An independent journal about the Gannett Co. and the news industry's digital transition
Following up on comments about Towns at the APP: The lack of copy editors is evident not only all over the website, but the actual paper too. There seems to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to how things are managed in NJ.
Asbury Park is nothing but an aspirational steppingstone to Atlanta for Mr. Towns. Unfortunately, the J-C is owned by Cox, a chain that values journalistic excellence.
Quarterly publishers forum at my site today.
8:14 The AJC...worst newspaper in America. You have to be kidding to say otherwise. I'll take Gannett journalists anyday over that rag. It's on life support.
When will the layoffs begin ?There should be a pool here and Jim could keep 20% of the take.How about even a buck to enter.Because the layoffs will happen and just as in the past quarterly report sessions when Gannett says"we have no current plans for additional layoffs" this sure as hell means the layoffs or closings could happen as soon as anytime !If they think they are fooling employees they are nuts,how many times can this be said only to be proven that it was just spin ? Profits were DOWN!Way down. New revenue generating ideas are not producing .That means more cost cutting to improve that bottom line is the only solution.
Hallelujah. USA Today seems finally to have caught on to the Murdoch story, and the front page looking a little straighter today. Perhaps we are heading back to the straight and narrow path.
Back to Hollis Towns: One thing he has done is advocate for stories on the front page about what has gone on this year at Georgian Court University in Lakewood. GCU has been wanting to expand its campus and has met with opposition from the local power bloc in town. On several occasions, Towns has ordered that this story run on the front page and that editorials support the GCU side of the issue. But here's one crucial fact, in the interest of full disclosure: his wife works at GCU, where she is the director of public information and university communications, a position she got shortly after Towns arrived at the APP. Doesn't that make his involvement in anything pertaining to this issue sort of, well, unethical?
@10:43 a.m. Interesting on many levels. First, GCU was an all but ignored entity within the APP's coverage zone for many years. Second, what you're describing sounds very familiar to what happened when the APP sued to stop the construction of the Jersey Shore outlet mall, right next to APP HQ on Route 66 in Neptune. The APP ordered two reporters to write endless streams of stories about the development, all while the lawsuit was playing out in court, in an obvious attempt to turn public opinion against the developer. Guess who won on both fronts? That outlet mall is packed every damn weekend.
Speaking of Townes, right now a bunch of execs,(those that aren't on vacation anyway) and some overworked, confused, abused editors are getting ready to pitch enterprise stories to the boss. Just left HQ a few mins ago and i never saw so much activity during the morning hours. Usually like a funeral here before 10.Neglected readers in NJ can expect more stories soon on kids football and no-good teachers. Sales numbers should be spiking anyday now.
HT is a "my way or the highway" kind of guy. There is no compromising or arguing with him when he's made up his mind.
Any news on how the baxter co. consolidation went?
@11:09 a.m. - Can anyone share some insight as to why the APP is so anti-teacher?
Someone asked what happened to Brevard? A lot of it has come from Gannett but Florida Today has also added to the decline, mostly with bad management. The last 3,4 years began with getting rid of top notch carriers for no reason...at least no reason anybody other than the one doing it could see. Bad production...not getting all the sections in the paper at times, incomplete Sundays, torn or folded or wrinkled front pages. The last couple of years a lot of racks were taken off the street for who knows why. Now, what's left has been given to home delivery to prop up their money and the rest of single copy to stores only with delivery agents and less pay. Talk about smacking around a carrier force and killing morale.Some years ago now we started delivering the Orlando paper to homes for them. Now we are going to lose USA Today to them. Confusing.Long term people, production workers and carriers just shake their heads and do the best they can with what's given.The price raise a couple of years ago and now another one, with a skeleton of the paper it once was, isn't helping.Goodness knows what's going to happen once the Space center all but closes down with the end of the Shuttle.
Wow. It must suck to work in Asbury Park with the staff racing to badmouth the boss day in and day out. Good thing they don't have any actual work to do.
What's up with all the Hollis Towns chatter? Did I miss something?
@11:45. I think all the employees are taking a break from trying to figure out the new companywide $15 million computer system implemented five months ago. Anyways, what are you worried about management troll, dividends are doubling and next quarter you big time earners and decision makers will get another week of vacation (sorry, furlough)?
