More media carnage: two Montreal AM stations shut down

Well, AM has been in touch ever since FM produced a higher quality sound, which meant most of the music migrated to that frequency, leaving AM to all news/sports/talk show formats. I didn’t know till the National Post told me (some value to newspapers still, providing more information in a less timely manner than their broadcast colleagues) that one of the stations shut down was the first radio station in Canada, dating back to Marconi. Worth reading for that alone.

National Post,  January 29 2010

Ad buyers echo Canwest motto: don’t break the papers up

Yeah, it may be easier for ad agencies to place an ad in all Canwest newspapers by only going to one source, but on the other hand, so what? After all, if a client says to an agency “I want to place an ad in every daily newspaper in the country”, they will gladly do so and for a handsome fee. So make em work, I say, and break up the Canwest chain and return to the Southam model: local newspapers locally managed.

Calgary Herald, Jan. 28 2010

The argument for buying online news

The Globe’s Leah McLaren, who I rarely read since I’m not a fashionista (we should all just wear Mao clothes and be done with it) nevertheless put together a very cogent argument for buying what used to be for free: newspaper news online.  I will be doing the same when the NY Times starts charging for online content. After all, what value does any news have if it’s free?

Globe and Mail, January 23 2010

CITY TV whacks local news

CITY TV has five stations, all of which except Toronto are losing their noon, five p.m., six p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, essentially leaving the morning show to do local news. And Rogers has the gall to state “We strongly believe in local television and we’re strongly committed to local television.” Oh yeah? Then why are you cutting local content? Some practitioners are so focused on staying on message they forget that the message doesn’t make sense. 60 jobs will be lost in all.

Globe and Mail, January 20 2010

Canwest papers: break em up and let local values thrive

Many stories on an effort to buy just three CanWest dailies: Toronto (aka The “National” Post), Ottawa and Montreal, as well as rumors of Alberta’s sovereign wealth fund wanting to buy the two Alberta dailies, and Jimmy (The Ax) Pattison buying the BC dailies. CanWest (why does it even have a voice in this?) is saying it wants to sell the papers as a block to build on those wonderful synergies that have resulted in bankruptcy. I say break em up, get out of the national/monopolistic mode, and go back to the Southam model: local papers run as independent entities reflecting local values, with some sharing of news/features when it makes sense. This might be a golden opportunity for Canadian newspapers to reflect their local characteristics, not the national ones directed from Winnipeg (why, for example, should two pages of the business section of my local CanWest paper, the Leader Post, be a goddamn reprint from the previous day’s Financial Post?) And they wonder why people aren’t reading them.

Toronto Star, January 18 2010

Newspapers drive blogs; newspapers disappearing. What next?

A Pew report notes that, in a study done in one week in Baltimore last year, newspapers (including weekly and specialty) continue to drive news coverage in all media, including blogs. The study refers to “the echo chamber of the Web”, in which most of that which is posted is uncommented on linkage.

Meanwhile, another study from Harris shows that 77 per cent of Americans won’t pay to read newspapers on the web. With traditional circulation falling, what happens to the blogosphere when the source of all news, the much-maligned newspaper, goes under?

Pew, January 11 2010

Harris, January 13 2010

Banks to Asper: we’re in charge now

I guess he still has an office somewhere and thinks he’s in charge of something, but Scotiabank straightened him out: the lenders are in charge and are going to get their money back regardless of Leonard Asper’s opinion. The Globe gleefully reported an exchange between the bank and Mr. Asper today on the front page of the Report on Business today. Give the Black Knight credit for spunk, but the truth is the old management is done.

Globe and Mail, January 11 2010

The future of Canwest newspapers

Here’s the official line: the lenders are looking for about $1 billion (to start) to sell the entire newspaper package. They will accept bids for seven weeks, narrow them down for another seven weeks and hopefully come up with the best price. If not, they will form a company, take it public and run it themselves as a new entity. In reality, they want as much of their money back and don’t want to be newspaper owners. There’s already speculation about buyers, ranging from Torstar to Metroland to Paul Godfrey to pension funds and who knows who else will come out of the woodwork. The line is that they are being sold as a package, which includes the money-losing National Post. They argue that you need a national newspaper to allow for advertising synergies with local newspapers. That argument has been in play for over ten years and it hasn’t worked, and no sharp-eyed buyer will buy it. If anyone buys it as a group, the Post will likely simply be shut down, which is a shame since the last four pages of the front section are the best newspaper commentary in Canada. Another option is to break it up and sell off the pieces, which already has some interest according to the Toronto Star, with groups looking at possibly buying the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen, and the Alberta dailies. The bottom line is that, regardless of the rhetoric coming out of Canwest and the lawyers, the lenders want the best price possible, whether that means selling the group or breaking up the group and selling the pieces. There is another model that everyone seems to have forgotten about: the original Southam model (pre-Conrad Black), in which each newspaper was expected to be managed locally to reflect the local market, with some common efficiencies in support areas like purchasing, HR, IT and so forth. That worked quite well for many decades, admittedly in the pre-Internet era.

Canwest to layoff another 120

Buried deep down in the story about Canwest’s ongoing financial woes is a note that “According to  the filings, Canwest intends to reduce those numbers (of 5,300 employees) by 120 as part of overall restructuring in the current fiscal year.”

Here’s a thought: why not start reducing those numbers from the top, and just work your way down the executive organization chart? After all, these are the bright minds that bought into convergence a decade ago, purchased properties at too high a price (hence their onerous debt load) all the while babbling management-speak about synergies and launching from multiple platforms. After all, in the free market place, shouldn’t bad management pay the consequences of their errors?

“Our Publishing group with a geographic footprint encompassing print, online and mobile audiences and reaching across this country is strong because of the synergies we’ve found by working together, leveraging our strengths and centralizing services that take significant costs out of the business,” said (CEO Dennis) Skulsky, who is now reporting to an independent committee off the Canwest board.

Financial Post, Jan. 8 2010

Niche magazines successful

Interesting story from FP/CBC about how micro niche magazines are becoming more successful than general interest magazines, which reflects what is happening in commercial television. Only when you get to the end of the story though does it mention these kinds of mags need substantial government subsidies to survive. Why not then for MSM?

CBC/FP, January 4 2010