Questions for Paul Godfrey

So,  Postmedia owner Paul Godfrey will be addressing the Regina Chamber of Commerce on Monday Dec. 20. I’d go, but I don’t want to waste $50 to hear the same blather about uniting the web and newspapers (it’s so 1999.) Some questions from the investment/business side that I hope the audience raises with him:

1. Why haven’t you fired everyone above the rank of publisher from the old CanWest days, for cause (the cause being they managed the company into bankruptcy)?

2. Why haven’t you shut down the National Post, which has consistently lost money for the past 12 years, and is leeching money from the profitable dailies?

3. Why are you giving your content away free on the net today while subscribers pay to read about it in tomorrow’s newspaper?

4. Why not adapt the New York Times model, and only allow subscribers to have free access to the website; anyone else who wants to visit your sites should pay a fee?

5. And why can’t you settle whatever problem you’re having with Greyhound so stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan can receive the National Post? And how do you expect to have a national newspaper that won’t provide home delivery in six provinces (Atlantic Canada, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) And one more time, why don’t you just shut it down? I haven’t read it in two months since I can’t buy it herer and can honestly say I’m not missing it.

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Gazoo drops Sunday edition

The Montreal Gazette (Gazoo to Aislin) announced it’s dropping its Sunday edition in August. Is this the first great step of the day old PostMedia, cutting back (again.) With the National Post dropping its Monday edition this summer, for the second year in a row, is this the dawning of the Tuesday to Saturday newspaper (which some US papers have done, sometimes going to three or four “dailies” a week.

CBC, July 16 2010

Memo to Paul Godfrey

Here are some thoughts, gratis, on how you might make the newspapers of the former CanWest viable again, economically and journalistically.

1. Kill the National Post. While I have long argued about the need for various media voices, in this case the gangrenous NP needs to be amputated before it infects the rest of the newspaper group. Bay Street has been advising this since 1998; maybe they know what they’re talking about.

2. Fire everyone above the title of publisher in the newspaper division. These are the same people responsible taking CanWest into bankruptcy. Keep the local management in place, since it seems to be making money locally.

3. Your business model is not convergence; that failed everywhere ten years ago. Look to the Southam model, successful for 150 years, of local newspapers run locally to respond to local demand. If they are responsive locally, and profitable locally, everyone wins.

4. Forget about “economies of scale” where ridiculous things were done in the name of efficiency like trying to centralize everything in one place; e.g. one travel desk, one foreign desk, one arts desk. The Asia-centric concerns of the BC papers are going to be radically different from the government-concerns of Ottawa.

5. You can still have national columnists, the way the old Southam had writers like Charles Lynch. If they’ve got something of interest to day, local newspapers can decide whether to include them or not.

6. Rejoin CP. OK, not much of an economic argument here, but since CP has fallen on hard times since CanWest left, the least you can do is bring back our only national wire service by coming back to it.

As I develop or hear of any other ideas which will help you, I will be sure to pass them on.

Kindest regards,

Bill.

Familiar dread at CanWest

The dread of convergence hangs over the “new” CanWest whose newspapers have been bought out by a consortium led by National Post publisher Paul Godfrey. Here’s some of the language that’s making me nervous:

“An integrated, multi-platform news and information company

Our potent brands are composed of a pan-Canadian mix of major metro newspapers, the National Post, a wealth of superb digital properties and community newspapers.

This Canadian solution has limitless potential and will prove to be most rewarding for all of our stakeholders.”

Eh? Why don’t we go the whole nine yards on cliched business/convergence bafflegab and talk about “leveraging content by launching from multiple media platforms.”

Godfrey et al plan to take this public in a few months. Who would invest in a company with a history of taking its stock from $22 a share to 22 cents a share, and bankruptcy, particularly when it espouses the same business “strategy” that blew it up in the first place?

Convergence rears its ugly head again at Global takeover

Remember convergence, the hottest trend of 1999? “We’re going to leverage content and launch from multiple platforms?” (translated from biz jargon, it means taking TV shows and running them on wireless devices like Ipods, laptops, cell etc.) It killed AOL Time Warner and CanWest, but Jim Shaw says the new Global is going in the same direction. Bay Street is skeptical, calling it, at best, a gamble. I wouldn’t buy Shaw shares right now; business ego seems to have no end, particularly in family run enterprises.

Globe and Mail, May 5 2010

CRTC non-decision lays an egg

I’m back, and I’ll pass on Ann Coulter thanks (if you ignore them, they do go away.) Of more import is the CRTC’s non-decision on fee for carriage to dump the whole thing back to the two entities that can’t agree on it: over the air TV companies and cable companies. J-source rounds up the media opinion, which is universally negative (you’d think a regulator could actually regulate). Meanwhile, CBC-TV seems to be asking for its share of cable revenue as well. Pretty rich. We’re all paying for CBC TV through our taxes, then CBC wants us to pay for receiving it on cable. Talk about double taxation….

J-source, March 23 2010

Sigh, Aspers won’t go away

You know, when the blind, failed king Oedipus was humbled by his hubris, the people of  Thebes gently led him away from the plagued city. So can someone gently lead the Aspers away from Canwest? It’s in today’s ROB: “Aspers bid to reclaim newspaper chain.” It’s too depressing to link to. Shouldn’t there be a law that when you crater a company, destroy its share value to pennies and sink it into bankruptcy, you should just leave and let someone else resurrect it?