Tribune-KR-Gannett: After Knight Ridder

Everybody knows Knight Ridder is “over,” as a former executive recently put it to me. But what does that mean to “TKG,” Tribune, Knight Ridder and Gannett’s joint venture to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into CareerBuilder, a successful recruitment portal; ShopLocal, a fast-growing but jury’s still-out online inserts and sales portal; and Topix, an online news sorter that is cutting edge but commercially undeveloped.

Also at stake, but more peripherally, are Knight Ridder’s 1/6 role in Classified Ventures, which produces Cars.com, Homescape and apartments.com, and recently purchased HomeGain. It also holds a minority share in Tribe Nets, a social network that is experimenting with games but is a probable write-off.

If Knight Ridder is sold, TKG has change of control provisions in place that could provide allow the other partners to buy CareerBuilder and the other online properties under their market value. If Gannett is the buyer, it would be a relatively seamless change, although Gannett would become a very dominant part of the consortia, to the discomfort of Tribune. If McClatchy is the buyer or a venture firm, it isn’t as clear. One assumes that McClatchy or other buyers would maintain the CareerBuilder affiliation, but might not participate as partners.

Daily Candy Tempts Local Media Companies

Daily Candy, the fashion-and-trends newsletter with local editions in eight markets and copy right out of “Sex and The City,” is on the block for $100 million. The value seems high, but its young, trendy, female readership could be a good fit with media companies like Fox or IAC that want to hit the local marketplace in non-traditional, non-journalistic formats.

Our guess is that it would be less of a fit with strait-laced, sales-oriented sites like ShopLocal; online Yellow Pages like Verizon SuperPages that are trying to create a retail connection; or the increasing number of newspapers that have developed online shopping verticals. But that’s ok. The latter, especially, would balk at the price, and the journalism.

Daily Candy was started in New York in 2000. After receiving a $3.5 million cash infusion from former AOL President Bob Pittman in 2003, the site has now expanded to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and starting in March, Atlanta.

Austin American Statesman Gets Micro

The Austin American Statesman is going full hog to recruit its progressive, Web-savvy community into the blogosphere. Speaking at the recent SIIA conference in New York, Internet General Manager Jim Debth said the paper’s Website, Austin360.com has recruited 600 bloggers, who are writing 1,700 “reader blogs” on music, movies, TV , Food & Drink, and […]

Why Aren’t Newspapers ‘Real’ Info Companies?

When I was in graduate school in 1985, my economics class was honored with a visit by Tony Hoffman, a noted financial analyst. Hoffman’s key premise was that the real value of USA Today wasn’t the daily circulation, it was the archival value of the daily graphs that the paper features: “How many pounds of ice cream are sold every year,” etc.

At that time, there was a sense that newspapers had a core value as strategic information companies. Knight Ridder still had Dialog, and things appeared to be moving fast into the computer age.

Today, we have few illusions that newspapers do much more than provide throw-away, consumer-oriented news, wrapped around advertising. Sure, some newspapers, especially The New York Times, make secondary revenues on their archives from databases serving the academic, library and legal communities. But newspaper content rarely gets repurposed into more strategic and high end products. For that, newspapers sit on one of the lower rungs of the information industry, just above Yellow Pages, the TV Nets, Val-Pak coupons and The Entertainment Book

Thomson: Life After Newspapers, Up Value Chain

Thomson President and CEO Richard Harrington opened his keynote at SIIA’s Summit in New York Jan.31 by noting that Consultant Lee Greenhouse praised him as “the best newspaper guy I know. You got out of it.”

Indeed, Thomson bailed out of the newspaper industry in 2000, selling 150 daily and community papers at a peak price of $3.5 billion. “In 2000, newspapers were going into a seven year cycle,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ll come out of it. But people aren’t betting on it.”

The sale was accompanied by the sale of Thomson’s travel business. Summing up the divestiture of two core businesses, Harrington noted: “We did not see how they would be sustainable businesses. We chose to go after high-end knowledge workers.”

Today, Thomson is the second largest information company (after Reed Elsevier) with 2005 revenues estimated by Outsell Inc. at $8.81 billion – more than $2.58 billion bigger than Gannett. More than 70 percent of its revenues come from electronic services. More than half are on the service side.

Craigslist CEO: We’re No eBay Front

Let the conspiracy theorists have their day. Craigslist is going to continue to do things in its own merry way. It doesn’t expect to step up its activity with minority owner eBay, it isn’t worried about competition, and it isn’t especially embarrassed about its hard-to- search, thin-featured, plain-vanilla technology. All of this according to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, speaking Feb. 1 at the SIIA Summit in New York.

Buckmaster painted a picture of a company that is focused on reaching as many markets as possible and as quickly as possible – while broadening its demographics, which started with “20-30 somethings, but is now skewing older, with lots of users in 40s, 50s, even 60s.” Next up is the targeting of dozens of smaller markets.

While most of the site is free, and will remain so, Craigslist is charging $75 for recruitment ads in the Bay Area, where it has a dominant position. Buckmaster scoffs, however, at former SF Gate GM Bob Cauthorn’s SWAG that Craig has “sucked $50 million” out of the market, mostly at the expense of The San Francisco Chronicle and SF Gate. “It sounds high to me,” he said.