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The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

September 2, 2009 / Toby Dayton

Dailies Love Digging Their Own Grave

Not surprisingly, there’s been a ton of news of late surrounding the daily newspaper industry, but the summary of it all is that as bad as things are for the dailies, these businesses are incredibly gifted at finding new, imaginative ways to make things even worse.

• Newspaper revenues are down 29%, and papers around the country continue to crater. Freedom Communications, owner of 33 dailies (including the Orange County Register) and 70 weekly newspapers, filed for bankruptcy this week while the San Francisco Chronicle is cutting more employees. Ann Arbor lost its daily entirely, the L.A. Times is restructuring its sales force (as if that’ll help in the least), and Rupert has shuttered his free London Paper. With no attractive offers, the Austin American Statesman was taken off the block, while local investors purchased dailies in Philadelphia and bidders are emerging for the Boston Globe.

• Want to see local movie listings in the paper? Sorry.

• The debate over paid news continues to rage with more stories here and here.

• Rather than charging for online news, maybe the answer is better distribution through e-readers or ‘hyperdistribution.’

• Due to a string of bankruptcies that have placed media companies into the hands of creditors (like some cruel game of hot potato), the largest publisher in the country at the moment is….J.P. Morgan. The Banking giant now controls Readers Digest, Source Interlink Media and American Media Inc. which have combined revenue of just over $5 billion.

Local news is a big deal these days and is being looked to as the savior for local dailies (as if it hadn’t always been). As everyone except daily newspaper publishers has known for years and years, the strategy of gutting local coverage in favor of generic AP stories and reruns from other newspapers has proved fatal for almost every local daily in the country. Now, after virtually every newspaper in the country is either on its last legs or already in bankruptcy, local news is back in favor.

• Local news is even big enough to be fueling some M&A activity. Local blog site Examiner.com has acquied NowPublic for an undisclosed sum. NowPublic raised $10.6 million last summer from lead investor Rho Ventures and seed investors Brightspark and the Working Opportunity Fund.

• Even the most dysfunctional paper in the country is seeing the local light. The Tribune Company has started a local blog network to boost its online coverage of all things local. Too little, too late, I’m sure, and they’ll undoubtedly find a way to screw it up, but at least they got the right answer eventually.

• Speaking of the most dysfunctional paper in the country, Tribune has finally sold the Cubs. Unfortuantely, only now is the greatest fraud in the industry’s final chapter receiving the scrutiny it should have from the very start.

• And finally, in the most baffling, head-scratch-inducing development over recent weeks, the same businesses that were slow to appreciate and effectively leverage the digital tsunami that swept across the industry are now letting go of the very people who have any chance of saving them.

It continues to dumbfound me how much this industry enjoys digging its own grave.