Hope Carolyn Washburn is taking plenty of notes in D.C. today and tomorrow. She needs all the help she can get.The Enquirer's web page is pretty pathetic.Story about a downtown bar being featured on a third-rate TV show, a chat with Reds writer John Fay is the featured item, plus these hard-news teasers:1. Seven rail crossings being replaced in Butler 15 minutes ago2. 5 indoor events to try today 20 minutes ago3. Get answers to your investment questions now 23 minutes ago4. How honest is Cincy? You decide 47 minutes ago (which teases to a tea company's promotional give away.)That's a hard-hitting lineup if I've even see one. I can just picture that old lady who used to pitch Wendy's hamburgers, looking at the Enquirer and saying, "Where's the News?"Here's a suggestion Carolyn. Turn the dogs loose on Mecklenborg and do a story on the rise and fall of a local politician. Give readers a real folo that talks about why he was driving in Indiana with temporary Ky. license tags, had an adult entertainer in his car and Viagra coursing through the bloodstream.
If we're going to start looking hard at how shitty Gannett websites are, we could devote an entire new blog to that. The only one that isn't a towering pile of impossible-to-navigate crap is USA Today's.
Quick poll: Did any other sports editors beside the one in Asheville print a piece saying he was happy for Japan's women's soccer team because he was rooting for them -- against the USA?
Did Towns insist that the stories about Geogrian Court College disclose that his wife works there? If not, that's bad. But ethics don't matter at the big G anymore.
If someone would only publish a story about Hollis Towns on Viagra, we could get back to real topics.
Sorry, 12:45, but I call bs. The websites actually aren't that bad. In your extensive UX expertise, what do you think could be improved? What did you unsuccessfully try to navigate to that caused such venom?I've never really had a problem with them.
12:45..... I don't think it's how bad they are but the content is annoying to look at and read with all the advertising floating over the stories and the drop down ads. Unfortunately that is where the revenue is all going to be eventually...Just wondering when they will have to start charging a membership to read the on-line paper because after my generation, the printed version will be obsolete. The big heads in the corporate world didn't do enough to put the paper in the children's hands at schools or create any interest in reading or writing stories. They could have started a program with Local High Schools and competitions to get student's stories published. But hey, these kind of ideas get brushed under the rug... Ask Margaret in Cincy, I proposed an idea in an e-mail. She said, great Idea, keep them coming. Thanks Marge.... Oh, and it doesn't matter if you had perfect reviews, no credits, and get along with everyone and every account you worked with... you are just a number at Gannett and my number got picked off in the last round.
Look i understand copy editors are very important, however were I work we are down to 2 press ops per shift. It is a drag to go to work and when your crew is down to 2 ops when we had 3 to 4 press ops per shift. To be honest, no one gives a shit. because we can be shutt down any day. I used to love working for gannett, and in production, but nobody cares anymore. When is the bleeding going to stop?
2:39, I have noticed that the Web sites (sorry... "Old School" spelling: proper noun, two words) vary across Gannett properties. There's the template, of course, Metromix, et. al, and lots of vapid content, but Reno's site for example was useless for quite an inordinate length of time. Navigation was deplorable.Nothin' against the Web guys. They did what they could with what they had!To Reno's credit, it has recently started using a redesigned template. It's not perfect, but it's a vast improvement approaching the night-and-day variety.Now only if there were more meat and less fluff. But then it wouldn't be Gannett.
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12:45 is the standard moron who throws out blanket criticism that means nothing.If you cannot navigate any of the sites, 12:45, then I'd say the problem is in your mirror. Get less stupid.
Look, aside from the possible ethical question, criticism of Hollis as 'my way or highway guy' rebuttal:We constantly ride CD here and his enablers for a lack of vision. Lack of visionaries are usually empty suits who thrive on 'leadership by consensus' style to compensate for a lack of innovation/anticipation/guts. The 'My way or highway' type leader is the exact opposite. I'm not saying their vision is correct. But at least they have a vision and are ready to push it forward. Certainly, this type of senior manager can't be considered an empty suit. I don't work in NJ and have no idea about specifics here. But I do know that you can't have a utopian management structure. And I'd much rather work for an assertive boss who has confidence in his/her vision than the clueless ones in the CP whose idea of 'vision' is cannibalizing the company for their own personal gain.
