About Me

  • I'm CEO of Newspeg.com, a social news-sharing platform. I've spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies. You can read more about me here.

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« Dropping Like Flies | Main | Paper Money »

July 16, 2008



The only thing saving newspapers today is that who wants to buy a big honking ink press these days, when the alternative is cost-free Internet publishing?
The coming carnage will be horrendous once the bankruptcies start cascading, and I have been wondering what the newspaper landscape might look like two years from now.
When Zell's empire falls apart, will anyone pick up the L.A Times or will the winners be the suburban papers in the surrounding counties. Ditto with Philadelphia. Will Seattle Post-Intelligencer overnight become the leading paper in that city, as Blethen's now dominant Seattle Times falls apart because of the $100 million debt-riddled Blethen New England venture? Does anyone want Billy Dean Singleton's scavanged remnants, and will the Rocky Mountain News just allow the Denver Post to collapse rather than offer a buy-out? Is Miami going to be only left with Spanish-language newspapers? What will happen in Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham after MNI collapses, and should I care? Does the arch-conservative Richard Scaife become the dominant publisher in Pittsburg, and should I care? Will there be a future for the Chicago Tribune after Sam Zell? Will there only be papers for the elderly and Canadian snowbirds in Florida after the Orlando Sentinel and Ft. Lauderdale papers hit the bankruptcy markets? And, of course, the biggie: can the NYT survive after the Sulzberger family departs?
Wow. What an exciting period to be in newspapers. It does give Potts something to write about.

Guy McCarthy

Sorry, but like Ed I don't really have many comments, just questions.

The nation's biggest newspaper companies have lost $27.7 billion in value since Jan. 1?

And 10 of them together are now worth just over one-fourth of their value three and a half years ago?

If Mutter's math and reporting are correct, when do the bankruptcies begin?

Or are these just numbers on paper that don't reflect reality?

And where are the Media News Group numbers?

Since Singleton chairs the AP, what does this mean for the Associated Press?

I worked 15 years for dailies in California and Florida and I now work part-time for a regional wire service.

You describe yourself as an innovator. What advice do you have for the thousands of unemployed reporters hitting the bricks these days?

Mark Potts

Bankruptcies, as I indicated in the post, are indeed possible. And I've written in the past about the outlook for journalists transitioning into other jobs and industries, which I believe is bright: http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2007/09/life-after-jour.html

First and foremost, though, newspaper journalists need to absolutely understand that print is not the only outlet for their talents, and they need to be moving as quickly as they can to acquire Web skills and experience. That seems obvious, but unfortunately, in too many newsrooms there are too many holdouts who still see the Web operation as a junior partner. Rather, it's likely to be a more secure place of employment going forward.

Oh, and Media News Group is not included in Mutter's analysis because it's a private company; its stock is not publicly traded and its financial data is not filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But the company is believed to be struggling financially along with the other newspaper companies.


xxxwhen do the bankruptcies begin?xxxx
At the point where revenues don't cover the expenses and payroll, and they can borrow no more money. Alan Mutter had a very ominous post recently about the Tribune getting what amounted to a $300 million payday loan. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Avista (Strib) and Billy Dean Singleton's MediaNews are already in technical default by not having sufficient revenue to make payments on part of their debts to so-called secondary debt holders. That is a death rattle. If Gannett's report this week that revenues declined a third in the 2nd quarter are replicated throughout the industry (and there is no reason to believe they aren't), judgement day is approaching very fast. Even with bankruptcy, things could drag on for a while as they try to restructure their debts to continue operating as a slimmed down company, or sell off some properties to raise cash. Note that even after bankruptcy, UPI still lives today, and the Washington Post was bought by Kay Graham's father at a bankruptcy sale.


an interesting story on Techdirt about a newspaper company that is succeeding (because their focus is on hyper-local):


Don't know what their online strategy is, but I wouldn't be surprised if they also have started thinking that through. The medium may not be as important as the message...


It just occurred to me that this coming Sunday, I have the choice of spending $1 to buy a paper, or $1 to buy one share of a giant and powerful newspaper company. For about $4, in the neighborhood of the price of the Sunday New York Times or the tabloid Barron's, I can buy a share of the McClatchy company that owns newspapers monopolizing the markets of Miami, Fort Worth, Sacramento, Anchorage, Lexington and one that covers the entire state of Idaho. If I hit Megamillions just right, I could also buy up all the publicly-traded shares of that company for around $360 million, and demand to sit on the board of directors with the family that controls the rest. Wow, I could be William Randolph Hearst and use my clout as semi-owner of all those newspapers to be a king-maker. All that, and little me. Wow.

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