Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mail | Investors 'don't care if you're pissed off'

Regarding big media's disinterest in unflattering remarks on this blog about Gannett, Anonymous@8:52 p.m. writes:

Media understands audience and the audience for this kind of material is highly niched. Jim himself says that he caters to approximately 20,000 people who are interested in Gannett and Gannett news. That isn't even the circulation of one of Gannett's smaller community newspapers (there are some that are less, I know).

There are some investors who are interested in Gannett from a business standpoint but they don't care if employees are unhappy about management's decisions. They care about their investment in the company making money. And because their investment in the company comes through a very liquid asset like stock shares, they have no interest in seeing the company have long-term success. Short-term profit is all that matters to them. They will be long gone by the time the current decisions to downsize the company and hurt content play out.

Sorry folks, but the majority of people who consume news out there today, a vast majority, [couldn't] care less about your plight, about Gannett or about layoffs. Ten percent of the country has been laid off recently. They are all upset about the way their company chose profit over them. This blog, and the comments on it, isn't news.

Newspaper folks have an uncanny ability to believe that just because they think something is important than everyone else does, too. But, in reality, the audience of people who are genuinely concerned about the failing newspaper industry is small. The portion of that small audience that cares about Gannett is even smaller. The portion of that even smaller audience that cares what anonymous posters on a blog (even a well-read blog by blog standards) have to say is infinitely smaller.

It's a numbers game and, as much as I hate to say it, the vast majority of the numbers out there don't care if you're pissed off.

I have nothing against you all, am not in the industry (I work in investment banking). And, I do have an interest in seeing Gannett succeed, as my wife works at a Gannett property. But, let's get real here folks. People in the real world, including other media, have bigger problems on their mind than what is said on this blog.

With that said, I will be the first to admit that Jim has done some good reporting on Gannett that, from time to time, catches the eye of the investment world. But, as long as the stock price continues to go up, even those little nuggets are soon forgotten or passed over.


  1. This note is for those who delight in noting the daily fluctuations in the stock price. This poster is right, and what we all need to understand is that investors don't always bet on stocks going up. There are investors who specialize in selling stocks short, or betting they will go down. These investment decisions are agnostic. They really only care about the numbers, not the company itself.
    If you want to get into this, buy an investments book and it will describe all the options that are used. But the bottom line is do not put much in what the stock does from day to day.

  2. Interesting to have someone from investment banking telling journalists they should not expect to be treated as humans by their employers. What's next, a tip sheet on how rob taxpayers blind with no fear of prosecution?
    This post bothers me because it rolls over for the ends-justify-the-means crowd like a dog in heat. Money, not ethics, obviously rule in that person's world.
    He/she suggests that mistreatment of Gannett employees is not only okay, but of no concern to anyone except those being abused. Out of sight, out of mind makes it okay?
    Is it just me or is the line between right and wrong getting fuzzier the weaker journalism gets?

  3. He's right. GCI isn't the center of the universe. Lots of people in other businesses are in the same situation.

  4. Of course this poster is correct.

    However, I do not post here to harm Gannett - I have very successfully done that in my own ways by convincing excellent job applicant colleagues to not apply at any their papers, for example - I post here as a form of therapy as an exGannetteer who was severely damaged by this terrible company.

    Many of us can never get over the layoffs, the firings, the forced resignations and ruined careers caused by pety little publishers and EEs in Gannett.

    Simply put - we come here to vent and feel better afterwords, and also to read that we are not alone.

    It makes us feel better to know that we are not alone in our views, that in almost all cases, it wasn't our fault.

    Yeah, it's best to move on and get over it. Oh if only we could. But Jim's site is a great outlet for our frustrations and our continued anger toward what this terrible company does day in and day out to its dwindling workforce.

    The poster is right - the "outside world" doesn't care about our plight. But those of us here care about each other, and that's why we post and keep track of what is happening.

    And in all honesty, some of what we read here gives us a real chuckle - after all, some great writers are FORMER Gannett staffers!


