Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The State of the SF Chronicle; Still Losing Wads of Money; Newspapers in the News; WashPost Latest Sold

Newspapers, unfortunately, continue to be a dying breed. Did you see what the NY Times sold the Boston Globe for? To think the Times paid a little over a billion dollars for the paper just two decades ago is indicative of the state of the industry.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, just paid $250M, (in cash), for the heralded Washington Post.

It's no secret here in the Bay Area that the Chronicle has been losing money for many years. Lots of money, like a million dollars a week at one point. It helps that the Chronicle is owned by a mega-media company like Hearst Corp. but at what point does the endless amount of red ink cause surrender?

The Chronicle installed a paywall recently; it has no doubt raised much-need revenue for the newspaper, but its website, SFGate, (the free portion), still gets the bulk of usage and is in the Top 10 of most-frequently viewed newspaper web sites in the country. Even with its digital traction and newfound Internet subscribers, the Chronicle still loses wads of money.

Even with all its murky financial status, I have never heard that Hearst is actively trying to sell the Chron. For one, Hearst knows the paper and its website still command considerable cultural weight in the Bay Area. They also know that although the San Jose Mercury News and its sister publications recently freshened up its online content, the Merc, deep in the heart of Silicon Valley, still doesn't have the cachet of Hearst's Chronicle.

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  1. The WP sale has me intrigued.

    What does Bezos know/have planned that everybody else doesn't.

  2. It will be interesting to see what Bezos does with the Washington Post. This deal represents a convergence of "old media" (The Post) with "new media" (Amazon). I hope he can bring the same success to the newspaper industry that he has to on-line commerce.

  3. Well, I have seen some startups that claim to be able to match ad dollars/advertisers to editorial/news content so maybe that is what Bezos is thinking as well. Lots of people have been trying to turn around the newspaper industry. The only successful one I can think of is the WSJ and they are really unique (Deseret News is another one with a unique model but I have no idea how they are doing financially). But the eyeball ad model is broken. Advertisers can get better ROI from search, mobile, social and performance based digital advertising than they can from print display.

  4. 6 or 7 years ago The esteemed editor of the SF Chron Phil the Komodo dragon Bronstein Told the Used Mattress Queen Quote People love the feel of ink on there fingers. Our paper will be around in it's current form making money. long after the NYT has gone Internet only.

    1. Yes I remember the interview as well.
      He sounded very confident if not a tad bit smug.

  5. "This deal represents a convergence of "old media" (The Post) with "new media" (Amazon)."

    Given that the business of the old media is influence peddling, I can only hope this purchase marks the start of its demise. Rather than expose and condemn the lobbyists who've bought the government out from under the people, the WP (like the NY Times and so many others) has instead used its power just as lobbyists use their money -- in pursuit of a political agenda.

    Jeff Bezos has used Amazon to deliver value to consumers; I can only hope he intends to use his newspaper to deliver value to the electorate. It's now or never.

  6. Rich,

    How many paid online subscribers does The Chronicle have?

    How many hard copies does it sell a day?

  7. Post at 12:17
    The Chronicle will never release those figures. The paid subscription numbers are scary.
    It is the same reason you never read a story of the latest subscription stats from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
    The Chronicle is still trying to hold on to the idea of reading the "newspaper".

  8. It seems that most of the recent newspaper acquisitions have been less "vanity" purchases and more likely seen as "vehicles" to enhance/expand other entities within the buyer's portfolio.

    It would be great if Zuckerberg or Ellison could think of something that buying the Chronicle would help them accomplish.

  9. Why am I not hearing the same outcry of concern when it was thought that the Koch brothers might buy the LA Times?

  10. SF Gate...one of the Top 10 newspaper sites in the contry?? REALLY???

    I lived in SF for a decade...have since moved on...and have lived in seven major metro areas in the country. I like to keep tabs on my former home-turfs, so I log on to the dominant newspapers in the area.

    I love the Bay Area--miss SF greatly...which is why I read the SF Gate site religiously. But I can honestly say that it is one of THE WORST online newspaper sites around. It's not "user-friendly"---and seems to list "fluff" stories more prominently than "REAL" news stories. And it seems to keep "old" stories on the front page forever.

  11. One less left-wing nut newspaper to read.
    Good news for America.
    You want news? Look no further than the Drudge Report.
    In the month of July alone they had 944,000,000 views.
    Try that liberal media!

  12. Two weeks ago I subscribed to the SFChron and USA Today on line. Reading the paper on line takes some getting use to but it is there as early as 2:45AM. After running to my local 7-11 daily to find one of the two papers or none of the two due to non-delivery; online was my best choice. Like it or not, home delivery is on the way out. Fifty years ago I made my spending cash as a newsboy. Being a newsboy helped built positive character traits in me which last to this day. PRINT NEWSPAPERS, REST IN PEACE.

  13. Rich, can you discuss the local radio talking heads? I listened to Savage briefly tonight until he viciously laid into a female caller whom he incorrectly labeled as hysterical, etc. The poor woman couldn't even articulate her thoughts because Savage was cutting her off and berating her...awful!! He does this all the time to callers. He NEEDS TO GO...thrown out in his arse. $8 mil ??? Time to cut the losses.

  14. Cachet? The Chomicile is the worst big city newspaper in the country. Even my lib friends who subscribe ridicule it. I read it when I was a kid and when I went east on vacation I was stunned by how much better the east coast papers were. Now they suck too but the Chron is still the lowest.

  15. The big problem is that young people especially don't read newspapers anymore. Thery also don't listen to terrestrial radio anymore. Yes, they read blogs, they tweet, text and listen to their i-pods, but that hardly qualifies as the same thing.

    It's a 'brave' new world out here in the 21st century! The sad thing is that the alternatives to the traditional media have few checks and balances and very little credibility. This is a very dangerous situation in a country where free speech and open access to information is a key part of our Democracy.

    I fear for our future, but so many Americans (especially young people), don't seem to care. They're more interested in watching some nonsense of youtube or texting their buds about some nonsensical insignificant little item that has no relevance, other than gossip material. Why do you think trash TV is so popular now?

    I don't see good things ahead for this country if the majority of our young people are raised not realizing that a credible, free press is a key part of our society.