Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 7-13 | Your News & Comments: Part 5

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55 comments:

  1. For Part 4 of this comment thread, please go here.

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  5. 8:52 PM: Yes, by all means, most people on this blog (I hope) realize that the personal problems of laid-off and/or miserable overworked underpaid employees amounts to zero interest as a business news story from an outlet like Marketwatch or whatever.

    But if Dubow can get a virtual pass with respect to a generous amount of air time on Fox Biz News to essentially allow his blather about the new logo/slogan go unchallenged by a fawning interviewer -- as well as his ridiculous projection of exploding digital revenue for GCI to the tune of 100 percent growth as portion of overall revenue within a year -- then why in the world would a more seasoned reporter not want to explore the dramatic moves GCI has made in the last three to five years and presented a factually based analysis of how these moves have impacted the long-term business picture for GCI?

    Essentially, anyone with even a junior-level sense of business reporting would find:

    * Ad sales and other revenues on steady decline.

    * Net profits only being held up through dumping of valuable company assets. There is no -- zero -- other significant driver of profit for GCI.

    * Valuable company profit-makers now hurting financially because of massive reorganizations (i.e., headcount reduction to extreme levels). One property in particular -- GCI's biggest profit maker by far -- now apparently on quick road to extinction (or firesale) due to mind-bogglingly inept senior management consolidation 'vision' that was doomed from the get go.

    * Print readership -- even the traditional, older ones who brought in the revenues -- on steady decline as newspaper products shrink and lose once-monopolistic position of sole 'news authority' for their coverage areas.

    * No real plan for increasing digital profits beyond CD and Co. saying "because we say it will happen" amid their endless buzzphrases. Digital deployment of products clearly three or four steps behind competing market leaders. A series of massive fumbles on digital content partnership/acquisitions/acquisition attempts.

    Is THAT enough to merit a decent business story, 8:52?

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  6. How a major media company has tried to eneter the digital market for a decade now, and has failed, is a great story.

    For all the cynics here, the truth is that Gannett leadership, dating back to Tom Curley, knew digital was the future. USA Today was early with a website and it grew and is actually a success story of sorts.

    But all these other efforts -- moms, high school sports, metro mix, and the mysterious world of pointroll and others -- are small bore things.

    The failure is not what we bought, but what we failed to develop -- an alternative to classified advertising (beyond craigs list imagine a national classified tied to USA Today); a site that could capture the political debate in the nation beyond random facebook and twitter chatter; a true reader-news site; newspaper coupons rendered digitally (oh. Groupon finally did it), etc.

    Not saying any of those ideas would work; but each seems beyond the reach (sorry), of the company that claims everything is WITHIN reach!

    Innovation is small scale stuff. The answer is to dream and then go for it. That is something, other than the launch of USA Today, Gannett is incapable of doing.

    Instead, more focus groups, more IDEO sessions, more people talking to each other instead of our customers.

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  7. On a lighter note. I have a three year old and we just watched a Spoonge Bob episode that looked like it modeled after Gannett. Mr. Crabs sells to a big chain Crabby o" Mondays and it is Gannett dead on. Phony smiling boss giving out huge employee handbook. Telling the employees that if they don't like it they can go to HR and the have this meanicing monster peek their head out of HR office:) Corporate was a bunch of drone suits. And the best was the food was just crap dressed up. Not sure if on youtube but very funny!

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  8. "Prayers to our Blog Comrades over in Hawaii"

    Hawaii Tsunami 2011 News Video

    source: http://way2videotube.blogspot.com/2011/03/hawaii-tsunami-2011-news-video.html

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  10. 10:28 I agree that's a good business story. But Fox news and the others covering business today have another agenda, and that is to tell how great this economy is doing thanks to astute Federal Reserve policies crafted by the wily, brilliant Ben Bernanke. As you might gather, I am in disagreement over this because I think the government statistics are phony, and I see friends in their 50's who can't find jobs, continued collapses in real estate prices with foreclosures postponed or held back from the market, and thinned out parking lots at the malls. I also find in my bills that there is an awful lot of what looks like inflation to me. But it doesn't do much to rant about this like Rick Santelli because the story line the TV wants to sell is powerful and they are money from it.
    I should tell you I have never been more depressed about the quality of what passes for business journalism these days. You might think some business reporter would note that everyone seems overly nervous about gas price increases causing a jolt to the "recovery," but blowdrieds continue the party line. No unhappy campers here.

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  11. Who is Stoney LaDouche?

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  12. 8:52 p.m. here. In response to 10:28's comments, yes, I would think that those kinds of things would be worth a business story. My original comment was directed at people on this blog who were wondering why the business news community isn't "covering" the comments (anonymous of course) of supposed employees in the company on this blog talking about how bad their working environment is. That is what I am saying people don't care about, unfortunately.