  5. I don't necessarily agree with the poster. Sure, most people don't care about Gannett, but many people DO care about workers getting crapped on. look at what is happening in Wisconsin. Those folks have WORLD-WIDE support. People care. People may just not know. Of course, the poster may have only been talking about people with money. Those people don't care. That goes without saying.

  6. I do think the banker above represents much of what's wrong in America today. If money grubbing is your only measurement of success, then Bernie Madoff is probably your guru, assuming he didn't pick your pocket, too.
    Employees, Gannett and otherwise, are people with a wide assortment of legal rights. To ignore their mistreatment by companies like Gannett suggests a society without solid ethical underpinnings. Profit-making does not trump employee abuse anymore than Bernie's prosperity justified his thefts.
    Nor does the "everybody does it" defense hold water. Most of us learned that lesson when we were kids...those of us with mentors who knew right from wrong, that is.

  7. I'm certainly glad he gave us another primer on the old "greed is good" credo. This coming from someone whose industry had to bailed out by the rest of us slobs. It's almost insulting.

    Unfortunately though...he's right. No one cares about Gannett's lousy management and continuous poor decision-making. "Just makes me some money" is all they care about.

  8. I bet if he saw out snazzy new ad campaign he'd sing a different tune.

    By the way - has the media schedule already run out?

  9. 9:04 I agree 100 percent!
    Chris Erwin

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  11. I think you're all being too hard on the original poster. I don't think he said, "Greed is good," or even that he necessarily likes the way the world works. He said, "This is how it is, like it or not." And for what it's worth he's right.

    Sadly, the truthfulness of his post illustrates exactly what's wrong with America today, and it illustrates many of the reasons America is no longer THE world leader in several key areas, including manufacturing and technology.

    Because the stock market is built around short-term profit, there is no longer a large incentive for publicly traded companies to think long term. It's all about turning a quick buck and when the largest companies in your nation are thinking like that it's bad news.

    This system allows a very small number of people to get ridiculously wealthy, but it simultaneously undermines everything the country was built on -- namely small business and a powerful working middle class.

    The fact that more people don't care about what's going on illustrated how thoroughly indoctrinated most of the country has become. In short, too many Americans don't care about anything that isn't directly affecting them. When you live your life that way, it's too late to care when the systemic problems finally come after you.

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  13. "It makes us feel better to know that we are not alone in our views, that in almost all cases, it wasn't our fault."

    In many cases, it was.

    Two years later, people at this blog are still passing the buck and refusing to take responsibility.

  14. Anonymous said...
    I'm certainly glad he gave us another primer on the old "greed is good" credo. This coming from someone whose industry had to bailed out by the rest of us slobs. It's almost insulting.

    11:10 AM, yep, I wholeheartedly agree with you on that point. But just because that group doesn't care, doesn't mean I have to do the same.

    This blog is, as 9:27 stated, just to vent since many, many employees never had the chance to say what's in their heart about the shabby treatment they received and still receive.

    I really could care less about the numbers from Gannett. They only interest me in as much as an aera comes to end and people are fired or furloughed. The savings from endeavors like lay-offs and pay-cuts are stuffed into the pockets of management and put on fingers in form of Presidents Rings.

    This aera of entitlement and robber baron attitude needs to know that emplopyees that smile daily in their faces and are rewarded with furloughs are not stupid and see right through the phony facade. And for everyone of them that finally gets out - I congratulate from the bottom of my heart.

    Silence only encourages more mistreatment and that's why the blog is here: To give voice to the thousands that have endured and still endure callous treatment, pay-cuts, lay-offs and mental abuse.

    As an investor I wouldn't much look at Gannett either. Hard enough dealing with a dwindling customer base, but see the money running through the hands of the upper echolon makes this thing look like Enron.

  15. Yes, and the vast number of investors and cold-eyed realists in the investment community didn't care if those mortgages were going to be paid off someday, either.... until the world was about to implode. You're all so smart, until you're not. Maybe someday Wall Street will realize we're all in this together. Or, maybe not, and some day, Wall Street Titans can answer to the Party in China.

