Saturday, January 17, 2009

Carlos Slim in Talks for Stake in NY Times

The New York Times Co. is in discussions with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim about investing in the newspaper publisher to help ease its financial problems, according to people familiar with the matter.
The talks are ongoing and may yet fall apart but one of the options being discussed is a preferred-stock issue. Under this scenario, the Times Co. would issue Mr. Slim preferred stock, which carries no voting right but pays an annual dividend, in return for his investment. The investment would be similar to a loan. Preferred shares are often convertible into common stock after a defined period.

It's not clear how much Mr. Slim would be willing to invest but the people familiar the matter said it would likely be several hundred million dollars.

Times Co. is said to be planning a special board meeting next week. [Click for MORE]

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Look Out Networks, Free Software
Pipes Internet onto HDTV

Piping Internet video into a television seems as if it should be simple — after all, a screen is a screen. But consumer electronics and media companies have been moving toward that combination with painstaking caution, both because of technical limitations and to protect their existing business models.

Now, with an Internet start-up’s hubris and whimsical name, an 11-employee New York company called Boxee is barging into the fray. It is treading over the carefully negotiated business arrangements of much larger companies and garnering accolades from tech-heads for doing what the big guys have failed to do. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tribune to Pick Winning Bid for Cubs by Mid-Week

After a nearly two-year process, Sam Zell and Tribune Co. plan to name a winning bidder for the Chicago Cubs by the middle of the coming week, according to two people involved with the bidding.

Tribune, which last month filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, has a board meeting scheduled for early in the coming week where executives handling the sale of the baseball franchise plan to review the competing bids and recommend a winning party.

The three finalists are the Ricketts family, founders of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.; a group led by New York-based private-equity investors Marc Utay and Leo Hindery; and Chicago real-estate investor Hersh Klaff. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

KNBC Celebrates 60 Years of Television

NBC4 began broadcasting as KNBH on January 16, 1948. It was the last of five original stations built from the ground up by the National Broadcasting Company. The station debuted with three hours and forty minutes of programming, which followed a fifteen-minute test pattern-and-music session. Inauguration night launched with an eighteen-minute newsreel, “Review of 1948,” the market’s first variety program “On With the Show,” and station’s first live program “The Pickard Family,” featuring Dad and Mom Pickard and their four children singing familiar American songs. By October 1949, KNBH had extended its operating schedule from five to seven days a week, with approximately twenty-six hours of television programming each week. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

When Newspapers Are Gone, What Will You Miss?

From Seth Godin:

Years and years after some pundits began predicting the end of newspapers, the newspapers themselves are finally realizing that it's over. Huge debt, high costs, declining subscription rates, plummeting ad base--will the last one out please turn off the lights.

On their way out, though, we're hearing a lot of, "you'll miss us when we're gone..." laments. I got to thinking about this. It's never good to watch people lose their livelihoods or have to move on to something new, even if it might be better. I respect and honor the hard work that so many people have put into newspapers along the way. If we make a list of newspaper attributes and features, which ones would you miss? [Click for MORE]

> Gannett's Tucson Citizen to close if a buyer isn't found by March 21

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Tribune Busy on Reorganization Plan

Solvency opinion was never revealed to public

The chief financial officer for the Tribune Co. said Friday that the media company is working on a business plan that will help it emerge from bankruptcy.

"We are facing very difficult cyclical and sector pressures in our key businesses," Chandler Bigelow III said at a hearing where he fielded questions from an attorney for the bankruptcy trustee and a handful of creditors.

Bigelow and Tribune attorneys were tightlipped when asked why a second of two solvency opinions issued in connection with a 2007 leveraged buyout was hidden from the public. [Click for MORE]

> Atlanta Journal Constitution is losing $1 million a week

> 'Deep Cuts' at San Diego Union-Tribune

> Lee Enterprises Seeking Reverse Stock Split To Stay On NYSE

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Circuit City to Shut Down

Another Major Advertiser Bites the Dust

Bankrupt electronics retailer Circuit City Inc. said Friday it has asked for court approval to close its remaining 567 U.S. stores and sell all its merchandise.

The company said it has 34,000 employees.

"We are extremely disappointed by this outcome," James Marcum, acting CEO for Circuit City, said in a statement. "We were unable to reach an agreement with our creditors and lenders to structure a going-concern transaction in the limited timeframe available, and so this is the only possible path for our company." [Click for MORE]

> Magazine Ads Evaporated in 2008, Faster as Months Went On

More Advertisers Who Have Filed for Bankruptcy

The fallout from the miserable holiday season is in full swing, and experts expect even more retailers to file for bankruptcy or just liquidate in coming months as consumers keep tight control of their spending because of job worries and dwindling retirement accounts.

