Reviving speculation that GCI's in a buying mood again, a reader says in an e-mail: "Gannett seems to be seriously looking at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Several corporate suits were in town recently and a select group of operating-committee members from Brevard went on a field trip."
The Daytona paper has been on the sale block since April, when the majority owning Davidson family was forced to find a buyer after losing a costly court challenge brought by minority owner Cox Enterprises. Last spring, two readers here wondered if Gannett might be interested; yesterday's e-mail, plus an anonymous comment from a second reader, was the first I'd heard about GCI's possible interest in the paper since May.
It would be noteworthy if Gannett was shopping again. There's been little market for print papers in some time: values plunged amid increased uncertainty over the industry's prospects, and the broader economy's further weakening. Three months ago, for example, Dow Jones & Co. shelved plans to sell its smaller Ottaway Newspapers chain. Buyers fear getting burned by paying too high -- which is what happened when private investor groups scooped up the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the The Philadelphia Inquirer at the wrong time.
But Gannett may be a uniquely well-placed suitor for Daytona because it already owns Florida Today, 90 miles south in Brevard County's Melbourne. GCI could boost profits by eliminating duplicate jobs at the papers, in human resources, accounting, production and editorial. The papers could share printing. And a single publisher and editor could oversee both titles -- Gannett's direction, with its clustering strategy.
Of course, GCI already has its hands full in Florida, the source of so much revenue loss because of the battered real estate market. But that could force the Davidsons to sell at a really bargain price.
The News-Journal has been through several layoffs since the Davidsons offered it for sale. The paper's site says it employs 850 -- which sounds high, based on Gannett metrics. Dayton's daily circulation is about 100,000, so it averages about 90 employees per 1,000 readers. Florida Today's is closer to 80 per 1,000 readers. (These are very rough calculations, based on publicly available data that may be out of date.)
The News-Journal says it is Florida's last family owned paper; the Davidsons have controlled it since 1928.
At a glance
Daytona: 100,000 weekdays, 120,000 Sundays
Brevard: 79,000 weekdays, 95,000 Sundays
Daytona, Brevard staffers: What have you heard? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.
Related: A blog devoted to the Daytona paper, although it looks like it's on hiatus.
[Sources: circulation, News-Journal and GCI's 2007 Annual Report to shareholders; today's front pages, Newseum]