement. I had thought that the race to see which major U.S. city would lose its daily first was a 2-horse race between Chicago and Minneapolis, but now Detroit is gaining steam and may pull it out as the cities head down the stretch.

• A group of dailies in the northeast is discussing the possibility of forming a consortium to share content, thereby reducing costs and arriving at an alternative to the wildly expensive content provided by the Associated Press.

• Dailies in Dallas and Fort Worth are collaborating to reduce costs by sharing arts, cultural, and entertainment columns. While the idea is logical and helps preserve some coverage of a critical area for local media, it’s another glaring reminder of how thin or non-existent local coverage is in most markets these days.

• That thin coverage from the dailies creates enormous opportunities for and highlights the critical need for sites like MinnPost that seek to fill the growing media hole through a non-profit model. Congratulations to MinnPost for nice press from Seth Godin and the Financial Times. (The FT article presents a nice overview of the demise of the daily newspaper industry, too, by the way).

• Gannett has confirmed that it will continue to invest heavily in its digital media properties, as if they had any choice in the matter given the dilapidated state of their offline properties. To its credit, however, the company has made some solid investments in digital strategies that are starting to pay off in a meaningful way. They might even allow the company to survive the meltdown crushing the broader newspaper industry.

• In a WSJ article, Martin Peers speculates about what the daily newspaper industry will look like in a few years, who might survive, and what steps current players might take to better position themselves to be among those survivors (Hint: massive consolidation and online-only publishing).

• Seemingly every day, another daily newspaper is placed on the sales block. The latest is Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, owned by E.W. Scripps. Unfortunately, decents bids will be virtually non-existent, and most papers up for sale will be shuttered in the near future when buyers fail to materialize.

• MPR’s Midday program focused on the daily newspaper industry last week with guest Jane Kirtley, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Silha Center for the study of media, ethics, and law. (Thanks Tim for the link).

As much attention as the death of the dailies receives these days, I think the carnage and all of the massive ramifications for communities, citizens, businesses, organizations, governments, and even democracy itself will be one of the major story themes for the nation in 2009.