Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mail | 'The future is clear and, for those who opt to hold on and play ball, it may be bright. For those who weep for the past, your cab is waiting'

Regarding recent hiring of senior executives from outside the company, and initiatives such as the new corporate brand campaign, Anonymous@1:32 p.m. writes:

Gannett, as promised under CEO Craig Dubow and U.S. newspapers division President Bob Dickey, is transforming into a new, different company.

This new company will be different than the old GCI in many ways. It values marketing more than journalism. It will no longer reward "company men and women," who devoted their adult hoods in service to GCI, with assured pathways to promotion. New up-and-coming players, both inside and outside GCI, will be placed in greater numbers into key leadership roles. Folks in their late 40s and 50s who have spent their careers studying the teachings of Newharth, Curley, McCorkindale and Clark-Johnson will find themselves increasing branded as "newspaper people," which really means old-thinking, old-media or simply old. We will put the emphasis on profit, where it needs to be in a publicly traded corporation, and try to make the hard-to-monetize stuff like the First Amendment, community leadership, moral courage and journalism as affordable as possible (again, without discouraging profit).

Papers 'just about bled dry'
As reported on this blog earlier, say farewell soon to the smaller community newspapers (NT-31s). Many will exist only in name alone, mere shells of their former selfs. Others, clustered around larger metros, will simply be subsets of the bigger sister that enveloped them. The New Jersey cluster has never been profitable (confirmed this summer when corporate really looked at the books and determined how much they got from their big sister); by the end of this year, they really will no longer exist per se as individual entities. The small NT-31 dailies in Louisiana and Mississippi aren't big enough to cast a shadow. The cluster of three small Tennessee papers around Nashville are just about bled dry (two of them have been without a publisher for six months; the other one got rid of the ad director and made the publisher take over sales). Manitowoc in Wisconsin, once touted as the Gannett newspaper with the best audience reach of any of our markets and applauded for its very large return on investments [ROIs], now isn't big enough to warrant its own editor or advertising director.

Frankly, this fits well into our new model. We've spent too much time whining and crowing about the fate of these small papers. While they do bolster the reach and diversity of our national markets, they really aren't worth all the trouble. What's the point of a 20% ROI at a small daily when that really only translates to what we will pay out to our new chief marketing officer and chief digital officer in salary and perks? Is it really worth the worry and work to make so little total profit? We have bigger fish to catch, then fry, and the small papers aren't big enough for bait.

'Tons more we can cut'
Finally, we will and should see more cuts in employment. Everyone keeps crowing and crying that there's nothing left to cut. There's tons more we can cut, particularly if you let go of the past and its baggage of community commitment, watchdog work and local customer service. Design Studios for page production; ContentOne and USA Today for centralized content; regional advertising design; group-level sales management for digital and custom solutions, are all the way of the future. Gannett is no longer interested in having a publisher lead the chamber of commerce or the local United Way, and no longer really values a local editor who puts her kids in the school there and belongs to the Kiwanis Club. We're thinking much bigger than that. And we really can't turn that into profit.

Everyone on this blog said we needed bold change. We're getting it.

Now, those of us who joined Gannett in the olden days that ended just a few months ago must ask this question: Do you want to work for the new Gannett? If you do, then roll with it, baby. The future is here, the future is clear and, for those who opt to hold on and play ball, it may be bright. For those who weep for the past, your cab is waiting.


  1. Yep, it sure ain't pretty!

  2. When it comes to cutting, plenty of overhead at usa today and corporate. No one would be missed.

  3. So glad I'm out of there; the place has already become unrecognizable and not for the better. For those still hanging on in Crystal Palace, wake up.

  4. I believe this is correct thinking .I am suprised that the smaller dailies and the
    WEEKLIES especially,have lasted this long.
    They generate far too little revenue to even consider in the new plan.
    Why keep a weeky that generates maybe $600,000
    in revenue yearly and has $575,000 in overall expenses.Is it worth spending even a week in planning mode as to how to make them more profitable.Even in the scenario that profit increases by 10%,so what? That is a miniscuel
    additional $2,500..Why bother ? To help the communities? Not this Gannett !
    Look for the weeklies to be publishing of the past and let those archives be held in the town libraries as historical value.

