Reshuffle at Yahoo, Microsoft shuffles on layoffs

Rumors of a Yahoo management reshuffling, two newspaper publisher bankruptcies and a bit of PR unsavvy on Microsoft’s part do not make for a quiet weekend. Although not exactly high-octane breaking news, the stuff kept happening in dribs and drabs throughout the weekend, leading me to update my Facebook status thus: “Anupreeta would have liked at least 30 percent more weekend.” But so it goes.

On Friday night, All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher reported that a major Yahoo management reorganization was underway, and could come as early as this week. The Wall Street Journal, which shares an owner — News Corp’s Dow Jones — with All Things D, followed with its own story a day later.

Then, Microsoft — a big employer of foreign workers which took some heat last month from politicians for announcing plans to lay off 5,000 people — dug its heels deeper into the mess. It seems the software giant overpaid some laid-off workers because of an accounting error, and now wants the money back. Yikes. Does Microsoft need to do more damage control than this?

Meanwhile, newspaper publishers continue to collapse like dominoes. On Saturday, Journal Register said it had sought bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest U.S. newspaper company to buckle under a load of debt and falling ad sales. Close on its heels, the Philadelphia Inquirer owner announced it too was filing for Chapter 11 — sending out the press release bang in the middle of Oscars.

Keep an eye on:

    Will Rupert Murdoch’s love of newspapers drag his entire empire down? Maybe, but that isn’t stopping the mogul from looking for alliances to save on costs. (The New York Times) Falling DVD sales could hurt the fortunes of media conglomerates. (Financial Times) Social networks are a telco’s best friend. (Reuters)

(Photo: Reuters)

Tax breaks (not bailouts) for newspapers

I ran a story on New Year’s Eve about the opportunities and perils that could face struggling newspapers if they end up surviving because of government help. I opened the story with the tale of Connecticut state lawmakers and a state commissioner who are trying to find someone to buy two Journal Register-owned dailies and several weeklies that are going to be shut down in January if they can’t be saved. From there, I explored the ramifications of government aid to newspapers.

The story got plenty of attention, though it looks like misinterpretation was rife. Many bloggers and news sources portrayed the Connecticut situation as a bailout, leading to plenty of ire directed at the lawmakers and the story. (Some conservative bloggers hinted that we deliberately omitted the lawmakers’ affiliation. For the record — they are Democrats. Also for the record: I had that in there, then deleted it, intending to put it somewhere else in the story. Then I plum forgot. No hidden agenda.)

So here’s what I’m expecting next and here’s what I still don’t know or understand. I’m eager to hear from folks who care about the future of newspapers in the United States to add their thoughts in the comments section.

My house, worth more than Journal Register?

I was reading a Forbes article about the distressing state of some of the worse-off U.S. newspaper publishers and how their debt threatens to send them into default, or worse yet, maybe out of business. That’s when I came across this distressing nugget:

The problem may be particularly acute for players who have concentrated on acquisitions in the last few years. For instance, Journal Register Co. (nyse: JRC – news – people ), whose stock was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange this year, bought nothing but trouble when it paid $415 million in 2004 for 21st Century Newspapers, a chain of Michigan papers that have been battered by a troubled U.S. automotive industry.

The company now has $642 million in debt and a market cap of a just $275,000 (not a misprint). It’s rated junk by Moody’s. Journal Register did not return a call for comment.

New York Times and Journal Register? Seriously?

journal-register-logo.JPGWe’ve written a lot lately about tiny Journal Register Co , the newspaper publisher that’s exploring its options — another way of saying that its survival is on the line. Among them is getting its lenders to restructure its debt so it won’t have to declare default. Another, which would depend on that, is taking $25 million from an Ohio-based investment firm and selling off a bunch of its failing newspapers.

The New Haven Advocate, which publishes in the same town as Journal Register’s largest paper, the New Haven Register, is reporting information nyt-logo.JPGthat seems about as reliable as reports of multiple gunmen at Dealey Plaza:

One of the options that we never considered, but apparently someone out there is pushing, is selling either some or all of the company to the New York Times Co. Here’s what the New Haven Advocate wrote:The financial free-fall and dwindling readership of the Journal Register Co. and its flagship Register are old news, but that doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t think they can turn the business around. JRC honchos won’t tell The Nose a thing, but a source inside the Reg hints that no less a monolith than The New York Times Co. may be a suitor.

Journal Register, a Shakespeare tragedy

shakespeare.jpgIn William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Prospero the exiled sorcerer frees the spirit Ariel from a tree. In much the same way, Ariel Investments has freed itself from a tree as well.

The Chicago-based investment firm reported in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it no longer owns any shares in Journal Register Co, the publisher of 20-some newspapers in the United States, including the New Haven Register.

Ariel officials declined to comment on why they sold their shares, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Journal Register was recently delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after its stock belly-flopped amid a ridiculously bruising advertising sales climate.