Friday | Aug. 29 | Got news, or a question?

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48 Responses to “Friday | Aug. 29 | Got news, or a question?”

  1. Jim Hopkins Says:

    To keep things fresh, I’ve just started this new open-comments string. You can always return to earlier editions by clicking on the Real Time Comments label in the blue sidebar, to the right.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I got the inside skinny on Metromix. What they are about to do is force advertisers who want to buy entertainment ads to combine their print ads with the Metromix listings with a premium. This will come at an increased price. A very stupid move. It will only drive advertisers away because business only looks at the bottom line, which is my ad costs me more. They tried this with Shop Local, and it didn’t work. Don’t these morons realize we are in the midst of an advertising recession?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    So 9:22 let me get this straight; Anything Gannett does is stupid and when they don’t do anything their also stupid? Please share your wisdom. Give Dubow and Dickey four suggestions that will work. Enlighten us, give us some insight what you would do if you were in charge. Enough already with everything the company does is proposed by some moron. What don’t yuo naysayers share some ideas. You won’t because you can’t. Bitching is easy, finding solutions now there is a foreign concept for 9:22 and his/her pals. And no my complaining friend I am not some high paid ‘Moron’. I am just another Gannett employee trying to get through another week, but this crap has got to stop. Couldn’t you even give them a little time before you piss all over the idea? Nah, that’s probably asking too much.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    So, 9:36, inform me how raising ad rates in the midst of an advertising recession is going to work to get more revenue? You obviously don’t have to sell this crap.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    CRAP is just how the community advertiser view the products too.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    still waiting for your ideas! cat got your tongue?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Here are ideas that apply to print and online:

    — Cut ad prices and aggressively court new advertisers.
    — Treat the ads with respect, display them in attractive ways, add an ad directory to print and online. Look at how high-dollar magazines do it.
    — Deliver the papers. Newspaper reading is a habit, and it infuriates people when we don’t feed the habit we sold them. We are shooting off our own kneecaps by allowing circ. customer service to go into the toilet.
    — Quit wasting editorial work hours on page after page of trivial police/court stories and school menus. Hire stringers for the little crap and focu skilled workers on interesting, amusing, touching, compelling and significant stories that capture readers’ attention.
    — Pump up personality and passion. Make the product something people can’t stand to miss. Look the most successful online products out there; they didn’t turn into money makers by being wimpy and generic.
    — Market the damn product. Sell it at least as aggressively as local TV news, who manage to convince people they are hard-hitting investigators because of the way they trumpet one or two stories a year.
    — Scrap the miserably inefficient, ineffective, outdated, bloated software GCI has shoved down everyone’s throats. Give local IT and online talent room to make local solutions.
    — Throw out the top-down schoolmarm nonsense and reward editors who make vibrant, LOCAL products.

    What are your ideas, 10:22?

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I am still trying to figure out how we are making things better in ad sales. we are short in sales and active accounts for another quarter, so lets raise rates a 2nd time this year. WOW managment is smart… Oh yea lets role out 3 special section a month… That helps. Any ideas we can tell managment?

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I completly agree with you ideas to make things better 10:52. Now tell managment in Salem Oregon this.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Four ideas:
    1. Double commissions for ad sales, and institute a bonus program as generous as that given executives for those whose sales exceed their goals.
    2. Permit the sales force to sell ads only for newspapers by divorcing newspaper from Internet sales. Scrap Internet quotas.
    3. Expand circulation districts instead of contracting them to close-in metro areas.
    4. Expand sales of the paper by returning to street vendors, small volume stores, and bringing back more street boxes.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    sounds like you are a good candidate for CEO of a small non profit organization. Get back to us when you have a couple of ideas that will actually make some money.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    What simplistic moronic babble. The 2008 + media world is complex and outside pressures/ad environment near impossible. Thank god most disgruntled miserable wishing for the 80s Gannett losers commenting here will soon be laid off and the rest of us can get back to work and try to save our business.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Lifted from an investor blogging on owning Gannett stock.

    In short, this dying business has generated an average annual structural free cash flow of 5.32 $ in the last ten years to 2007, $4.41 in 2007 fiscal year and $3.46 in the first half of this year alone.

    I’d love to die this way.

