Dammit Gannett

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hail Caesar: Gannett Papers Announce Changes in Opinion Strategy

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 9:10 AM

There's no good way to illustrate these stories but posts without images generate less clicks and "the need to establish consistent expectations about content pushes news outlets to cover stories in predictable ways and to use personalities as a way to build brand recognition." So here's a picture of me in front of weird paintings of fish. I'm sorry.
Today's terrible journalism news: Gannett newspapers saw fourth-quarter losses in circulation and revenue. According to Marketwatch the company is reporting a 12 percent dip in sales, with circulation revenue dropping 9 percent and print advertising dropping 24 percent. The one area where Gannett has been growing also took a hit as "digital advertising and market services declined about 3 percent."

I've been anticipating this news since all three of Gannett's major Tennessee newspapers individually announced changes framed as big improvements to their editorial pages.  Those changes, like the disappointing quarterly report, fit a pattern and seem to be part of a downward trend with no bottom in sight. 

Gannett newspapers across the state of Tennessee, including The Commercial Appeal, have run similar editorials letting readers know they are "listening.” They've heard you and are, per you, developing new and improved strategies for kinder, more inclusive opinion journalism.

Redesigns can be a good thing and the print real estate traditionally reserved for unsigned editorials and nationally syndicated columnists, absolutely should be reappraised. At the same time, relinquishing the former has to also be seen as the final gasp of an era when local and regional newspapers had (or believed they had) some weight to throw around — when thick bundles of newsprint stacked as high and wide as you could see stood in evidence. But as the marketplace of ideas flattens into the marketplace, the land and physical assets these once powerful newspapers own and occupy, are seen as possessing more immediate value than either the medium or its message.   

Gannett Tennessee's new editorial plan, as variously/similarly described in its Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis papers, includes weird Aristotelian ideals for letters to the editor which, in accordance with natural law, should not exceed 200 words in the west, 250 words in the center, and 300 words in the east of the state. The columns also suggest we'll be seeing less national political commentary and “more about solutions than takedowns of the people and organizations trying to do things,” whatever that tragically vague construction means. Of course people and their sense of place/community matter very much, as they often do in communications seeking to persuade people who live in places and communities. Obviously, there will be more local stuff! And there will be more you!

Via the CA:

"By tradition, opinion has long been the section where readers found the institutional view of The Commercial Appeal. It is also where you read guest commentaries, local and syndicated columnists, letters to the editor, editorial cartoons and, of course, the daily Bible verse.

Starting this week, we are moving away from that approach to one that showcases more community voices, puts an emphasis on analysis and an expanded newsroom engagement with Memphis through community events we sponsor.

Readers have repeatedly told us that they want to see more locally produced guest commentaries and letters to the editor. And we want to deliver more of what you want."

What also has to be understood, whether it's spelled out or not, is that all this "more" is the direct result of newsrooms constantly struggling to produce a viable product with less.

The "different but same" nature of Gannett's editorials makes it hard to take their grass roots too seriously. As a rule, newspapers have always cast a wide net but walked a narrow path, as they've attempted to attract and inform readers while also being an exciting, activated, and (most importantly) safe place for advertisers. Not to mention the fact that, newspapers have frequently listened to consumers and then intentionally adapted away from their needs/demands in a misguided effort to attract lost and non-readers. This was always done with full awareness that it made bundled distribution less attractive to the same loyal, long-suffering consumers that sustained newspapers when changing technology screwed all distribution and revenue models. Naturally, we'll observe more content shifts reflecting the relative value of newspaper properties as measured against their tangible assets or lack thereof.
This pic used to help generate clicks, but now I think it makes people think they've already read the post. Economies, content, etc.
  • This pic used to help generate clicks, but now I think it makes people think they've already read the post. Economies, content, etc.
Unbundling content is easily justified on a spreadsheet. Art columns, for example, may be well read, but they aren't given the importance of public affairs reporting (which isn't prime for advertisers), and when it comes to straight clicks, little can compare to food and beverage columns. Restaurants and national food/drink brands buy ads, so if you're a business major working for a holding company that owns a bunch of newspapers, it makes total sense to calculate the small number of readers you'll lose completely by eliminating arts coverage as long as you can effectively sell the perceived public value of hard news while expanding popular dining and related soft/syndicated news. In another example, as page counts dwindle in print space, and digital content is prioritized, sports sections may run trend stories or business/recruiting analysis instead of next day scores and review. Similarly, election results may go digital-only, etc. But as more diverse, professionally created content is stripped away in favor of paid, nonprofessional, or owned off-market content, it becomes evident that the bundle is/was exponentially more useful and valuable than any particular sets of content. And by "the bundle," I don't just mean box scores, election results, stories about street names, horoscopes, and housing, I'm also counting newsprint's famously pejorative applications as fire-starter, birdcage liner, and hand prop for would be demagogues.

