Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What David Geffen Sees In The New York Times

It’s the hottest topic on two coasts. Why in the world would David Geffen, perhaps the shrewdest investor Hollywood has seen in years, want to plunk down $200 million or so for the 19.9% stake in the New York Times Co. held by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners? Like most newspapers, The New York Times, which owns its fabled Gray Lady flagship, the Boston Globe and other assorted assets, is losing tons of money. Worse yet, with ad sales that make up 59% of its overall revenues tanking and not likely to fully recover, the Times is fast becoming a non-profit institution. [Click for MORE]

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Washington Governor OKs Tax Cut for Newspapers

Gov. Chris Gregoire has approved a tax break for the state's troubled newspaper industry.

The new law gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in the state's main business tax. The discounted rate mirrors breaks given in years past to the Boeing Co. and the timber industry.

Newspapers across the country have resorted to layoffs and other cost-cutting moves to deal with a wounded business model and a recession-fueled drop in advertising.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its final edition earlier this year and was converted to an Internet-only publication with a much-reduced staff.

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Severance Payments Denied At Tribune;
Bonuses Approved

Tribune severance payments denied

A bankruptcy judge denied authorization for Tribune to make severance payments to employees laid off shortly before the bankruptcy filing but approved bonuses for other employees.

MediaNews will 'move away' from making print free on Web

MediaNews Group CEO William Dean Singleton and President Jodi Lodovic announced to employees recently a plan to provide less print content on the Web for free and differentiate Web site news from the print product.

Gannett's biggest shareholder sells nearly all shares

At the end of 2008, international insurance company AXA S.A. was the single-largest institutional holder of Gannett Co. stock with nearly 31 million shares, a 13.37% stake. Monday, it disclosed that it has sold nearly all of its holdings.

Is New York Times Co. headed to bankruptcy?

In an analysis posted on the Silicon Alley Insider blog Friday, the former star stock analyst Henry Blodget concludes The New York Times Co. is heading toward bankruptcy.

Metro to sell Seabay its U.S. papers

Swedish newspaper group Metro International SA said it agreed to sell its unprofitable U.S. papers.

No News Is Bad News in 'The Scarecrow'

Former LA Times reporter Michael Connelly chronicles the demise of newspapers in his new fast-paced murder tale "The Scarecrow."

Denver Post now printing Fort Collins Coloradoan

The Denver Post today is printing the Fort Collins Coloradoan and the copies of USA Today that once rolled off the Coloradoan's press.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Will Control the New York Times?

Sources: Geffen made an offer for hedge fund's big stake

Every day for months now, pundits and peanut gallery members have weighed in on the subject of what The New York Times might do to save itself. The prevailing wisdom is that the Times - arguably the most influential and well-regarded newspaper on the planet - is in peril of disappearing, and jeez, if the Grey Lady can't survive, who will, and what does that portend for the future of journalism? But that's an overstated view - in reality, the Times newspaper is holding up better than many of its competitors amid the media meltdown, and the company's problems are largely corporate in nature. So a better question is: who might end up controlling the newspaper and what will they do with it?

Just in the past several weeks, two overtures involving the largest block of The New York Times Co. shares outstanding and two of the biggest names in media and technology offer a glimpse at the intrigue surrounding the company. Last month, sources tell me, former Hollywood mogul David Geffen made an offer to buy the 19% stake in the Times held by hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, but no deal was struck. (Geffen and Harbinger declined to comment.). And a few weeks before that, Scott Galloway, a Web entrepreneur and New York University Business School professor who is one of two Harbinger appointees on the Times board, made an overture to Google co-founder Larry Page about Google buying the Times Co. Even though Google CEO Eric Schmidt has publicly lamented the state of the newspaper industry and dismissed the notion of Google investing in it, people involved said the company looked seriously at the opportunity before deciding to pass. [Click for MORE]

  • The posts this afternoon, based on an unnamed source "close to the negotiation," that the deal fell through because Geffen and the fund could not agree on a price.
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Financier to Unveil New Journalism Model

Noted San Francisco financier Warren Hellman said in a statement Friday that he and “a team of business and media experts” are, as rumored in recent weeks, working on a plan to develop a new, sustainable model for community journalism in San Francisco and the Bay Area, given the intense pressures on daily papers, including the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hellman said the group has adopted a two-month timeline for completing the first stages of exploring options that could have implications throughout the journalistic world. [Click for MORE]

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News Corp. Plans Micro Payments for WSJ Website

News Corp is planning to introduce "micro payments" for individual articles and premium subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal's website, WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson said on Sunday. [Click for MORE]
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The American Press on Suicide Watch

By Frank Rich
New York Times, columnist

If you wanted to pick the moment when the American news business went on suicide watch, it was almost exactly three years ago. That’s when Stephen Colbert, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, delivered a monologue accusing his hosts of being stenographers who had, in essence, let the Bush White House get away with murder (or at least the war in Iraq). To prove the point, the partying journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom could be seen (courtesy of C-Span) fawning over government potentates — in some cases the very “sources” who had fed all those fictional sightings of Saddam Hussein’s W.M.D.

Colbert’s routine did not kill. The Washington Post reported that it “fell flat.” The Times initially did not even mention it. But to the Beltway’s bafflement, Colbert’s riff went viral overnight, ultimately to have a marathon run as the most popular video on iTunes. The cultural disconnect between the journalism establishment and the public it aspires to serve could not have been more vividly dramatized.

The bad news about the news business has accelerated ever since. Newspaper circulations and revenues are in free fall. Legendary brands from The Los Angeles Times to The Philadelphia Inquirer are teetering. The New York Times Company threatened to close The Boston Globe if its employees didn’t make substantial sacrifices in salaries and benefits. Other papers have died. The reporting ranks on network and local news alike are shriveling. You know it’s bad when the Senate is moved, as it was last week, to weigh in with hearings on “The Future of Journalism.” [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content