An independent journal about the Gannett Co. and the news industry's digital transition
For Part 3 of this comment thread, please go here.
A message to Dave Hunke - are you reading these comments? do you realize how out of control your operating executives really are? do you even notice they are breaking the backs of us? do you realize that there is nothing except bickering and chaos and conflict in every corner let loose by your desperate angry band of svps and more svps and still more svps? do you even care about how all of us are being treated? does it all just come down to you only worrying about your own survival? Hello, is there anybody in that isolated 4th floor office suite? That's what we thought. We will take your lead and finding a new job will also be our number one priority and we will move uSA Today to our part time jobs. We get your message.
6:06 How much revenue have these new SVPs brought in for USA Today? Where is the new business? We are not even getting ads for vitamin cures anymore.
As a stock holder in Gannett, I want USA Today's Dave Hunke to release his recent annual performance reviews of Ruddman Davis, Lee Jones, Heather Frank, Myron Maslowsky, Brad Jones, Susan Weiss, Susan Motiff and John Hillkirk and also his written justifications for their annual bonuses.
The ones responsible for USA Today revenue are NOT in our newsroom or in the verticals. That is the responsibility of Lee Jones and his vps Lori Erdos, Tony Hill and Chris Wilcox. These four executives need to answer to their failures. Why these four are so comfortable and protected considering their declining results is a surprise to all of us.
“We are excited about the experience that Lee brings to USA TODAY. His exceptional leadership skills will take our sales team to new heights in 2010 and beyond. He’s a great fit for our growing brand.” David Hunke on the appointment of Lee Jones, Feb. 11, 2010.
Another advertorial posing as news today in the Asbury paper. A whole PR section on nursing was made to look like a real news section. Same typeface, "staff" reports (compete with links to sponsored nursing programs) and no warning to readers that it's an ad front to back.
Hunke doesn't give a shit. He's as much as acknowledged that last summer's "transformation" produced a mess, but now he has to work with what he has since he promised Gracia the moon. Remember, when you have no ideas of your own, even someone else's bad ideas look good by comparison.
Hunke cares! You don't remember how, at the Transformation Meeting, after he had said a couple of oh-so-somber words in memory of our swiftly departed colleagues, he happily announced that he had created a position for his soon-to-be-former secretary and had named her Director of Employee Engagement. Any news from THAT front? Ever?
Cost-cutting continues, though not always in the form of layoffs. My site is cutting newshole significantly one day a week, at least temporarily. No word on other strategies.
New word for GCI form of 'leadership' that's perfect in light of Forbes 500 tumble: Bleedership.
If you can't sell ads into USA TODAY, you simply can't sell shit.Bellyaching about the economy, the decline of newspapers - all that - they're just a lame-ass excuses for not being able to sell.Tell you what, Hunke.....Pay me through your freakin' nose, plus a 25% commission, plus expenses & I'll fill that sumbitch for you.Gath
Where are Jones, Erdos, Hill and Wilcox today? Where they usually are. Golfing, vacationing, four day work weeks and their famous extravagant travelling disappearing acts when they go to "call on clients."
It would be very, very interesting to see monthly traffic figures for USA Today's Your Life vertical.
I realize every paper has their own words for different things, but Gannett seems to come up with a stupid marketing term for everything. What the hell is a vertical?
Westchester hasn't functioned properly or profitably since Joe Ungaro was Publisher.
Jim,Maybe you can localize this report from AP..http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_16026/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=MUR60SWX
1:26 "Vertical" is a fancy buzzword for a website that is focused narrowly on a single topic. Unlike, for example, USAT's online Money section -- or even its personal finance subsection -- a vertical should have much "deeper" content not available elsewhere on the site.In other words, it should be like a website that's complete and apart from, in this case, USAT's.I fear that in most cases, verticals are no different than any other website. They're given this fancy, techie name because it makes them sound trendy and cutting edge, so they can be marketed differently to advertisers.On another thread, I noted that when USAT announced the hiring of its overall manager of verticals, Heather Frank, the statement never defined what a vertical is.I would like to hear USAT Publisher Dave Hunke define a vertical, and then show me how the Your Life vertical is different than any other set of webpages on the newspaper's website.
