Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Signs of the Print Holocaust

Over the last year, the newspaper industry has seen a lot of departures - with major newspaper companies getting rid of a lot of their major properties.  The Washington Post Company sold the Washington Post to media newcomer Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com.  The New York Times Company sold the Boston Globe to John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox.  And Time Warner basically gave away what had been its' premier product, Time magazine (whose new owner also found itself burdened by an additional $1.3 billion in debt).  The Tribune Company has been trying to sell major papers, like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune for years (and finding limited interest).  Even Murdoch's News Corp took action last year, splitting its print operations from its broadcast, digital, and entertainment operations.

The notion of spinning off print newspapers from broadcast and digital seems to have caught the interest of other media conglomerates -, particularly those with poorly performing print operations.  Over the last few weeks more splits were announced.  The Tribune Company split off most of its newspapers into a separate company (along with $350 million in debt).  E.W. Scripps Co. announced a merger with Journal Communications, and then quickly followed that by spinning off the combined print newspaper assets into a separate company.  And most recently, Gannett announced it would spin off its broadcast and digital operations from its struggling print newspapers next year.

While these announcements tout the prospects for the new print companies, most analysts see the moves as cynical efforts to dump assets with declining value and limited futures.  The lack of serious potential purchasers for major urban dailies in recent years hasn't helped - leaving conglomerates with few alternatives for dealing with newspaper properties in decline.  Spinning print off may be their best financial option at this point - particularly if they see no profitable future for their print dailies.
And if companies whose beginnings were in urban print dailies, whose traditional self-image was as newspaper moguls, are at the point where they see no future in that segment anymore, it's hard to be optimistic about the industry.
“I’m very skeptical that in the long term you are going to have a hard copy daily newspaper in each market,” Mr. Huber, an analyst with Huber Research Partners, said.
Sources -   Print is Down, and Now Out,  New York Times
Gannett, Owner of USA Today, to Split Its Print and Broadcast Businesses, New York Times
Now Scripps Is Splitting, Too,  The Wall Street Journal

No comments:

Post a Comment