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.

Google’s Ad Chief Talks Up Local

If there were any doubts that Google is dead serious about local, those doubts were dissipated by VP of Advertising Sales Tim Armstrong during a Feb. 1 keynote address to the Software and Information Industry Association’s Summit in New York.

Until recently, local “has been a big challenge,” said Armstrong. But now, “it is probably one of the areas that is going to grow the fastest.”

Armstrong believes that local’s growth is likely to manifest itself in numerous ways. Just 170 terabytes of 5 million possible terabytes have been catalogued. Local stores, for instance, could be catalogued in terms of “physical stores,” “in-store mapping,” “co-op advertising,” and “inventory.” “Users want access to assets,” he said.

Borrell Survey: Focus on Local Video

In the many unsettled areas of new media, including local, the questions can sometimes be more interesting than the answers. This is especially the case in the new executive survey by our friends at Borrell Associates.

This round, the latest in a continuing series, focuses largely on the potential of online video advertising by TV stations and other local media channels – something that I think is often overstated by Borrell, but cannot be counted out. One question, for instance, postulates that “Virtual tours of stores, restaurants and other advertisers using streaming video become the preferred format for local TV website ads.”

Real Cities Revenue Up 50%

Real Cities, the national network run by Knight Ridder, has lost several key members of its executive team in recent months. That’s almost always a bad sign, especially given all the other problems that Knight Ridder faces. The network is also facing competition from Centro and others that smell an opportunity to simplify local buys for national advertisers.

But things may not be as bad as they look. In fact, Knight Ridder claims that Real Cities revenue is up more than 50 percent in the last year. Part of this is due to a general boom in national advertising in newspapers – some of which trickles down online. It is also attributable to a 25 percent boost in reach, with major sites like The Houston Chronicle newly coming on board in 2005.

How does the rise of Real Cities’ fortunes translate to its affiliates? An online publisher at one of affiliates told The Local Onliner that “Real Cities is a useful network, but we’re certainly not seeing 50 percent growth from that relationship.” Translation: We’ll hang in there until something better comes along.