  5. If these smaller papers are so worthless, then why did Gannett pay so much money to buy them? From the tenor of this post, it looks to me as if we should scrap all the community papers and roll everything into USA Today. I'm sure that is the plan of some, and an explanation for Content One. But this chain used to stand for defending the First Amendment, and today only stands for making money.

  6. Some still like small papers...GateHouse Media, Inc. business model focuses ONLY on small to mid-size markets with dailies, weeklies, shoppers, websites and directories.
    Their reports show Operating income for the 4th quarter was $17.6 million, an increase of $1.5 million as compared to the prior year.

  7. Wonder who the author of this piece is? Thought their might be more speculation on here about that.

  8. Gannett bought those small properties in 2000
    when they were cash cows.Then very profitable,
    with even small weeklies grossing more than
    a million and a half or more.Now they have been bled dry by outrageous Gannett management replacing the original owner/publishers.Thus the
    current revenues of $500,000 to $600,000 and barely profitable.

  9. I'm confused. What are we selling then, if it's not journalism? How does this bold, new GCI plan to attract eyeballs?

  10. "This new company will be different than the old GCI in many ways. It values marketing more than journalism." Are you suggesting that the old Gannett valued journalism more than marketing? If so, can I have a lid of whatever you are smoking?

  11. Replying to 9:22: Haven't you been paying attention? We're selling photo galleries of drunk college girls with big boobs in tight shirts.

  12. xxxxxIt will no longer reward "company men and women," who devoted their adulthoods in service to GCI, with assured pathways to promotion.xxxx
    There is absolutely no evidence of that. Zilch. Looks to me as if this continues unabated to the point where we have more chiefs than indians. They didn't contract the number of GMC members with these recent expensive hires, they just added them to the politburo.
    In fact, if you look at the recent history of this company, larding up the executive ranks has been a constant theme.

  13. As a small paper employee I say...

    PLEASE...SELL US!!!!

  14. TRUE Community newspapers are far more valuable than the daily paper. Too bad G A N N E T T has no understanding of what it takes to put out a community paper.

    As they are becoming more digital focused it does not surprise me they are becoming top heavy. You don't need as much manpower to be a digital powerhouse.

    It won't be long before local digital inventory isn't available because corporate whored it away to big companies for pennies while charging the community businesses in the communities providing content an arm and a leg.

  15. 7:02--At my site, the weeklies, which existed separate from Gannett before it bought them, now support the larger daily.

  16. I'm sure that is the plan of some, and an explanation for Content One.

  17. So if Gannett is a marketing company, what are they marketing? For consumers to see Advertiser ABC's ad in the paper; on the web or on your handheld unit, you must give the consumer a product they want to use. Are you going to read a paper (print or website edition) that lacks quality reporting because the news/sports/features department has been so gutted of reporters due to layoffs that events that should be written about are not covered? And just one quick question about web advertising. If you looked at your paper's website, name two ads that you saw and what were they selling? Did it attract your attention? Did it make you want to learn more about the product or service? If it didn't, the ad didn't work. The client wasted his money. And the Gannett the marketing machine failed in its new mission.

  18. This tome is awesome in its ability to distill pure evil into something that looks like a good idea. Well done.

  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  20. To the poster who was wishing for his/her community newspaper to be sold: Here's a handy checklist:
    --- Do you have a press?
    --- Do you have an advertising design team?
    --- Do you have a copy desk?
    --- Do you have a circulation department?
    --- Do you have a local customer service operation or is that done remotely via corporate?
    --- Do you have a finance/billing department?
    --- Do you have an IT infrastructure?
    --- Do you operate your own website or is that done for you by the Digital Production Center?
    --- Do you house your newspaper archives or is that done through a corporate vendor?

    Sadly, in going through this list, you may determine that many of our smaller papers really own nothing anymore but a nameplate, a web address and a list of advertisers and subscribers. They have been stripped down so bare that, really, they could be (and perhaps will be) operated from a Post Office Box and some laptops.