  16. 9:04 and 12:19--yes, and yes!

  17. xxxx Because the stock market is built around short-term profit, there is no longer a large incentive for publicly traded companies to think long term xxx
    If you really feel this way, and it is not just talk, then why don't you call up the company that runs your 401K and tell them you don't want to maximize your returns. Just deposit your money in a market money fund currently earning 1 percent interest. Bet you don't make that phone call, and if we all want to know who is responsible for this state of affairs, look first in the mirror.

  18. 4:55 Excellent point! When we demand higher returns from mutual funds, do we ever wonder about the impact on other employees?

  19. 4:55 -- I am the original poster, and I have never followed traditional advice when it comes to maximizing profit in my 401k because I am in the 401k for the long haul. The kind of behavior I spoke of is exactly the sort that hurts people invested in retirement funds. Most people investing for retirement don't understand the more intricate details of the market, and the short-term mindset of most of Wall Street is a detriment to them. Look at all the folks who had their all their retirement money invested in the companies they worked for and then saw them (and their money) disappear. Yes, they should have been smarter. But we could also have a system that works better.

    I know of people my age who were invested exactly as they were "supposed to be" (heavily in the stock market) and they saw losses of upwards of 40% when the world came collapsing down around them. I trimmed my losses to something closer to 20% and have made up most of those losses. I'm not trying to say I'm a genius, but I am relatively conservative when it comes to finances, and the rest of America would be better off if it took a similar approach. I'm not heavily invested in money markets because I need an investment that outpaces inflation at least to some minor degree.

    I don't demand ever-higher returns. I just want reasonable growth. Something that keeps up with inflation plus a few percent a year would be fine. And many companies in this country could achieve that while building for a strong and profitable future if they weren't so necessarily focused on the short term. I know a lot of folks wouldn't be OK with that, but I would be.

    You're right that I won't be calling my 401k company because it -- like everyone else in the financial services industry -- doesn't give a damn what I or anyone else says. There are all sorts of restrictions on what I can and can't do with the money that "I" have invested in the plan. The only reason I even have a 401k is the company match. If that went away, I would drop out immediately and make my own investments. Again, if it wasn't for the match, Gannett's 401k would be a piss poor alternative to a self-directed Roth IRA. As for the money I already have vested in the 401k, I would like to take it out and go another route. Again, that's not an option that I have until I am separated from the company. The good news, I suppose, is that day is probably coming soon whether I have any control over it or not.

    You suggest calling the 401k administrator as though they care. Can my pals who lost 40% call and say they weren't happy with their rate of return so they want their money back. Of course not. You and I both know calling the plan administrator will do nothing but get you a long list of regulations about what you can and can't do with YOUR OWN money.

    Jim asks a compelling question. Do we wonder about the impact on employees when investing in the market? Clearly, the answer is, "No." And that's another problem. Our country used to have a sense of nationalism, and that has disappeared. It's not only CEOs and upper executives that are greedy. The greedy dreams of the masses have also encouraged the state that we're in, and we would do well to change quickly.

    As for me leading to the financial collapse, "Ha." Perhaps it makes you feel better to point the finger at average people, but I did not give or partake in ridiculously risky loans. I never once complained to anyone that the reasonable rate of return on my investments were too low. I went to work, did a good job everyday, and invested what I could as wisely as I could given the way our system works.

  20. 7:07 You give just half of the story. How many of those moaning about 40 percent declines were the ones who five years ago were crowing about how much money they were making in this fabulous stock market.
    I am probably a patriotic sap, but I invest largely in America because I believe in its future and I am close enough to it that I understand the politics. I can't say that about China or Brazil. I also make it a practice to buy shares in companies that I personally do business with -- Comcast, Shell, the local food chain, etc. That way, i get a cut of what I am paying them.
    I am very conservative, and generally follow the age rule: have a percentage in bonds coinciding with your age in decades -- 30 percent in bonds if you are in your 30's, 40 percent in bonds if you in your 40;s, etc. You can find funds to do this on Morningstar, and I only pick the top rated.
    I also have a stock broker, and am thankful that I do. A few years ago, I was attracted to a stock paying 6 percent of its stock value in dividends, and priced at $60 a share. The stockbroker talked me out of making that investment even though I had good arguments that convinced me. The stock was Fannie Mae, and I think it now sells for less than $1 and of course no dividends. That's why I have a stock broker.