Among notable retailers who have filed for bankruptcy protection since May:

  • Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's second-biggest electronics retailer, filed for Chapter 11 in November. But the chain announced Friday that it will liquidate its 567 U.S. stores after failing to reach a deal to sell the company.
  • Department store chain Gottschalks Inc. put itself up for sale and filed to reorganize in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday.
  • Discount clothing chain Goody's Family Clothing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, the retailer's second such petition in less than a year as it struggles with mounting debt and a staggering drop-off in sales.
  • KB Toys filed for bankruptcy protection two weeks before Christmas and has been liquidating its stores. KB Toys also filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2004.
  • Parent Co., the operator of online toy seller, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December and said it will consider selling some or all of its operations.
  • Linens 'N Things filed for bankruptcy protection in May. It announced liquidation sales at its stores in October after failing to find a buyer that wanted to operate the company.
  • Steve & Barry's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, then later abandoned plans to keep stores open and said it would liquidate.
  • Mervyns LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July and said it would hold liquidation sales at its remaining stores.
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USA Today Shuttering International Edition Jan. 30

Gannett's flagship once hoped to beat The International Herald Tribune in grabbing well-heeled American travelers overseas, and the ad dollars that often follow. But that idea has died for good, tipsters say, now that USA Today is pulling the plug on its money-losing foreign editions. The European one dies Jan. 30. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

Social Media Steal the Show in NY Plane Crash

On-the-scene photos, live reports and immediate reactions illustrate the power of sites like Twitter, fans say. But others urge caution before heaping praise on the site and its peers.

Yesterday's dramatic emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in New York's Hudson River made national TV and newspaper headlines. But the story broke first across social networking sites and through mobile messages -- giving social media a major coup that its fans are crowing about.

Photographs showing Flight 1549's emergency landing began popping up on social networking sites like Facebook and microblogging services like Twitter and Tumblr well before national news reports caught wind of the story. And for Web users who were at work, out of the office, or otherwise far from a TV, social media remained their sole source for updates on the story.

One of the earliest crash photos popped up on Twitter and TwitPic, a site that hosts images that users post on Twitter. The photo had been taken by iPhone user Janis Krums. Within minutes, the image was appearing on blogs and news sites -- causing TwitPic's site to get slammed by traffic, according to a posting by its founder and operator, Noah Everett. [Click for MORE]

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Minneapolis Star Tribune Files Chapter 11

The bad news in the newspaper business continued to mount on Thursday as The Star Tribune of Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy protection.

Star Tribune management warned last month that it would seek bankruptcy protection if it did not win a series of labor concessions on wages and other matters by Friday. Talks with the major unions broke down last week and had not resumed.

The newspaper announced the filing on its Web site Thursday evening. [Click for MORE]

> Star Tribune files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
> Tentative agreement reached in Long Beach
> Remaking Lou Grant for the 21st Century

Bankruptcy judge OKs Tribune Co.'s
short-term financing plan

Tribune Co. passed an early hurdle in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case Thursday when a U.S. bankruptcy judge signed a motion authorizing the continuation of a short-term financing arrangement worth $300 million.

Judge Kevin Carey also granted the company more time to file schedules of its assets and liabilities and other financial statements.

The financing arrangement, supplied by Barclays Bank and secured by Tribune receivables, will last until April. At that point, Tribune will have to renegotiate with Barclays or seek financing elsewhere. [Click for MORE]

> Newspapers jump through hoops to stay alive Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No More Raises at Los Angeles Daily News

A memo in the newsroom today says merit raises are suspended at the Daily News. It comes amid gossip about furloughs, pay cuts and other draconian steps to stop the fiscal bleeding. [Update: And it affects all the LANG newspapers; they all got the memo.] [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

Newspapers Move to Outsource Foreign Coverage

Tribune Could Close Dozens of Bureaus in Favor of Washington Post Deal; New York Daily News Signs Start-Up

From the Wall Street Journal:

Two major newspapers publishers are taking steps to outsource international coverage, as falling revenue is causing more U.S. papers to shrink their foreign and national footprint.

Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, is in talks with the Washington Post Co. about a deal to pay the Post for foreign and national coverage for Tribune's eight major dailies. Meantime, the New York Daily News has reached an agreement with a Boston-based start-up called GlobalPost to use the company's network of part-time foreign correspondents.