    If you were to buy many of these sites, you would not be able to operate them -- unless you possessed an array of corporate-controlled resources similar to Gannett that would step in when McLean let go. Then, you have to ask yourself, what's the difference?

  21. I've said here before, to the approval of no one, apparently, that a likely pathway to the future for GCI may well resemble the AOL/HuffPo merger.

    AOL already operated the hyperlocal Patch dot com before it bought HuffPo. They can now link the hyperlocal stuff(which is still evolving) to HuffPo in a way that drives traffic to both HuffPo and the hyperlocal sites. In this scenario, HuffPo stays what it was (and becomes even bigger as it increasingly establishes itself as the name brand in online-only "newspapers")while becoming an aggregator for the reporting, blogging and commenting going on at the hyperlocal Patch sites. Reader traffic will go in both directions (from HuffPo to a given hyperlocal site in say, New Jersey, and from the hyperlocal New Jersey site to HuffPo)all day every day, with advertising opportunities all along the way.

    Now, substitute USA Today for HuffPo and the community papers for the hyperlocal Patch sites and you can see what I mean. You can also see that, if that were to be the future, the afore-mentioned Manitowoc, Wisconsin's of the world (insert your site name in place of Manitowoc) only need to consist of one or a couple people, which is how the Patch hyperlocal sites operate. The perfectly named USA Today can be an ideal counterpart to HuffPo in this arrangement as an online-only product.

    The question is, will GCI do this on its own, or will some Web entity (like AOL did with HuffPo) step in and make an offer that no sane shareholder can refuse (Yahoo maybe?). And remember, it's the shareholders, not Craig et al, that own the joint.

    I'm a shareholder, not an employee. My sympathies to those employees caught in the massacre that will ensue if this happens (though I believe it already is happening in slow motion). For the others, I say buy GCI stock at $15.XX. You will be glad you did within 24 months.

    Of course, I can be wrong, and sometimes am. I would love to hear knowledgeable critiques from newspaper pros here who think I'm wrong. Educate me.

  22. 3:54 In fact, I believe that's exactly the path GCI has been heading down since the creation of ContentOne.

    It's been clear for years that GCI will morph into a network of websites with deep roots in the 100 or so U.S. communities where the company has legacy newspapers and TV stations.

    These properties will continue to be strip-mined for all the value possible, eventually leaving them with very small staffs of content producers -- editors/reporters plus ad salespeople -- many of whom will be independent contractors.

    The question: What sort of revenue base will that create? And what's the timetable?

  23. Even if we do want to stay on with the new Gannett (pretty sure I don't), it's barely even a choice given all the layoffs and the promise of more to come. Can anybody honestly have faith in a future with this company?

  24. I am 3:54 p.m.

    Jim said: It's been clear for years that GCI will morph into a network of websites with deep roots in the 100 or so U.S. communities where the company has legacy newspapers and TV stations.

    Yes, Jim. Well said. Precisely. You said it much more succinctly than I did.

  25. Say, Jim, This is 3:54 p.m. again, back with this comment: Would it surprise you to learn that the censors at Yahoo remove posts at the GCI stock board in the finance portion of the Yahoo site if the post refers folks to I believe it happened to me, though I can't prove it. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think so. The Web wants to be free indeed.

  26. 6:05 I'm not terribly surprised. Sites like Yahoo's don't want to be overrun with promotional content.

    It might be possible to get around that by creating tinyurl or links, which Yahoo's software may not recognize as promotional. But I don't know for sure.

  27. So true, so true. Those poor little NJ papers are fully editions of the APP. Every Sunday there's a lovely APP story with a local quote from someone in Morris County on the front page of the Daily Record and the rest is the Asbury story. So glad to not have to do that kind of crap anymore.
    There really is life after Gannett, and it provides tons more job satisfaction.
    BTW, word is Joe Cavone, the good soldier who put all the long-time Morristown folks out to the trash without regard for their actual worth and without proper severance is gone soon himself. If he's not being rewarded by being sent upstairs, I'd bet he's getting a better parachute than the rest of us, though it would be sweet justice if he, too, had to log on once a week to get his TPP pittance. Does anyone know which it is? Love to hear it.


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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