Media Oxpecker: The Great Newspaper Spinoff of 2014

Media news you missed while you were busy
following the fucking stations of the cross.

  • This week Gannett became the latest media company to quarantine its publishing division from its broadcast and digital division. It joins the Tribune Co., Time Warner, Journal Communications/E.W. Scripps, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in classifying print as the Ebola of the media industry.

    But before Seven Days spins its Stuck in Vermont series into a stand-alone company, Ken Doctor reminds us that these moves were all made by public companies, which operate under a specific type of logic:

    These splits are about financial engineering. As public companies, their primary duty is indeed to maximize shareholder value. Newspaper properties are depressed and distressed, and the public markets have less and less interest in them. So sequestering the print assets to “unlock the value” of broadcast and digital just makes financial sense … Gannett Publishing hasn’t grown publishing revenues in any year since 2006. It’s not much different from its peers in that regard. But that failure to grow — combined with the inability to name the future year when it would grow — is the driver of these splits.

    So what does that mean for the print divisions that were left behind?

    It’s not necessarily leaving print behind to die, just to fend for itself. “Essentially, the theory goes if you spin off the print piece, the print can have the freedom to focus on the business of print itself,” says [eMarketer analyst Mike] Hudson.

    One early casualty of the restructuring is Sports on Earth, a joint venture between Gannett’s USA Today and MLB Advanced Media with a focus on higher-quality sportswriting. The site will “technically continue to exist” but several staffers were laid off as a result of USA Today pulling out of the partnership:

    Although the website didn’t reach the heights and mass appeal of Grantland, it certainly found its niche amongst the sports media intelligentsia. There was rarely a day that went by when someone didn’t RT a Sports on Earth piece into my timeline as a beacon of great sportswriting.

More from this week:

Jason Zaragoza did not perform best on social media in June.

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