Following yesterday's poor second-quarter earnings report, investment banker UBS says it now expects Gannett's stock to trade for $14 a share, down from its previous estimate of $16.GCI's stock closed today at $13.51 a share, up 51 cents.
Stoney LaDouche = Wilmington publisher Howard L.* Griffin. Jim, I am looking to get out of Wilmington as fast as I can because I cannot work for Ledford any longer. An online editor announced today that he had gotten a new job, and it gives the rest of us fresh hope.* Lousy, Lame or Languishing (take your pick)
Not only on Viagra, 2:25, but Mecklenborg was high on Viagra. Read the lab report and you see he's taken more of the drug than he was supposed to according to the common usage prescription.
Few have noticed that Craig Dubow has accepted another increase in his total compensation. I guess his 49 percent increase in the past year wasn’t enough (we have seen that his pay for performance increase came from lower revenues and additional layoffs).I’m sure he would say “the Board of Directors made me do it.” The Board doubled the GCI stock dividend from 4 cents to 8 cents PER SHARE!! Sounds small enough until you realize that Gannett’s CEO Craig Dubow has over 1.6 million shares of the company stock. Suddenly that extra 4 cents becomes really big dollars. Seems like that might be a yearly salary for a recently laid-off Gannett staffer.But Craig continues to feather his nest.
6:45 I think the point is that these people don't have their own vision they just blindly enforce the silly stuff sent their way. Such as real life/real news, charticles,passion topics and host of other crap. Blindly preaching how this is the greatest idea ever or at least till the next idiot idea comes along.
Maybe, maybe not 6:45. While there are a lot of dumb ideas that get forced down the faucet of news organizations, I spent enough time in newsrooms to see reporters generally respond in typical 'this isn't news' skeptical (cynical) fashion. I'd routinely see reporters dismiss initiatives entirely that promoted writing about -- here's a shocker -- what readers wanted to read. These reporters staunchly believed they held a monopolistic POV on what "news" was and, goshdernit, if readers were too stupid to appreciate that, too damn bad. That's not to say there shouldn't be a high premium on watchdog journalism, investigative projects, etc. But passion topics, real life, etc. is part of the menu too. So are scholastic sports. Then again, I don't know what's going on in NJ, so this is more a general observation than a specific one.
@7:46 the problem is what a reader might want in Kansas isn't what the reader in NJ might want and vice versa. Not sure where these ideas are developed but it just seems none of them work. You are right I am as guilty as the next person for dismissing something before I try it. But I don't have to try stupid to know it's stupid. Real life/real news the example was to cover first communions I didn't have to try to know that no one would care besides the people involved.
7:23 raises a good point. The real largesse lies in stock options.craig holds plenty that were given to him when the stock was below $3. Thats worth more than $10 a share right now. Sure, he has plenty of other out of the money options. But he will still makes a killing cashing out of a company he helped destroy.
Any of you seriously defending Gannett websites need to take a reality check. They are terribly designed and in many markets turn away users by the way information is laid out, presented and updated.
Anyone who believes the typical Gannett website is anything less than an eyesore is web design and functionality ignorant and I can hardly believe they've spent any time navigating them at all.Ignoring the irritating advertising aspect it looks like a web design from 1999. It's ridiculously cluttered, the print is usually covered and unreadable, navigation is convoluted, and half of the website leads to junk sites instead of actual content.That's ignoring the fact that online payment methods are glitchy and notify subscribers of payments processed that never went through.Our websites are despised. Take it from someone who has to hear it all day everyday from multiple newspaper sites! :D
7:46 -- You make a good point but I do have one question. When the reporters dismissed the idea of writing about what readers wanted, who was it that decided what the readers wanted? At my site, I've seen content plans designed using data from terribly crafted marketing department studies with almost zero chance of actually reflecting reader taste. I've been one of those skeptical reporters, and I've seen the topics that readers are supposedly keen on change drastically from year to year. Not because they actually changed but because the paper wasn't capable of running a professional readership study and didn't want to pay for a study that might have actually been accurate. It seems to me, Gannett rolls out a lot of initiatives just so it can tell Wall Street it's doing something. Nobody actually thinks they'll work, but it beats telling the truth, which is, "We don't know what readers want and can't see any way out of a long-term decline in circulation."