To borrow from the Columbia Journalism Review, "Despite all the flaws of the traditional newspaper — and there are many — the bundling of hard news and civic information with soft news, sports, comics, and more is amazingly effective at supporting broad-based political and civic engagement."

"From 2008 to 2009 civic engagement declined more sharply in Denver and Seattle than in other major cities—a result he attributes to the closures of the Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer during that period, which left them as one-newspaper towns. His conclusions are consistent with a 2013 study in the Journal of Media Economics, which similarly found that after The Cincinnati Post closed in late 2007, electoral competition and voter turnout declined in areas of Kentucky where the Post was the leading paper. It’s hard to prove a direct causal connection between the papers’ closings and reduced engagement, but other research has found that residents of areas where the newspaper market doesn’t match up well with congressional district boundaries were less informed about their representatives, which in turn caused legislators to be less responsive to their constituents’ needs."

So, you're a Gannett newspaper in Tennessee and your "readers have repeatedly told [you] they want to see more locally produced guest commentaries and letters to the editor." Have they? What a wonderful coincidence these super-thoughtful consumers are demanding such cost-effective (mostly free) content! Clearly Gannett, you have raised them right.
   
Consumer habits are no big mystery, so it's no insult to observe that allowing the public's interests determine public interest is like letting a toddler determine household nutrition standards. It's also bad business for companies who aren't nihilistically calculating managed blood loss against short-term profit. As an aside, and regardless of whether or not pulp has a future, this last bit touches on one of the reasons why fully digital models for local general daily news delivery, are still a sketchy proposition. Using both the digital-forward CA and Daily Memphian as examples, what's on offer is a basic selection of popular content (food/business/sports) and the kind of hard news everybody used to know about due to the social function of widely circulated newspapers, but which relatively few people may actually read/subscribe for.

As a perceived public good, journalism's power/value has always exceeded the technical reach of public affairs reporting and consumer advocacy. In other words, when newspapers were widely circulated, nobody had to actively consume hard news or advocacy to benefit from it. Going forward, this age-old assumption has to be modified to exclude deep familiarity, and with the understanding that presumed universal benefits for non-readers fade when techno/economic scales tip and enough non-readers can also be described as non-subscribers/consumers. This will be especially so in the absence of strong reciprocity and community engagement. Like newspaper properties whose practical worth is now weighted against tangible assets, once credit is lost, you're discredited.


The clip linked above is from the movie Hail Caesar. In it, you'll see George Clooney, dressed as a Roman soldier for his role in a manufactured religious epic. He's been kidnapped by a gaggle of weirdo communist writers who tell him that a man who understands economics and history can accurately predict the future. Now I don't claim any extraordinary insight into either of these fields, or any gift for precognition. But I did, rather flippantly, predict this change in direction, while ranting about newspaper history and economics, and their relationship to a controversial opinion column published in several of Gannett's Tennessee newspapers. I regret that the political-sounding headline, "MAGA Bro Pens Love Letter to MAGA CAP,"  may have kept some from reading media criticism that anticipates how modern economies and user habits will eventually yield more populist, probably non-professional content.