  21. 9:28 -- I didn't even give half the story if you want to bring others into it. I gave my story, which is all that seemed appropriate since the original post requested that I personally make a foolish financial decision because I don't like the way Wall Street works.

    The fact that I don't like the way Wall Street operates and the way our government chooses to regulate it doesn't mean I need to make idiotic decisions that would ultimately hurt only me and my family. I will happily invest in companies built for moderate and sustained long-term growth ... and I will happily take a lower profit margin for the stability that these companies offer both to me and their employees. Sadly, there aren't many of these companies left. These days, people play our stock market like a game of roulette, and everybody seems to be fine with that. You can make a fortune or lose a fortune and very little of it has to do with good, honest business.

    I commend you for investing in American businesses. Trouble is too many American corporations refuse to do the same. Most major corporations will happily sell out American workers for the chance to exploit cheap labor and infrastructure overseas. Even Gannett is outsourcing some of its labor to foreign markets. When you invest in a company that does this, it's important to realize that you are not investing in our country. You are investing in its ultimate demise.

    Sadly, there are so few American companies that are truly nationalistic that it takes a ridiculous amount of research to put your money somewhere that it really props up our own country.

    I'm glad you believe in the future of this nation. I would like to, but the fact that we are nearly last in the industrial world when it comes to education and affordable healthcare and the fact that we are toward the top when it comes to poverty and wealth distribution doesn't bode well. Hopefully, people will wake up and make a difference. The demonstrations in Wisconsin offer some hope, but the fact that so many average people actually think those folks are the enemy illustrates how deep-seated our problems are.

  22. My husband used to work for Lucent. What we are seeing at Gannett is eerily similar to the Lucent he worked at in 2000. The common thread here is the company's need for short term profits.
    I have to believe that this scenario is played out over and over at public companies across the country, and possibly across the world. Pressure from investors to show a certain level of profitability is all that matters. The companies placating the investors will take whatever steps necessary to keep them happy. Individual employees, blog or no blog, do not have any influence.
    Still, I'm sorry that this story hasn't received wider attention. Maybe the question is whether it has received the attention that matters. So far, I'd say not.

  23. Great conversation. I hope many on this string continue.

  24. 12:37, what do you mean by, "In many ways, it was the fault of the employees?"

    I saw people who worked 20 years at Gannett, winning statewide, and sometimes national awards. They got laid off.

    So please tell me how it's the employees' fault for the poor management of Gannett's brass?

  25. The 2:49 PM post underscores the missing perspective in this conversation. It does not consider the vantage point of average workers. Especially those considered senior and expensive.
    They are the ones serving as budget-balancing fodder for the short-term profit people. High-quality people with long lists of awards have been scooted out the door to raise returns from 17 to 20 percent. For Gannett, quality no longer really matters. Investors beware.
    It is abundantly clear that GCI thinks and acts at a superfluous level. It seems motivated by titilation rather than deep intellectual exploration.
    The recent marketing barrage reflects this kind of thinking. "It's all within reach," Gannett promises. What is always within reach, you are forced to ask. Your I-Pad? Your computer? Your lover? Your bathroom?
    Rather than highlight Gannett's biggest asset, its new rallying cry adds to the ambiguity of it all.
    Look at it from the employee's viewpoint. What do remaining Gannett employees do? Gather and distribute news and information on many different platforms. The information is the commodity, the platforms the conduit.
    So why not honor the workers by coining a phrase that speaks to what they do. How about something like: Gannett, your gateway to all the information you need.
    Investors might be more supportive of Gannett if it acted like it knew what it was doing.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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