3:22 So how long have we all been screaming about how GCI has to stop using consultants? They have an agenda of their own, and that is to make money. That's fine with me, but you don't have to follow what they say.
I've got a better score predicting the future than some of these consultants, who I swear are killing chickens and trying to read the future from the the colors of the entrails.
Here's a brainstorm- Why not listen to the readers? More importantly, FORMER readers. I can't tell you how everyday I hear from "people on the street" that "your paper sucks". "There's nothing in it" I used to tell my supervisors this but they were deaf to it. We're doing scientific research they said. They hired a consulting firm to call people randomly at home. I think the number was 15,000 homes. 13,500 people hung up on the caller- wouldn't you? They say they managed to find 10% of those called- roughly 1,500 people with nothing else going on in their lives to actually spend 20 mins to a half hour answering the questions in their readership survey to say what they wanted in their local paper. These are the people they based the information on. I told my supervisors I talk with the 13,500 people who huung up every day- those are the people we she be trying to get. It's like doing man-in-the street interviews on the sidewalk during lunchtime. 90% of those you approach blow you off because they are busy with their lives. Who really cares what those who have the time to do an interview on their lunch hour have to say? Women who can squeeze it in between the hair and nail appointments- Newsflash- they aren't reading the paper anyway- even if they spend the majority of their husband's income. Flame-away ladies!
HT's "my way" attitude would play better if he were leading. He hosts meetings and makes big pronouncements, but 2 months or 2 weeks later, whatever was announced disappears with no follow through. Rather than encouraging a demoralized staff, it appears like a rudderless ship, as managers quietly feud with each other and many go back to simply doing what they want, since there's no specific or realistic direction on what they should be doing and no accountability. HT stews, then moves people around into new jobs as a sign of his disapproval. Sometimes moving people into the wrong jobs. Does he ever read the paper? Many have wondered. But he is APME president, so he must be busy. It is too bad, because HT is smart and has potential to be much better.
Sadly, to the point of the posters above, our market research was never the problem. Indeed, until we stopped doing market studies two years ago or so (very expensive) and laid off our research team (some of the best in the business), we had detailed data on how readers perceived our work and the direction we were heading. The problem was that all of the problems they revealed required either money or force of will -- and we were willing to use either.I remember sitting at an on-site visit with Gary Watson in the late 90s, when he bragged that Gannett didn't fall victim to the dot-com bubble and burst like Knight Ridder and others. We're going to play it safe, he said, and only do what we have to do in small increments, such as real estate and auto. Yet, at the same time, our research clearly showed the beginning of the migration. So, in short, that approach was one of the reasons we were slow to warm to digital.Here's a sad reality: Think if back in the early 2000s, we could have done half of the cost-cutting moves we've done recently. Then, rather than just returning that money to the bottom line, if we could have invested that into research, development and enhancement -- using our market data as our guide. Think also if we had not had used millions upon millions in precious capital for a failed stock buy-back scheme and also invested it into R&D.Twitter, Facebook, Groupon, Blogger -- all of them needed venture captial in their start-ups. What if we could have offered millions for that, plus the then-power of our print network, as launch pads for pioneering innovation. No, instead we have Pluck, Planet Discover, HighSchoolSports.net, ShopLocal and, now, Deal Chicken. Off-brand knock-offs, slow to market and akin to cardboard Gucci gear. Too little, too late. Accept for Deal Chicken, which has yet to hatch, name me one person who actually uses any of the Gannett-branded products I've named above. Anyone? So, it's not that we're wasting money on consultants. We wasted money on good research -- by our own research division -- but we were unwilling to risk our monthly and quarterly NIBT numbers to invest in our future. Now, we're throwing good money after bad stuff in a game of catchup.
We are wasting tons of money on verticals. The burn rate is off the charts.
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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