Welcome to eventually; Hail Caesar. 

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Sick Burn — Gannett: MNG "Not Credible"; MNG: "Gannett's not Believable."

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 3:24 PM

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Is it just me or is reality bending to look more like reality TV all the time?

In case you missed the news, Gannett has rejected a "vulture capital" firm's proposal to acquire the USA Today newspaper network and parent company to The Commercial Appeal.

Not only did Gannett reject MNG/Digital First Media's proposal, they also characterized the deal as being "not credible." That's not a complete surprise since the deal's prospects have ranged from "who knows?" to "it's all a sham" since it was announced and the market voiced its soulless approval.

“Buying Gannett is a tall task…I’m not sure Alden can get the financing to buy Gannett,” a media banker told The New York Post last week. The Post's story went on to note, "In fact, sources say that MNG’s ambition for years has been to be acquired by Gannett — and some speculate that friendly talks have already begun."

TWIST!

But Gannett's rejection was unsubtle: “Indeed, given MNG’s refusal to provide even the most basic answers to Gannett’s questions, it appears that MNG does not have a realistic plan to acquire Gannett." Shortly after the announcement MNG took its beef live.

Via ADWEEK:

MNG said in a statement that Gannett was the one to set up roadblocks to the discussion, which demonstrated that it was “not interested in seriously evaluating our premium cash proposal.”

MNG went on to say that Gannett’s plan for its digital businesses was “pie in the sky” and “not believable.”

This is in keeping with previous disses from Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund behind MNG/Digital First, which had previously released statements dogging “the team leading Gannett" for having, "not demonstrated that it’s capable of effectively running this enterprise.”

"The Death Star of Newspaper Chains," as  MNG had been called, still publicly insists that Gannett overpaid for digital assets and is currently "presiding over a declining core business," and cash flow. "Gannett’s deep structural problems are better fixed by experienced operators such as MNG,” MNG concluded.

Maybe this is all over now. Sniping happens when mergers loom. Still, it would make better television if, as the New York Post and Nieman Lab have considered, all this shit talk was just Alden Global secretly hoping to get with failed Gannett so the so called "pie in the sky" company could manage its newspaper properties too.    

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Friday, February 1, 2019

MAGA Bro Pens Love Letter to MAGA CAP: Dammit Gannett

Posted By on Fri, Feb 1, 2019 at 9:14 AM

"Nonpartisan" and "fair and balanced" journalism sound like great ideas. But they probably aren't what you think they are. They've been made to sound like best practices for ethical news gathering. But historically these ideas are artifacts of technology and capitalism.

I bring this stuff up because getting beyond all the usual ideological mess and straight bullshit like this tone-deaf nonsense from The Tennessean, is crucial to understanding why "writer and social media personality" Ryan Moore's weird love letter to his Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat appeared in Gannett newspapers including The Commercial Appeal.

A screen shot/excerpt from The Commercial Appeal.
  • A screen shot/excerpt from The Commercial Appeal.

America's partisan-funded press came skidding to a halt in the last quarter of the 19th century when new, high-speed printing made it possible for newspapers with enough up-front investment capital to distribute their products farther than ever before. Lots of attention is paid to the idea that "a biased news medium is bad for a self-governing people." But the thing is, at scale, it was also bad for business. Politically neutral papers could reach bigger markets becoming valuable to local interests and emerging national brands wanting less partisan places to advertise.  Economic realities forged the new journalistic ideals regarding what makes appropriate news content, not idealistic struggles for better information and freer reporting. And they still do.

