Tribune unplugged

mainframe.JPGWhat will the newspaper of the 21st century look like? Can Tribune cut its way to growth?

What can possibly be done to cheat the death spiral its papers and those of the industry faces?

Tribune COO Randy Michaels offered one solution during its latest call with lenders:

“We went around to see what we could unplug. It turns out we were still maintaining the 1998 mainframe from Times Mirror. Nothing goes into it. Nothing goes out of it. And then we unplugged it and nothing stopped. So we’ve stopped the service contract, stopped the maintenance. We’ve actually disconnected about half of the equipment on the eighth floor. We have surplus air conditioning. While that may not be material, it represents the kind of opportunity that exists here. We’re busy changing the culture to save money.”

In other words, people don’t kill newspapers. Machines kill newspapers.

But not quite. People are to be blamed as well, Michaels suggested in the same breath, especially congregations of them:

Sam Zell: You’re fired! Now let’s move on…

Tribune Co is making good on its promise to use its own reporters to break news about Tribune. It’s not the company’s fault if that news is depressing.

Chief Executive Sam Zell held a conference call with reporters at its papers on Tuesday, prompting a profusion of press coverage in Tribune-owned publications on Wednesday. Some of the most interesting excerpts showed up in The Hartford Courant:

Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell Tuesday defended his decision to order large cuts at newspapers across the chain, including The Courant, saying that no one could have predicted the dramatic drop in advertising revenue that followed his takeover of the company seven months ago.

Talking bylines with new Chicago Tribune editor

gerould-kern.jpgTribune Co is keeping media reporters and headline writers busy these days with news of how the company is trying to turn around its newspaper business and stay afloat under billions of dollars in debt – all while creating a culture that, as Chicago real estate tycoon and newly minted press baron Sam Zell says, does not take itself too seriously.

That is growing more difficult as the company embarks on another round of job cuts at its papers, sparking fear and loathing among employees, and launches an ambitious plan to redo the papers’ sizes and looks. Tribune also set journalism types’ tongues a-wagging with its plan to review reporter productivity as a possible condition for staying on board. That might not sound so controversial, except that many people have interpreted that as saying it’s not about the quality of your stories, it’s about the quantity.

Gerould Kern, Tribune’s vice president of editorial and the successor to departing Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski, addressed some of these topics in a phone interview with Reuters.

More newspaper cuts… anyone surprised?

tribune-tower.jpgSo Tribune Co is cutting jobs at The Sun in Baltimore and Hartford Courant.

Not to sound callous, but by this point should anyone be surprised by news that a publisher is getting rid of jobs? After all, this is shaping up to be one of the worst years in memory for the newspaper business.

The upshot: The Sun will lose 100 jobs, 60 of them in the newsroom, and the Courant will cut about 60 jobs. (Don’t forget, Tribune is also cutting jobs at the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune)

But it’s not just Tribune. It seems everyone is cutting jobs as advertising revenue plunges thanks to the one-two combination of a weak economy and competition from the Internet for marketing dollars.

Sorting through the spending figures

calculator.jpgSurprise, surprise! Online advertising spending appears to have slipped quarter-to-quarter, the first time that’s happened in three years, according to a new report.

Before pulling your hair out, keep in mind that first quarter online advertising spending rose 18 percent from the year ago period – it’s just that it slipped from the fourth quarter,  according to the IAB. So while still robust, it seems that online advertising isn’t impervious to the economic troubles gripping the United States.

Another report, this one by PricewaterhouseCoopers, takes a longer view of advertising in new media. It finds that advertising tied to digital and mobile media will account for 24 percent of the growth in the media and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 19.5 percent to 2012.

Bud’s advertising: Drink it in while it lasts


What would a combined InBev/Anheuser-Busch do with advertising? It’s one of the questions already being tossed around in the wake of InBev’s $46 billion bid for the brewer of Bud and Bud Light.

One obvious problem for Anheuser-Busch, which spends about $475 million each year on advertising, is that their marketing focuses heavily on the idea of being an All-American beer and company.

That may not play so well when you’re owned by a company based in Belgium, we reported.

More Tribune layoffs coming? Not yet.

When we saw a memo hit the blogs this week saying that more Tribune layoffs could be coming, we put the reporting machinery into motion — only to find out that apparently it’s not true.

While future layoffs are perhaps inevitable, the latest memo authored by Chief Executive Sam Zell turned out to not be “latest” at all.

The subject line, which you can see at the Los Angeles Times Pressmens 20 Year Club, says “Reducing staff,” always a promising sign of news. Then there was this:

Yahoo: We’ve got announcements!

yahoo-night.jpgWhy announce one deal when you can do four?

Just a day after billionaire investor Carl Icahn called for the removal of Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, the company blasted out of the gate Wednesday morning, trumpeting deals with CBS,, Havas Digital and the newspaper consortium.

With CBS, Yahoo will carry some of its shows as the broadcaster continues to proliferate the Web with them through other partners AOL, Microsoft, and Google. For, Yahoo will be the primary marketing and sales channel for the retailer’s web site. Yahoo also said an additional 41 U.S. newspapers have joined its newspaper consortium, which lets them use Yahoo’s paid search system as well as have their stories carried over Yahoo properties.

Yahoo also inked a deal with Havas Digital to develop a proprietary media trading platform.

Cuban sees the Cubs in a whole new way

mark-cuban.jpgDallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went on Dan Patrick’s radio show on May 22 to talk about all sorts of things, but what got us interested were his comments about the Chicago Cubs, which he wants to buy (You can read about his thoughts on smoking marijuana here). No one seems to have picked up on what he said until an excerpt ran in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated magazine, which came out Wednesday. Here are his verbatim answers, with Patrick’s questions paraphrased by us:

Q: When you go to Cubs games, do you go to be seen?

A: I go to have fun. …I’ve turned down 99.9 percent of [news] interviews when I’m in Chicago. You don’t see me on every news station in Chicago trying to promote the fact [that I want to buy the Cubs]. That just defeats the purpose.

Q: Is chasing the Cubs like trying to get the girl you want to notice you? She’s expensive and you may not have a shot at her.

Cuban and the Cubs, a slam dunk?

cuban.jpgIt was a case of baseketball at the Sports Lawyers Association annual conference in San Francisco this week when the Chicago Cubs came up in conversation.

The Cubs, as most Media File readers know, is the pro baseball team being sold by Tribune Co as it looks for a way to dig away at its mountain of debt after it was taken private by Chicago real estate mogul and noted raconteur Sam Zell (careful with that link. It’s NSFW). One potential bidder is Dallas Mavericks owner and blogger Mark Cuban, who got quite a plug during the conference.

Thomas Ostertag, senior vice president and general counsel for Major League Baseball, was giving a state-of-the-sport speech to an audience of several hundred sports industry officials and attorneys. Here’s what he said about the Cubs: