Hearst board additions feel… papery

October 5, 2009

You have to give Hearst some credit for sticking to what it knows. Check the short biographies of the four company executives who are joining the publisher (and broadcaster’s) board:

  • George R. Hearst III, publisher of the Albany Times Union. Newspapers. Papery.
  • Richard P. Malloch, president of Hearst Business Media and senior vice president of Hearst Corporation. He used to run Hearst’s consumer books business before selling it to HarperCollins. Papery.
  • Scott M. Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication and senior vice president of Hearst Corporation. OK — a former Internet startup and venture capital guy, not to mention his career at NBC — maybe not so papery.
  • Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers and senior vice president of Hearst Corporation. He also ran the yellow pages business, though he seems less papery when you find out that he helped start the newspaper consortium with Yahoo. That has been a well meaning if not game-changing attempt to get newspapers and Yahoo to the point where they both feed each other big advertising profits.

Now, Hearst might be experiencing some tough times in the newspaper business, having closed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and having thought publicly about dropping the San Francisco Chronicle. At the same time, it’s not trying to save itself by changing everything it does and acting like a new media company.

One bit of possible wisdom that I hear people saying these days is: Why not manage your media business to deal with what it knows? The print business might be declining but, if managed properly, there might be a graceful way to run things that doesn’t erode what cash the business is making with no clear way of replacing it. Maybe these print guys know something after all.

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