A similar technological disruption bent the modern media mythos away from big-market "objectivity" toward a more useful narrative for an exploded economy: "fair and balanced." This works in a crowded field because you can't know the truth until you've heard every [hardline ideological] side, right?  When cable news blew up and America went from having only three major news networks to having so many choices you could no longer get by without a remote control, the basic idea of what constitutes respectable market shares reduced considerably. Niche marketing and partisan reporting made sense again. This is where Fox News comes from and with it the logical fallacy that all tits require right-wing tats. 

So what does any of this have to do with Gannett's MAGA-Man-crush?

Like I've said before, markets determine content and Tennessee remains a solid red patch on the political map. Gannett's earnings are in the shitter and its products, deformed as they are by a loss of local autonomy and investment, waste like plague victims. So much reporting and media opinion following the infamous MAGA-Teen's 15-minutes in the barrel, cast MAGA caps in a bad light, and judging by the color of those electoral maps I've linked above, that's the favored headgear of many if not most Tennesseans. In other words, the news smacked lots of Gannett's subscribers and potential subscribers right across the brim. 

Market served. "Tat" accomplished.

Moore's editorial is mostly familiar rhetoric about folks needing to be respectful of other folks and judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their stupid, racist hats. I could do a whole post on irony and the character of Moore's content, but that's not my purpose.

This stuff's candy — bulked up by outrage-shares and sweetened with hate-clicks. click to tweet
If serving readers/viewers/listeners is important it's probably not a good idea for news-oriented media to be in the business of promoting standard, white-male victimization narratives. If media serves a public good it's also probably a bad idea to participate in softening symbols that, regardless of what secret, special things they may mean to social media personalities, are also, inarguably, touchstones for white supremacists.

But c'mon! From a commercial POV this stuff's candy — bulked up by outrage-shares and sweetened with hate-clicks. Win-win for everybody! Unless the consumer was looking for information instead of a daily rise, in which case, not so much there.

Nevertheless, the story went big opening Moore's complaint up to a wider dialogue.

Top comment, Newsweek
  • Top comment, Newsweek

I'll conclude my rant by answering some rage-posts I've seen in my social media feed from folks justifiably wondering why MAGA-bro Moore is fronting all over their social media feeds. The real question is, why are you sharing it? And are you ready for more?

It's just business; thanks for yours.   

 

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gannett Layoffs Hit Commercial Appeal Newsroom

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 10:14 AM

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In December of last year, Fly on the Wall predicted layoffs would be forthcoming at Gannett sometime after the new year. It had seemed like an inevitability since November's dismal quarterly report and the call for early buyouts that always presages another round of cuts. 

Yesterday, it finally happened. On Wednesday, January 23rd, Gannett laid off newsroom employees at newspapers across the country.

Via Poynter:

Another brutal day for journalism.

Gannett began slashing jobs all across the country Wednesday in a cost-cutting move that was anticipated even before the recent news that a hedge-fund company was planning to buy the chain.

The cuts were not minor.

The CA, which lost many top-of-pay scale employees to the Daily Memphian startup and has been under a hiring freeze, appears to have fared better than many Gannett publications.

As of now only one newsroom layoff has been confirmed. Four open positions have been eliminated. This story will be updated as more is known.

  

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

On Gannett, The Commercial Appeal, and Digital First

Dead Pools & Death Stars

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 1:59 PM

"I am most afraid of our important, consequential work getting upended because our business model is further disrupted."

- Commercial Appeal managing editor Mark Russell in an interview published by Poynter.org, 1-13-2019.

"In April, The Post published the editorial headlined 'As vultures circle, The Denver Post must be saved,' calling on Alden Global Capital to sell the newspaper after it cut 30 more positions in the newsroom, leaving it at a fraction of its size just a few years ago. Then in May, three top figures at the Denver Post, including its former owner, resigned amid budget and staff cuts."

- From an AP report about Alden-backed Digital First Media's move to acquire The Commercial Appeal's parent company, Gannett Co. Published 1-14-2019.