    It’s true that the business is slowing and the company has quite a challenge to face, a shift of paradigm. But it’s also true that its expertise could very well capitalize on the new opportunity. The moat of an established publishing company (Gannett is one of the world leaders) can’t be seriously challenged by you, me or start-up companies, even in the internet era. All the Googles of this world will not be able to completely eat its lunch; they will keep a defendable niche and even counterattack, exploiting the convergences of the contemporary world’s media. Guessing about the future of a business resembles prophecy more than analysis, but that’s true for everyone.

    Today you can buy Gannett for $18 – 61% less than one year ago.

    I could be very well crazy, but if someone offers me to buy a business whose enterprise value discounts just 6.64 times the average annual structural FCF of the last ten years, 8 times that of 2007 and 5.1 times that of the first half of this year annualized, well, I’d buy.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    11:10 PM
    Even if all the “disgruntled miserable wishing for the 80s,” vanish from Gannett, how do you propose to save the business when you still have to face all the disgruntled customers (readers and advertisers) who long for the days when news organizations reported the news?

    Near impossible ad environment, you say? Tell me this please. What’s your product? (I’ll give you a hint—people usually turn to news organization to get news.)

  15. Anonymous Says:

    A 41 year employee, the station’s front desk receptionist was just shown the door at WUSA.

    An automated phone system was her demise. Word is she got some sort of severance.

  16. Jim Hopkins Says:

    All: I removed a series of comments this morning, placed by a reader who signed them in someone else’s name. Do not do that. You are just making more work for me, and I already have enough. Thank you.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    All you guys seem to be missing something that, at least here locally, is a very big problem. When advertisers BUY their ads as inserts or post it notes it is a crap shoot as to whether those ads will be printed, much less delivered to the targeted subscribers.

    I know of at least three BIG local advertisers that no longer advertise because their purchase never reached the targeted readers.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t understand what is happening, but my guys say their ads just aren’t drawing. I have never seen an economy like this one.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Thirty young, up and comers got their legs knocked out from under them in The Arizona Republic’s pressroom yesterday… These people are (were) the future of Gannett which goes to show you the direction this company is headed. Kudos go to Bob Kotwasinski for playing the role of the strong-arm, and special thanks go to Gannett CEO Craig Dubow and Gannett’s Board of Directors for holding the gun to Bob’s head. Hell of a way to come to work knowing that if you don’t cut, then you’ll be the one that is cut. But that’s Gannett!

  20. rmichem Says:

    Gannett owned, WKYC, ran the Browns game last night. Unlike the national showing of pre-season football,they did not cut off to showed the start of Obama,( they went to the middle of it after game was over )accepted speech. Despite, they made mention, of the fact that they were going to. Racism, or more ad dollars by Gannett’s owned WKYC, You be the judge.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    This ranking of news Web sites and their year-over-year growth spells bad news for USA TODAY:
    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003840003

    Why is it that USAT’s site is down in unique visitors at a time when other news sites are seeing dramatic increases in traffic? It’s not for want of hard work — people at usat.com are working essentially double-time to meet the increased focus on the site by USAT mgmt. The real reason is that the company yet again will not spend the money to invest in the technical resources the site needs to be great. The NYT’s site is great — and they have an enormous IT shop supporting it. USAT’s IT resources are a shoestring by comparison.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    The economy is horrible. Car dealerships and furniture stores are cutting prices any way they can, hence, low ad sales and if they do buy ads, smaller ads and less frequent. It wasn’t that long ago that the paper I worked for was putting out a “special section” every day of the week in a futile attempt to glean every advertising dollar possible from advertisers. How can you continue to sell ads when you’re selling a “Salute to Nurses” section on Monday, a “Welcome to new businesses” on Tuesday, a “”Casino Magic” on Wednesday, a “State of the State” on Thursday, a “Profile (your state here) on Friday and a “Truck and SUV Special” on Sunday? Graciously, no section on Saturday.

    Eventually advertisers say WTH!

    Whatever happened to news coverage?

  23. Anonymous Says:

    8:53 AM
    That’s a great question that would best be directed to the unique visitors who leave their comments and feedback on all those websites, don’t you think.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    10:52 is exactly right and someone should share his list with Gannett NJ.

    Because the economy is weak, our ad rates need to be reduced and our service increased if we are to serve the ad consumer so they can come back strong enough to pay higher rates in a recovered economy.