Together, the agreements could substantially overhaul the foreign news operations of three of the 10 largest U.S. newspapers. [Click for MORE]

> Tribune Co. weighing national, international news options

> News Media Run by China Look Abroad for Growth

> Russian Billionaire Held Talks to Buy U.K. Paper

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gannett Blog: Everyone at Gannett
Put on One-Week Furlough

USA Today Content to Replace AP News

A memo just released by CEO Craig Dubow, confirming recent speculation that Gannett will require about 35,000 U.S. workers to take a week off without pay in this quarter. There's now an FAQ. Plus, newspaper division chief Bob Dickey has issued a memo, too. [Click for MORE]

In a fresh sign of its worsening finances, the nation's biggest newspaper publisher is quietly testing a new service that it expects will replace the Associated Press at its 84 U.S. newspapers, a memo obtained by Gannett Blog says. [Click for MORE]

USA Today won't give pay raises in 2009. That's from a memo Publisher Craig Moon reportedly just sent to the No. 1 circulation newspaper's employees, regarding Gannett's announcement that about 35,000 U.S. workers will be required to take a week off without pay during the current quarter. USAT's move is effective Feb. 1. "This includes me, your department head -- everyone,'' Moon says.

Gannett rolls out ContentOne as a prepackaged national news web page for all Gannett community newspapers. The first test page covers the Inauguration of Barack Obama. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

‘Free’ News Comes at a Cost


Here’s a funny question: Did you pay to read this?

It’s funny because it has two obvious and opposite answers. If you’re at your kitchen table holding The Times’ Calendar section, then of course you paid. Everyone knows a copy of the daily costs 75 cents.

On the other hand, if you’re reading this on your home computer or office workstation, then of course you didn’t pay. Everyone knows reading news online is free.

It’s so rigidly free, in fact, that most newspapers (including this one) that have tried to charge for their content have found such efforts to be a bit like pulling the sword from the stone. One pretender after another has slunk away, amid derisive shouts from the crowd.

But if there’s any lesson from the Silicon Valley mentality, it’s that failure breeds success. And now is certainly the time for some mad science. Newspapers’ print operations are becoming gaunt, shedding ever more staff in exchange for ever fewer readers — all while their online counterparts are breaking traffic and readership records with regularity.

Last month, the Pew Research Center signaled the tectonic shift we’d been expecting had finally arrived. For the first time, more Americans were getting their news from the Web than from newspapers. Another Pew finding rang a louder knell yet ...

...among people under 30, the Internet is now tied with TV as the leading source for national and international news. Printed newspapers ran a distant third, even though they produce a substantial amount of the Web’s news content. [Click for MORE]

> Let’s Invent an iTunes for News

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

'Citizen Journalists' Owe the IRS Some Gift Tax!


Mainstream Media have lately been hanging their hopes on armies of citizen journalists who are willingly providing them with free content. These for-profit media enterprises, which include CNN iReports, The Huffington Post, FOX uReports and MSNBC First Person, benefit financially from the original work of "volunteers" who "donate" their intellectual properties—videos, articles, commentaries and images—for no pay. This is, literally, something for nothing to these profit-seeking enterprises, a financial windfall that pads their own bottom lines at virtually no risk. While the "volunteers" have their own personal reasons for giving their work away—everything from raising their own profiles or exposing corruption and criminality to pure altruism—they may be unknowingly stepping into a tax minefield. Indeed, according to the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, this popular cost-slashing strategy—the business model for which is based on transfers of content (intellectual property) from citizen journalists to media outlets at no fee—may subject the contributors to a gift tax. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

Chicago Tribune Repackaging Itself
in Tabloid Size for Street Sales

The Chicago Tribune on Monday will hit the streets—and its rival, the Chicago Sun-Times—with a newly reformatted tabloid-sized version of itself for weekday sales at area commuter stations, newsstands and newspaper boxes, the Tribune announced today.

Home delivery subscribers will continue to receive the Tribune’s traditional broadsheet edition, which will have the same editorial content as the single-copy tabloid version with minor differences in headlines, photos and captions because of the new size, the paper said.

Tribune executives said they believe publishing near-identical versions of the paper simultaneously in broadsheet and compact editions is unprecedented among major U.S. dailies. [Click for MORE]

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Please join me in the newsroom for a few minutes for an announcement."

That was the subject line of the e-mail that Seattle Post-Intelligencer staffers received Friday, at 12:01 p.m., from the paper's publisher, Roger Oglesby. Everyone at the P-I already knew something was up. King 5 television had reported on Thursday evening that the newspaper, which has published in Seattle since 1863, would be put up for sale by its owner, the Hearst Corporation. Afterward, there had been hopeful speculation inside the P-I newsroom that this might be a step toward purchasing the Seattle Times, the paper's longtime cross-town rival. But that was just the hopeful speculation of a group of people who still believed what they had been telling themselves for years: that Hearst Corp., with its deeper pockets, would prevail over the Blethen family, the majority owners of the Seattle Times, in this city's seemingly endless newspaper war. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content