If MNG/Digital First Media successfully acquires The Commercial Appeal's parent company, Gannett Co., it's time to start a dead pool. Only, instead of celebrity deaths, we'll bet on daily newspapers. Also, I'm calling first dibs: The Commercial Appeal, 2021 — RIP. 

After news broke that Digital First media was making moves to acquire Gannett, many local media watchers wondered if there was any juice left to squeeze from Memphis' already greatly diminished daily newspaper. It's a fair question, but only a tiny piece of the bigger picture. Whether or not the CA can withstand another round of screw-tightening, the market's certainly interested in finding out. Gannett stock rose 21 percent following the announcement and, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, this makes it harder for Gannett to, "justify turning its back on the offer," or go forward with plans to expand its own digital footprint by purchasing Gizmodo Media (Previously Gawker Media).

Frankly, if not for Digital First's reputation as "The Death Star of newspaper chains," the company's reasons for making an offer and encouraging Gannett to pursue other offers, might sound downright noble.
From the WSJ:

In the letter, Digital First accused [Gannett's] management of poor stewardship and of damaging the company’s financial position by making several “aspirational digital deals” that haven't paid off. It demanded that Gannett put all digital acquisitions on hold and hire bankers to review strategic alternatives. 

That sounds like the Gannett we all know. But to extend the Star Wars metaphor, this isn't Han Solo swooping in with his blaster to save the day. To borrow from Will Bunch at Philly.com:

"The dirty little secret is that DFM learned — at least for now — that it can sell longtime readers an inferior (or, to use the technical term, crappier) newspaper and only 10 percent of reach each year will cancel. Do the math, though, and it’s clear that much of America outside the biggest cities will become news deserts by the early 2020s, after Smith and his fellow hedge-funders have sucked out every last drop."

Is Bunch being alarmist? He's certainly not the only media watcher to sense a disturbance in the force. I caught a similar chill and the market's positive response to the Digital First news instantly called to mind a line in James T. Hamilton's 2003 book All The News That's Fit to Sell. When applied to the information business, economics really earns its reputation as "the dismal science."

Hamilton's book is aging well. It delves into how markets shape media bias with attention paid to how little the value of well-informed communities has to do with the value of commodified media product. It more or less describes and defines the kinds of changes we've all observed in local media markets. It's what happens when the public's interest shapes public interest and profit drives all.

via GIPHY

What happened to Alderaan can happen here.

The Digital First news took me back to that happy moment in 2018 when The Daily Memphian, a new startup, siphoned away much of the CA's top talent, effectively cloning the ailing Gannett property in a locally owned but digital-only environment. Most media consumers cheered, but I went full Cassandra on social media and any excitement generated by the prospect of a new information startup was dampened by the sense that we'd now crossed some kind of risk threshold. Every media  startup's a dicey proposition; now the Gannett-damaged CA had been cut in half — its talent gutted by a digital twin with good intentions. The idea of having no daily non-broadcast news source in Memphis within the next decade had to be seriously entertained.

In spite of recent and well-justified optimism, I once again submit my modest observation: The sky is falling. Maybe not for everybody and maybe not right now. But someday and soon and as reported elsewhere, there are no good guys in this deal.  But if Digital First takes Gannett there won't be a Commercial Appeal in 2022.

Write it down. 

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Commercial Appeal Shares Holiday Story of Messiah-Like Christmas Stocking

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 11:20 AM

When the holidays get hectic and stressful it's good for the soul to pause and remember the true reason for the season: Selling shit. Anxious for this yearly opportunity to serve a special convergence of reader interest and advertiser need, many news organizations, including the one that publishes this blog, create special gift guides. That's why it's so nice that The Commercial Appeal went a completely different way and told the story of a magical Christmas stocking that suffers for your favorite cook.
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Wait, never mind. It's just another gift guide. That "suffers" bit was just a typo. Our bad. Fly on the Wall has been hoping for miracles lately, and we thought this might be one.