    With the online capabiliites unlimited and with relatively no overhead, there’s no excuse not to press for local, local, local and more, more, more advertising. With online, we can offer a record of how many people clicked on the ad consumer’s link.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    One of the things about being in the business for 20+ years is the perspective and experience with down markets. They ALWAYS recover. If this is your first down market,let me say this: it will recover. The newspaper market is worse than usual due to the “perfect storm”: high news print, lower circ, and bad econmoy.
    But dont write off newspapers and all the efforts to move the local papers online while still supporting the print edition. A recent study by the respected PEW, says local newspaper sites are more visited and trusted than any other local site online. Together, many of us will weather this storm.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    9:32, you are correct. But if Gannett has cut so deeply into its news staffs that the news content is minimal and badly done, what then?

  27. Anonymous Says:

    “Get back to us when you have a couple of ideas that will actually make some money.”

    Are we making money now?

    I know profits are all the way down to 25% in some places. That’s basically non-profit in GCI terms.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    I’d suggest that Corporate actually “listen” to what the peons in the lowest ranks have to say about the “landscape” of the markets.

    Corporate can declair whatever objectives they choose, they can pressure the Ad and Circ departments to work harder and harder, adjust the same lame sales pitches but…the customers/readers plain and simple aren’t buying it.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    At my paper in NJ I have yet to see an advertisement for our website or for that matter our newspaper. A few years ago, five or more at least, there was some advertising done on the “It’s all about you” campaign that the Asbury Park Press was presumably heading. But since then if you were not a reader of our paper then you wouldn’t know it existed without stumbling onto it. We only advertise our website through our paper which has a declining circulation. As I meet people for stories I ask if they know of our website, the majority say “No.” People can not go to our publications without knowing they exist. Are there any papers or websites throughout the country that are actively advertising?

  30. Anonymous Says:

    The local station airing the Titans/Green Bay game didn’t cover the convention either. So I really doubt that the stations decision to cover the Browns was unique or racist. FCS* it (the convention) was on no fewer than 4 channels here even without the ABC affiliate who was covering the Titans.
    *For Christ’s sake

  31. Anonymous Says:

    11:14 AM
    And just what might those advertisements you’re suggesting honestly tell people? In other words, what are people missing by not going to one of the news sites?

  32. Anonymous Says:

    NOTE: What follows is a rather long comment about the state of the newsroom. It is targeted for USA Today folks, as they meander through mergers with online and other challenges, but in some ways applies to the entire industry. I posted it in another section of this blog, but I am afraid it might go unseen, so I am posting it here too. I’ve also asked Jim to separate it out into an individual item. It seems to be getting a good response. I am encouraging those who read it to direct people here, or copy and paste it and send to your supervisors or others at the top. I don’t ask this out of ego, as I am just a humble, lower-level editor, but I think some of what is said is very important to our futures and to USA Today. I am hoping for a greater good to come of it. I intentionally tried to steer away from malicious attacks and gross speculation. I tried to be constructive without being blantantly insulting to anyone. However, some things just have to be stated somewhat bluntly. My intent was not to offend, but to shine light on a massive problem and to spark deeper thought about how we going about reinventing our industry, and how decisions big and small are reached. It’s long. It starts off slowly but hopefully makes points that resonate thoughout the newsroom, so please stick with it. I am refering to myself as 12:27, so any direct comments or questions for me can be addressed as such. Here it is:

    I concur that many USA TODAY editors are lacking in various ways as managers and visionaries. Too many are into simple labels and simple solutions. While some folks might be afraid of change, I am not one of them. And I am an editor! I am a manager who,perhaps surprisingly to some, tends to agree with a lot of what is said here. Where I see smoke, I tend to think there is fire. And I see a lot of smoke on this blog. Granted, there are also some purely personal grudges and malicious comments here. I think most who read this blog are educated enough to understand the difference. I also think most are wise enough to respect varying opinions, though some seem overly defensive for whatever reason.

    I have been accused of being an obstructionist, and it hurts because my bosses simply do not know my heart let alone my mind. To label someone unjustly, I’ve come to realize, is to lose that person in spirit, loyality and productivity. Trust becomes fractured. Victims of stereotyping shut down. I try my best not to do that to the people who I supervise, although there are instances when it is clear that someone is exactly what they project. Sometimes they are incompetent, limited in their work ethics or skills. Sometimes they are complainers with no honorable motives. Some do abuse the system.

