Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mystery: A missing figure in the annual report

A year ago, as most of Gannett's newsrooms were adopting the new Information Center model, the company published its annual report to shareholders. The document, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, showed that online revenue at GCI's domestic newspapers had grown 24% in 2006 over 2005. That was about the same as the industry average, 23%, reported by the Newspaper Association of America trade group.

But in the following months, the trend within Gannett weakened, SEC documents show. By the end of the first quarter of 2007, the growth rate had fallen to 12%. It fell still more, to 11%, by the end of the third quarter -- about half the industry average for the time, NAA data show.

So, last week, with the new (.pdf!) 2007 Annual Report in hand, I looked for Gannett's year-end rate. I expected it would be near that weak 11% figure. But all I found was this, in the section on newspaper website traffic trends: "Solid revenue growth was also achieved."

Strange. A year ago, Gannett disclosed a specific figure: 24%. Given online's importance as more advertising shifts to the Internet, why didn't this year's report do the same? I asked spokeswoman Tara Connell. Her response: "We don't publish every number."

Why do you think Gannett is keeping the rate under wraps? Use this link to e-mail your reply; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.


  1. That's one more indictment of the Jack Williams Era for corporate's online unit. From the start, Jack moved too cautiously and chose some real clunkers when it came to products and strategies.

    Celebro City Server was an unmitigated disaster that combined horribly unscrubbed data on local businesses (supplied by Standard and Poor), slow technnology (built with ASP) and a lack of vision with respect to developing anything other than a restaurant directoy in most cities. The out-of-the-box version delivered to individual papers in 2000-01 did not contain any ready-man retail/storefrrnt categories.

    Futhermore, affiliates were encouraged to use it as the calendaring solution. Everyone who tried it regretted it almost immediately, and you needed a Ph.D. to export and then format data cleanly for reverse publication. The rollout of NewsEngin to handle calendars two years ago solved almost everyone's problems quickly, but not before CCS clained some many casualties.

    The coupon product is completely inflexible -- god help you if local supermarkets do no accept web coupons, because there's no way to prevent the software from displaying the prominently on your coupon site.

    The ShopLocal acquisition and rollout proved to be a waste of time and money. This was the one weapon that local affiliates might have been able to use to aggregate local small businesses. Instead, their weekly sale-items information gets washed aside in a tidal wave of national free-standing inserts that are repurposed for online.

    Classified Ventures did OK with its and products, promotion and strategy, but existing-homes real estate has been a mess from the start. Affiliates are stuck with old software that gets updated frequently but only in small steps rather than by leaps and bounds. The search module is one of the least-robust interfaces that prospective home buyers can possibly find on the net, and the data center regular mangles the addition/deletion process on properties so that homes that were sold months ago remain in the database.

    And then there's the whole idea of selling national/regional banner campaigns through the corporate office. The ad-delivery software (Open AdStream) has been in place for years, but the majority of sales are to the folks who deliver the same annoying pop-unders to just about every major site on the planet. The CPM rates are horrendous, and the only way for local affilaites to make money is to annoy the hell out of users by delivering these ads in insanely large quantities.

    Where is the regional and national selling strategy? It does not exist.

  2. It is also another indictment of Leslie Giallombardo and her crew. They do not know how to sell a package that works for an advertiser. She bounces from one thing to another, never focusing on what is really important.

    She will point to TIDE but you can bet it is barely spoken of at the newspapers. Another huge waste, but a nice way to get her visibility and make her feel important.

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  4. I should add this: The company provided only percentage increases; it didn't give dollar amounts for the online advertising. I think that dollar figure is included in the overall advertising numbers elsewhere in the annual reports.

  5. If I hear TIDE one more time I will scream. A project a kindergarten child could come up with: To get a presentation going that caters to the advertiser? - Duuuhhh. Isn't this what it is all about in Advertising?

    And it is strung along for two years now?????? If that is the future of Advertising we are really going down the drain.

    That's like re-inventing the recordplayer...........


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