Dammit.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Will The Commercial Appeal Face More Newsroom Layoffs?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 1:49 PM

Gannett: Newspapers lack resources to spellcheck their own names. Will likely cut more of these resources.
  • Gannett: Newspapers lack resources to spellcheck their own names. Will likely cut more of these resources.
Will The Commercial Appeal face more newsroom layoffs? Probably. Can the diminished daily newspaper withstand more cuts? It's hard to say. But before getting into any of that, I'd like to share a few of the things Maribel Wadsworth, president of USA Today Network, allegedly told Gannett employees during a company-wide conference call according to a report by The Nashville Scene. I'd then like to provide an easy to understand translation for folks who don't work in the print media and therefore won't be hip to the industry's famously colorful jargon.

• “As we continue this transition ... it's important to understand … that it will require us to think about our overall cost structure in alignment with profitability."

Translated: layoffs are coming.

• “Going forward, we will be a smaller company."

Translated: Layoffs are coming.

• “It’s gonna feel rocky at times. It just is. We just have to be very clear-eyed about that.”

Translated: Layoffs are coming.

Tennessean staffers were also told:

• “There is no plan for a mass layoff before Christmas.”

Translation: HAPPY NEW YEAR, SUCKERS!

None of this is surprising. Gannett's Q3 numbers weren't good. Digital growth isn't making up for losses in print and the company is looking to cut operating costs. In previous years, when the CA was a Scripps property, layoffs inevitably followed any efforts to recruit early retirees. It seems as though the trend will continue under Gannett. In November, a company-wide buyout offer targeted employees over 55 with more than 15-years experience. The deadline to take Gannett's offer of 30-35-weeks pay, and a possible bonus of up to $5,520 is December 10th. 

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Gannett Digital Sees Revenue Increase. That's the Good News

Posted By on Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 3:35 PM

G. CRESCOLI, UNSPLASH
  • G. Crescoli, Unsplash
Gannett Co. shared its Q3 earnings Thursday and the report contains some good news for The Commercial Appeal's parent company. Digital revenue is up by $3.3 million over last year. Unfortunately, digital gains couldn't keep pace with the $5.5 million in revenue lost from declining circulation. Publishing revenue is down $43.9 million with advertising and marketing taking a $26.5 million hit.

MarketWatch had a more detailed look at the numbers.

Revenue was $711.7 million, missing the FactSet consensus of $724 million and down from $744.3 million a year ago. Publishing revenue fell to $616.4 million, down from $660.3 million in the year-earlier quarter. Advertising and marketing revenue fell to $403.4 million, down from $429.9 a year ago. Print advertising revenue fell 16.7% to $204 million from $244.8 million a year ago, but digital advertising and marketing revenue rose 3.2% to $105.8 million from $102.5 million a year ago. Revenue from circulation fell to $258.9 million, also down from $264.4 million a year ago. 
The disappointing economic news arrives shortly after Gannett's latest letdown to loyal print subscribers. Deadlines weren't extended to allow even allow for even rudimentary coverage of the midterm elections. The news shouldn't have been surprising given the way out-of-state editing impedes timely sports coverage. It's also what you'd expect from a company now self-identifying as "an online news organization that continues to publish a daily, morning newspaper."

Industry analyst Ken Doctor's response to the election news practically anticipates Gannett's Q3 report. Writing for NiemanLabs, Doctor wrote, "that road to a mostly/fully digital future gets narrower month by month."

"Digital subscriptions — which sell at much lower prices than print ones, though with lower marginal costs — are gaining ground much too slowly. Given the combination of higher prices, a lesser product, and even increasingly erratic home delivery, print subscribers may provide less of a lifeline to the digital future than Gannett and other publishers now assume in their whiteboard calculations."


There's some evidence Gannett may be looking to cut employee costs again. A recent memo offered early retirement to employees 55 or older who'd been with Gannett for at least 15-years. 