1:44 I guess the idea of a vertical is a bottomless pit of information like the diagram of an upside-down tree. The trouble with this idea is that if you an advertiser at the bottom level, you find few visitors come down there to see you. Take the recipes on Your Life, which we were promised would be a database. It is not that yet, and it is difficult to find. I would not have discovered it were I not looking for it. That is the problem: the Internet makes information easy to obtain, but you have to have an idea where it is via Google, etc. By the way, type in Your Life and USA Today on Google and you won't be directed to the Your Life site. Why not? Simple thing. Lousy IT work?
Not to defend the empty suit mafia over there in the CP, but vertical is a frequently used business term, as common as ROI. It's been around for ages too, as old as your grandfather's Wharton school textbooks.
2:22 As well, search for "recipes," or "health," or any of the other topics in Your Life meant to draw readers -- and advertisers -- and you won't find it anywhere near the top search results.
2:22 But if you do "recipes" and "New York Times" the NYT site pops right up first thing.
Gracia -- time to hire an SEO director.
Silly me, 2:44. I've got a journalism degree.
3:05 That is just an example of what is going wrong because of these novices who control USA Today. For lack of a simple software fix, no one can find our stories so all of our effort is going for nothing, and Gannett is not even getting the revenue from page hits. Other operations are getting this stuff right, so why aren't we? And they wonder why the verticals aren't working.
How much longer can any of them, especially Dave (I feel none of YOUR pain) Hunke?
If this was addressed in the 10-Q report item from earlier this week, I musta missed it, but on page 21 it shows that Gannett has $433M in debt coming due next month.And then there's this little nugget:"This borrowing limit is subject to increases depending upon the Company’s total leverage ratio. The Company expects that it will use a combination of cash flow from operating activities and borrowings from the credit agreements to fund its debt maturing in June 2011 and July 2011."So improving revenues or not, THIS is where a big chunk of GCI $$$ is going for the next year or so.
7:00 Lee Newspapers this week was forced to withdraw a proposal to float $1 billion in junk bonds because investors aren't interested in newspapers. I suspect that means that GCI would have little success trying to extend its debt and has no choice but to pay it off or go to bankruptcy court. You are correct to point out that is a lot of money GCI has to raise at a time when revenues aren't really improving.
7 p.m. I saw that in the 10-Q, and meant to get back to it. Thanks for the reminder.
From AP (via The Arizona Republic) "CEO pay tops pre-recession levels"http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/2011/05/06/20110506biz-ceo-pay0506.html"In the boardroom, it's as if the Great Recession never happened."
7:57 p.m. said: "Lee Newspapers this week was forced to withdraw a proposal to float $1 billion in junk bonds because investors aren't interested in newspapers."No. Wrong. Lee CHOSE to withdraw it. They have a whole year to do the refi. LEE, like GCI, is a very cash-flow positive company. There was no need for a desperate act that penalized shareholders.But I know this does not play to the theme of "The end times are nigh!" loved by so many here. Still, accuracy should matter, should it not?
Wasn't there SEO training when Gannett decided it was going to be a marketing agency for local businesses? Gues it didn't work.
9:09: Lee, like GCI, is finished and will see bankruptcy court before long. For the same reason: there is not sufficient revenue to pay off payments on the debt. If I am an investor with a few billion bucks to play with, why should I take a gamble on putting the money in a declining industry with a questionable future when I can put the money in Intel or Conoco, both of which produce products people want and need. Like Lee, GCI is grasping at straws that the future is rosy because there will be a demand for news (content) for mobile apps. But look at these companies and they are still using iron and ink to print on paper, and are not particularly app-saavy. We need to recognize the fact that print is dead and move on -- move on as quickly as possible because dead-tree print is a ball and chain around our feet.