    Let's not lose sight of the forest among all the trees, here folks. Major downsizing and unhappy employees are not news these days. It's commonplace among so many companies, industries and employee groups. You think newspapers have it bad. And, they do. But, so does the construction industry (unemployment in construction right now is the highest of any sector in the nation). How about factory workers, who for 10 years have seen their jobs shipped overseas? How about the IT sector, where so many programmers have seen their jobs shipped to India.

    The plight of workers in Gannett, and their angry comments on this blog, is not news. I am sorry if you feel it is. It just isn't.

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  13. Yep, you nailed it 8:52. It's a business story. Not a people story. Why some enterprising WSJer or other media reporter isn't jumping on this is beyond me, because it has all the makings of a great front page read on the WSJ: rise, fall, visionaries (big al, curleys) and, of course, those who came along with all the standard hubris of arrogance and greed to undo everything the visionaries built.

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  14. 10:28 said: One property in particular -- GCI's biggest profit maker by far -- now apparently on quick road to extinction (or firesale) due to mind-bogglingly inept senior management consolidation 'vision' that was doomed from the get go.

    Which property are you talking about? I'm guessing USA Weekend.

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  15. 11:12, no wonder why McCorkindale despised Tom Curley. Tom is sorely missed; everything went downhill after his departure. Now we're stuck with Dubow, Martore & Co.

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  16. 6:33: Hmmmm ... intriguing guess. A fate predicted on this blog more than a year ago, as the editorial merger was in full bloom and it was a painful disaster from the start. Of course, visionary leaders were told -- repeatedly -- that this would be a bad business decision ... Why screw up a product that was a constant cash cow? As usual, they grumbled and scoffed and dismissively told the editorial minions to just go out and make it work.

    Regardless of what one thinks about the editorial product -- yes, we know, we heard all the sniping about what an awful joke of a product it's been for years and years -- it made money. Lots of it. It took virtually no time post-merger to put it on life support. This is a case study that serves as a microcosm of countless other 'visionary' decisions made over the last several years that have driven GCI properties into the ground. Anyone with any sense of pulse out there in communities, for example, knows that the strength of local news is local, local, local. And, in the midst of this, the tone-deaf leadership spends millions on a logo/slogan/branding mission that goes in the exact opposite direction.

    Again: Why are shareholders not outraged?

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  17. There is no ONE property that carries the company. There are properties that are more profitable than others, but Gannett couldn't live off them.

    If you took the USCP as one property IT would be the "profit maker". Not the 20-30% profit margins it had in years past. But it's still in the low double digits. Most major corporations would KILL for that.

    Why do we in the community papers always get shit on for bringing the company down? Because we're not making the absurd amounts of cash needed to mask the incompetance of the Crystal Palace anymore.

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  18. No one is blaming the newspapers; in truth they may be what ends up surviving. And they have always kept up their end of the deal -- serving their communities, serving a greater good and also returning a very nice profit year after year.

    Nor is USA Today to blame. It took a while but it is a major national brand.

    No, the fault is in the leadership, which is so afraid of Wall Street that they have no reason to actually try anything daring or unique. So they "buy" things, cut costs, try to manipulate the balance sheet and end up right where we started, a bunch of small but money-making newspapers and one national brand.

    Everything else, all the digital assets and marketing mumbo jumbo, don't add up to one Des Moines Register.

    We remain positioned for success. But someone has to take the reins.

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  19. NYTimes Bill Keller on the Huffington Post and AOL.

    "Buying an aggregator and calling it a content play is a little like a company’s announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter."

    Jim, you might think of starting an AOL blog. some great people laid off from there. Everyone is watching what the HuffPo AOL merger means for journalism. Keller's piece in the NYTimes on aggregation of news stories by sites like Huffington was excellent.

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  20. Another Friday afternoon and once again, network issues/ server problems/ software concerns/ sunspots/ heebie jeebies are blamed for my customers and me having to stay late to see proof corrections. SSDD.

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  21. Hey 4:45 - I work outside of Gannett and outside of newspapers and our server was down all day Friday as well. Don't know if was sunspots or "heebie Jeebies" but I have heard from friends in other companies that said their server was down Friday too. Sometimes technology fails us. It's not Gannett's fault. Get a grip.

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  22. The big hoopla over moving the jobs classified ads to the front of papers and doing focus stories on jobs in order to build revenue will end soon... a complete failure. Readers were disinterested. Job seekers were lost in trying to find the classifieds. Advertisers didn't respond at all. Another grand initiative.