"The Commercial Appeal is offering an Early Retirement Opportunity Program ("EROP") to eligible Guild-represented employees in the newsroom," the memo said. "Time is of the essence. We, therefore, ask that that you sign and return this document to me within 48 hours. The severance deal is based on 30-35 weeks' pay with a transition bonus of up to $5,520 determined by years of service."

But how about that digital? Up 3.2 percent! 

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Friday, November 2, 2018

No Next Day Election Results For Gannett Newspapers

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 10:54 AM

If there was ever a news item worthy of the "Dammit Gannett" tab, it's this. Via The Nashville Scene:
"Editors at the [Gannett] chain’s papers around the country were informed two weeks ago that deadlines for the print edition could not be extended in order to cover elections. As a result, Wednesday’s editions of The Tennessean, Commercial Appeal and Knoxville News-Sentinel will not have final results for some of the most closely contested statewide races in years."
JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks

“We do not believe print is a vehicle for breaking news," Tennessean vice president   and editor Michael Anastasi was quoted as saying.

Anastasi's not wrong, of course. Broadcast and online media do have advantages when it comes to live and breaking news. How that absolves daily print editions from obligations to print subscribers and expectations of  mere currency remains a mystery.

Folks who pay for paper say it with me now: Dammit!

UPDATE: NiemanLab weighs in:

"Conceptually, the push to separate print — “not a vehicle for breaking news,” that Gannett memo notes — from digital makes a certain sense, of course. And not adding any extra pages of newsprint for election results does save money. (“As you plan for print, please remember that we have tight controls on newsprint costs,” says the memo. “Any pages added need to be ‘made up’ by the end of the year preferably in November.”)

At the same time, it is those incredibly loyal print readers — the ones who have stood by newspaper companies through cut after cut in staff and in the product — who will now see that loyalty tested, again. Gannett, like a number of other newspaper companies, has more than a third of its print subscribers ages 70 or above in many markets. Most read in print; digital is a second and lesser option. (E-edition readers, who essentially get the print paper in digital form, will also be impacted by this decision.) Those subscribers, at Gannett and elsewhere, have seen their subscription rates hiked again and again, raised to the very limits of econometric modeling."
Ken Doctor's column notes that, in an effort to push more readers online Gannett is dropping its paywalls for 48 hours, enabling anyone with internet access to read Gannett's election coverage. It's a good read that takes a hard look at recent economic and subscriber history.

"What those numbers tell us is that that road to a mostly/fully digital future gets narrower month by month. Digital subscriptions — which sell at much lower prices than print ones, though with lower marginal costs — are gaining ground much too slowly. Given the combination of higher prices, a lesser product, and even increasingly erratic home delivery, print subscribers may provide less of a lifeline to the digital future than Gannett and other publishers now assume in their whiteboard calculations."
Read it all here.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

"Memphis Most" Promotion Showcases Parking Lot Under Interstate

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 2:16 PM

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You know what? I'm not going to complain. It could have been worse. It could have been.  Given the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal's batting average on stuff like this lately, we should all be thankful that the background photograph for this self-promoting ad was taken in Memphis. You can even see a little skyline in the upper left.
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But mostly, it's just a shot of Bass Pro's southern parking lot.
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Under the interstate.
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This isn't a recent issue. The ad's from July. But, like they say, if you haven't read it, it's still a parking lot under the interstate.

That's so Memphis. To somebody. 

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Commercial Appeal Sees Blurry Future for Ivan Rabb: Dammit!

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 10:51 AM

The Gannett owned Commercial Appeal has asked readers an important question: "Where will Ivan Rabb fit in?"
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Judging by the portrait of Dillon Brooks, Rabb will be the blurry power forward in the top-right background. Dammit. 
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Commercial Appeal Mistakes Memphis Band Lucero for Mexican Entertainer — DAMMIT

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 12:39 PM

Whoa! It's totally like we're seeing double.
  • Whoa! It's totally like we're seeing double.
Everybody makes mistakes, even your pesky Fly on the Wall. But the particular mistake I'm highlighting here makes me think it's time to abandon any faint shreds of almost certainly false hope we may have harbored that whatever's wrong at the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal will work itself out.