11:03 -- While I disagree with some of your post, you make a great point about investing in newspapers. Why invest in an industry that has been struggling for years when you can invest in other industries that are showing considerable growth? Or in incredibly cheap (by historical standards) West coast real estate?Newspapers just aren't the best option for most people ... whether they survive or not. I will say, however, that I think traditional newspapers will be around for years to come. They'll just be different than what you see now. They will be small (perhaps mostly weeklies) and a lot of them will likely be privately run. In other words, they won't be raking in the vast sums that made them a popular Wall Street commodity. But there's no reason to think actual printed papers will simply die out at every level. Some people like reading papers, and they are easy to pick up at a coffee shop or checking out at the grocery store. That will allow them to continue as a niche market. But only a niche market. Remember that television was supposed to kill radio and the movies, and that all these things were seen as a threat to newspapers. The fact is, we are now a society where people have access to many different types of media that speak directly to their tastes. That means it's tougher for each individual media, but it doesn't mean they can't all survive if they realize that they will never again be all things to all people.
11:21 I certainly agree with your forecasts. Look what happened to the illuminated manuscript market after the introduction of moveable type. There were still illuminated manuscripts produced (there still some produced today, I read), but they obviously no longer dominated the market and the monks who once made them became such a social drag on society there were movemenst in England and elsewhere to demolish the monasteries. As someone who is required to keep bread on the table, I have thought about this and I'm certain I can survive.
I am certain we will see some half-mad eccentric like Neuharth emerge and point the way for the next 20 years. It's been a great ride.
@9:097:00 here, the point is that Lee withdrew their proposal because the rates they were being offered were poor (in their estimation). GCI is likely to see similar offers for financing (though we're in a better position than Lee).This does not mean they are going bankrupt, I personally don't believe that's going to happen in the near future. What it does mean is that servicing the debt is going to fall on cash reserves and operating income, at least until interest rates are more amenable (if they ever are for GCI).Recent history has told us that when the company has had less operating income they don't just accept that they'll make less money in a given quarter, they look to trim expenses -- usually payroll.
2:25 How is 1 percent interest rates a climate not amenable to adding more debt? I know that is not the rate junk bonds get, but if and when that base rate goes up, so will the junk bond rate. These are the best rates we've seen in a lifetime.
The SEO partnership is weak and flawed. The first reps at our site by sold it had bad experiences and the customers recieved terrible customer service. Needless to say no one sells it anymore. I doubt our new hires even know about it.
@3:072:25 here, interest rates are going to be rising very soon. The Fed is wrapping up its treasury bond buy back program (QE2 as its popularly known).This is pushing many companies to try and refinance. There is literally tens or hundreds of billions of dollars out there for investors who want to take a risk. So much, in fact, that they can be picky and still have a pretty good shot to make crazy money. Somebody like Lee, who is in terrible shape, (or NYTCO for that matter) is not going to get the same deal as say Chrysler. GCI is not Lee, but its prospects are closer to a Lee than a Chrysler.This may prove to be yet another failing of management that they did not act quickly enough to trade in expensive debt for cheaper debt. I'm not sure what the circumstances were, maybe they thought revenues would improve and they could just pay down debt from that (best option if it worked out) or maybe they just wanted to see another quarter or two of post-recession to better gauge the future.
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Interesting to see all the anger at USA Today. It seems that what used to be controlled chaos has degenerated into anarchy. Much of this likely can be blamed on someone's (Hillkirk's?) lame idea to flatten the management. As a result of this incredibly stupid move, no one is in charge. Hillkirk won't make a decision, the folks running the print operation can't assign stories, the "silos" that were so prominently excoriated during the Jack Kelley scandal have been built even higher, reporters go weeks without bylines because no one is demanding they produce something -- anything. Perhaps the most telling evidence of the lack of leadership: On the night Osama bin Laden was killed, executive editor Susan Weiss was a no-show in the newsroom. Hunke and Hillkirk should be held accountable for all of this, but they probably are too busy counting page views and trying to convince themselves that through some miracle, these page views will translate into revenue and recover some respect for a seriously declining product.
I'm not selling anything! Just received this from Amazon and though it funny. Anyway, it's cheap enough at 99 cents (Kindle edition.)"Board Room Babies" by Stanley Bing"Hilarious New Kindle Single Details the Proper Care and Feeding of CEOsStanley Bing is a bestselling author and haute executive in a gigantic multinational corporation whose identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in business.A noted expert on the comic vagaries of the business world, Bing now offers an astute analysis of the corporate CEO as a spoiled, coddled infant."
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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