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  23. USCP can;'hold a candle to Broadcast as far as profitability. I'm still hoping GCI splits us off, as Scripps did with its broadcast properties.

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  24. Jim should start an AOL blog just to expand his reign of ignorance to a company he knows even less about.

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  25. 10:09, yes, sometimes technology fails us and it's no one's fault. These things happen. But at my site, it's been happening more than it used to. In fact, a lot more. There are some extremely disruptive glitches now that hit us on a daily basis. Some of what is to blame is that there's no budget for replacing and upgrading equipment. Another factor is the drastic reductions in I.T. staffs (woo, furloughs were fun when you couldn't get a hold of IT after your system went down near deadline.)

    For me, the bottom line is that three years ago, my computers and networks simply worked with virtually no hassle. I now spend a significant part of my day working through system problems now. It's a huge productivity loss and a drag on morale. That drag has only been made worse when we've simply been told to just "deal with it."

    Sorry for the rant. Maybe we're an outlier, but I suspect we're not the only one with these experiences.

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  26. Lets face it. We all know circulation is down and advertising also. So instead of making a 30% profit they cut it to 10% profits but bottom line is their still going to take their bonuses. Raises go down and Health Insurance rises. It's happening all over. This country is in a very sad state of affairs, no way to sugar coat it.Let's put it all in perspective when we see the terrible ordeal Japan is going through. Hang in there all!

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  27. I had to laugh yesterday that in the midst of the Japan tragedy, GANNETT was tweeting about which of their "brands" you could #FF. So disconnected.

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  28. 12:04 PM, at our site some folks that had been unemployed for a long time found great positions by being featured by our IC. While the moving the classified to main was stupid in my opinion the highlighting of unemployed in the market was a wonderful idea and our IC did a great job. There are now several individuals working thanks to this Great Job Project or whatever it was called.

    10:09 AM, how about you shut up and go elsewhere to talk about issues inside Gannett sites as it relates to technology. You said yourself you dont work within Gannett so you dont know what its like. Computer, copiers, scanners are on the brink of death. Technology needs to be top of the line more now than ever since everything is centralized and you rely on technology to tell the 13 years across the country what you need in ads.

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  29. Jim, how are you missing the new chief marketing officer of Gannett? - http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=146596

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  30. Most of the technology problems I saw were made worse by employees who could not figure out basic things. If there is a note taped inside a printer drawer that says "DO NOT FILL," then don't put paper inside it. If there is a note that says "FILL ONLY HALFWAY," then don't fill it to the top.

    Yet people would constantly come in and fill both drawers to capacity. Then pages would jam, or the parts would overheat, and people would blame the equipment instead of their own stupidity.

    And I've seen threads here where people bitch because someone complains about these things happening. There were and are still too many people who won't adapt to work situations.

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  31. 11:09 Thank you. I've now posted that report.

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  32. If your net connection was slow Friday it's most likely because people were going online for earthquake news. You can't blame the "supermoon" for that.

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  33. The way GCI does not update technology and has decimated all of the IT staff in the company is setting it up for a major disaster. Most of the technology is so old you can't get support for it any more. In our production department no one knows anything about some of the equipment, and some the company's that provided it went out of business years ago. It is a disaster waiting to happen but there is no money to do anything about it because we are hell bent on spending money screwing up ad production and newspaper design. The company says it is leading edge but does not value IT. We are going to have our own melt down before too long.

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  34. Boom Boom- Out go the lights!!!

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  35. Questions for Hunke: 13 vice presidents? What is this, the Knights of the Roundtable?

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  36. Gannett is scrapping out the old basement press at the Lansing State Journal. The story says there is value in doing it:

    http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20110313/COLUMNISTS04/103130513/Hirten-Scrapping-relic-press-recalls-past?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinions|p

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  37. The digital revenues that Craig speaks to and were shown on the Fox Broadcast go back to what Warren Buffet says in the book "Warren Buffett and the Interpretation of Financial Statements: The Search for the Company with a Durable Competitive Advantage" Paraphrased, "I could make my financial results look like anything I wanted to at any time and it would be perfectly legal. And so Gannett has done in this case. GCI owns 51% of careerbuilder.com and as such can use an accounting rule that if you own 51% or more of a company then you can include 100% of that companies revenue in your financial results. So not only is GCI essentially doubling those digital numbers; careerbuilder.com accounts for almost all of GCI's digital revenues. So all the innovative things Craig talks about really don't account for anything because careerbuilder.com is driving the numbers artificially and legally..... LOL why didn't the FOX news guy ask him about this. Smoke and Mirrors that is what Gannett knows best.

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  38. My feelings about Gannett are the same as they were a few months ago. The company must have serious problems if it employed many of the people who post here.