When the bot and/or out-of-towner editing Memphis' daily paper can't distinguish between Lucero the Mexican entertainer and Lucero the enormously popular Memphis band, there's a problem. When said bot and/or out-of-towner turns to a general image search instead of scanning the local paper's own archives, it's really bad.

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The error was made announcing the lineup for the Mempho Music Festival

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Commercial Appeal Names Harding Academy Volleyball "Volleyball of the Year"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 8:25 PM

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In the photograph to the right you can see an unnamed woman* holding onto a very special volleyball named Lauren Deaton. For those who don't already know her, Lauren is a Harding Academy volleyball. Go Lions! She was very recently named "Volleyball of the Year"  by The Commercial Appeal, Memphis' once proud, now Gannett-owned daily newspaper.

Lauren's father Wilson, the sports equipment whose life was famously celebrated in the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, had nothing to say about his daughter's achievement. He just sat there in silence, his crimson smudge of a face an infuriating enigma.  It was almost like he was saying, "Why wouldn't she be Volleyball of the Year?" So I got defensive and said, "What's your point?" But he just kept his silence while somehow also asking, clear as day, "Are you saying my daughter Lauren's not good enough to be Volleyball of the 
Wilson Deaton
  • Wilson Deaton
Year?" And I said "no" and we went on like that for some time before Wilson finally thanked me and bounced down the sidewalk. I watched him roll to his Mini Cooper where Lauren had been patiently waiting, also not saying a thing.

As the pair drove off I couldn't help but think I'd get better interviews if the CA would give awards to people instead of stupid balls. Maybe that's racist of me. I just don't know anymore.
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*Congratulations to the actual Lauren. Awesome job! We're sorry the CA makes it sound like you're gear. 

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The CA Takes a P — Dammit Gannett!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Look, Gannett, it's not that I've got so much going on in my life that I don't have time for your nonsense. It's just that there's so much more interesting nonsense to think about. Like, "Can anybody else see that face in the leaves outside my writing window or have I finally gone starkers?"
I've started calling him Leaf Garrett
  • I've started calling him Leaf Garrett
But I can't think about that now. Now I have to think about this. 
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Is it a "P" that's missing or an apostrophe? Maybe the reader worries for "parents in decline." Maybe she worries for "aren'ts" in decline. That doesn't make any sense unless kids today are moving away from contractions. I suppose I could scan the syndicated advice column to discover the truth of the matter but if I'm honest with myself I probably wasn't gonna read this filler content anyway. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dammit Gannett and other Media Follies — Long Weekend Roundup!!!

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 3:52 PM

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I planned to write a whole column goofing on WMC’s time machine. See, the well-intentioned tweet above notes that the City of Memphis was created 199 years ago (in 1819) and goes on to note that WMC has been “in love ever since” even though the 70-year-old media company was founded in 1948. Maybe you can be in love with Memphis retroactively, and find some kind of familial agape love to get you through the years of slave trading and civil strife. But who has time to dwell on that while Memphis still still has a dying daily newspaper to kick around? Especially when that newspaper has a time machine of its own. And instead of going back in time and not completely screwing itself up, the Gannett-owned sadness chose instead to bring back Houston High’s 2015 soccer team to win the state championship.
"Stop, you're BREAKING THE TIMELINE!!!"
  • "Stop, you're BREAKING THE TIMELINE!!!"


This weird and probably misplaced act of heroism seems to have adversely affected the timeline, devolving Gannett’s copyediting staff to the point they can’t spell the name of their own damn newspaper. 
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And, perhaps most alarmingly of all, the CA has begun to insert random photos of Burt Reynolds into its content. And not the good ones, either.
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