    The inability to think, write, and communicate is astonishing. Just scrolling up, I see 2-3 posts that any reasonable person would be embarrassed to claim.

    Obviously there are people with education deficiencies who never tried to improve. They just showed up with the idea the company owed them a living.

    A real blog with someone unbiased would explore those shortcomings and how they were ignored for so long. I saved some posts from the dark, early days of this site for purposes of ridicule, and one person used to say often that the problem wasn't that Gannett had dumped many of you. It's that many of you were employed there to begin with.

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  39. Well, perhaps Gannett has such inferior talents as myself because no one with top-notch takent would work for them. Right, 4:22?

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  40. 4:22
    You must not be a regular here.
    Otherwise you would know that the folks here
    just write what is on their minds.
    They do not proof or send to a proof reader,
    or check grammar.This an informal blog.
    So don't bother posting here with your nose in the air and the "I'm a better writer than you attitude" .
    Please go back to your cheerleading job for
    Gannett,you will be appreciated there.

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  41. Oh, gawd, who invited the school marm/copy editor?

    4:22: It's these are blog posts, not term papers, ok? Besides, many people posting aren't necessarily editorial, sales or circulation. They're hardworking people who put in decades in press/production. So excuse them for not writing in the King's English to the level of your satisfaction. Get over yourself or log off, turn on NPR and tend to your 17 cats, OK?

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  42. 5:30 why is it that you and union chiefs always associate "hard working" with uneducated? You can work in a press room and still be educated. Hard working appears to be your code for stupid. As the son of a blue collar worker I resent your implication.

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  43. Thanks for proving my point, 5:26 and 5:30. You are examples of what I described -- people who didn't belong in Gannett but thought they were entitled to a career there.

    You are likely uneducated and underskilled. As I already pointed out, someone said it wasn't a bad thing that Gannett fired you. It was a bad thing Gannett hired you.

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  44. 6:07: Private college education degree. With honors. Dean's list every semester. As far as skilled? It a safe bet that I literally make five times more money than you, taking full advantage of my "underskilled" professional assets.

    As for Gannett dumping me? Hah! Best thing that ever happened. It was great to get away from uninspired, creatively-challenged drones like you. Gannett is where mediocre minds are not only welcomed, they're promoted as tomorrow's leadership.

    Now, run along. Time to feed all those cats before you head out to the library to find some teenagers to scold.

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  45. 6:44 why did an over achiever like you come to my company in the first place? It's condescending individuals like you that make working people like me so resentful. So you went to a Private school and yet you still ended up at my compNy. How proud your tonie parents must be!

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  46. 7:29, meant no disrespect. That was a 'back atcha' to 6:07 for her cheap shots. (Yeah, assuming the gender thing here.) I got by more on hard work and hustle than any pretense of privilege. Grew up on a farm even. My intent wasn't to come across as condescending, however, and I apologize.

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  47. Let's get off this back-and-forth nonsense and on with something important: How are layoffs and furloughs shaping up for the rest of 2011 in out "all within reach" Gannettland?

    Or if that boring, how about what's the company doing to make its products more appealing and saleable beyond the marketing campaign? As one poster noted, different campaign, same 'old stuff.

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  49. I'd come back to Gannett, after leaving a while back. Moved on before everything hit the fan. I gotta believe all the good people who helped, many still in, are going to keep pushing everything forward. I have learned some things that can help. Number 1: Don't worry so much about critiquing the papers. The editors care. If they can keep from having to just meet the flavor of the day, the news will improve. Number 2: Let the local site experiment and try some things out with digital ventures. Remember when Indy was inventing things left and right before corporate tried to take over? Remember when Wilmington and Ft. Myers were pushing the envelope? Number 3: Celebrate your people and their success. Number 4: When you stop paying for results you'll stop getting results.
    Seriously,
    I'd come back in a role where I can empower people, but I'd need the berth to encourage and to lead. Activity and action moving each site forward in mobile, apps .. and a focus back on hiring some talent and shaking some ground with hard hitting journalism using some CAR reporting. Let's get back to surprising people with the journalism and the way we deliver it.

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  50. Hey, wasn't that Big Al at the annual Gridiron extravaganza last night, along with Charles Overby of the non-GCI connected Foundation. HMMM. Wonder why their meal ticket was paid by GCI, or I guess more directly USA Today's expense account.

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  51. Yep, see them here in their monkey suits:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/gridiron-dinner-draws-journalists-public-figures/2011/03/13/ABDRWdT_gallery.html?hpid=z7#photo=10

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  52. What is the latest with PointRoll?

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  54. Are all properties deeply discounting employment ads this month to make sure we have enough listings for the stories in main news?

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  55. We cut our rates in March in Louisville!

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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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