    I try to judge each person’s actions and comments on their own merit and don’t look to cubbyhole anyone based on limited interaction with them or vague perceptions told to me by others. However, I know that some of my fellow editors are incapable or unwilling to look beneath the surface of what staffers or other editors are trying to tell them. These editors are under pressure to do certain things, meet difficult demands from the highest levels. The critical mistake they make is in abandoning comments and input made by folks on the frontline. Those folks on the frontline are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of decisions made at the top. They have a large stake in how things go, and a wealth of experience to provide insights that might prevent some major errors and damage that can’t be reversed. Day in and day out the staffers and editors who are out front have to overcome the poor planning that was done by their bosses. I am a boss; I see it. It’s maddening and exhausting to continually be led down the wrong road, knowing as you go down it that you’re simply following orders to march off a cliff. But good soldiers do just that. And to do anything else is to be thought of as a renegade by some. That’s unfortunate for some individuals, and it’s ultimately bad for business.

    The burnout level of lower and mid-managers in particular has always been high in all companies for reasons we all know. But when mid-managers and their staffs have little or no say in their futures or day-to-day tasks, it can be unbearable just coming to work. They are put into losing situations before the day even begins by short-sighted planning from the top, by a gross lack of resources and by longtime issues that have never been resolved. These issues are fixable, but the will has to be there. I don’t always see that will in the USA TODAY newsroom. I see some lip service. I see some surrender and even denial. Once in awhile an honest attempt is made to fix something, but because this is a territorial newsroom, things aren’t always easily resolved.

    All this frustration can lead to confrontation. I have witnessed an increase in newsroom conflicts in the last year. It’s a disturbing trend that I was just discussing with another editor and staffer on Wednesday. Much of it is subtle, but to someone in the middle of the storm each day, it is quite obvious.

    Editors making broad-based decisions need to understand that the pressure they are feeling from above is not a valid excuse to make bad decisions. Those decisions feed into the anxieties of staffers when not processed well. While some departments are functioning reasonably well, some aren’t. Some are faced with far broader changes than others. Those changes must be handled correctly.

    MY MAIN POINT: MEs, DMEs and other top managers need to understand that just as it’s counterproductive for someone to be afraid of change or argue groundlessly againt it, it is at least equally destructive to change JUST for the sake of change, so that an ME or DME can show the top editor that they did something. That “something” has to really be thought out. Critical decisions can’t just make superficial sense, but when examined more closely, have unlimited holes in it. That something often leads to major problems. I see this pattern repeated over and over. Some trial and error is understandable, but not every major change should be approached with the attitude of, “Well, if this doesn’t work we’ll try something else.” We’re not in a position anymore to experiment on a large scale. We have to be more reasonably sure things will work before they are enacted.

    A lot of things work well at USA Today. If they didn’t, the paper would not have risen to No. 1. Many of those things that worked well for the paper could be adopted in the future. There are some proven principles and people that should not be abandoned just because they aren’t trendy. There are certain relationships and alliances that should be maintain and nurtured. Some workflows are highly efficient and help us do the impossible every single day. Details about everything from seating arrangements and schedules to flow charts and titles need to be put under the microscope because neglecting just one of those details could bring down a pretty good and broader plan. The big picture is important, but so are the little “quality of life” issues that can make work much more rewarding, or can turn a job into an impossible situation for one person or an entire team.

    Yes, despite USA TODAY’s success, there are also many things that need to be fixed and changed dramatically. I am a huge proponent of change and of repairing things that don’t work. But, thus far, I see a lot of things being tinkered with that do work and a lot of other things being introduced that have been proven failures in the recent past. I feel like some managers are forcing a nut onto a bolt, even at the risk of stripping the both. They appear to just want to say, “Look the nut is on the bolt” regardless of whether it’s on there properly and without damaging either.

    There is a way to change but also preserve what is working and has always worked. There is a way to move forward but not abandoned lessons learned from the past. If editors making key decisions can blend change/new ideas with respect for history, there will be greater efficiency, more buy-in and less concern about being wrongfully labelled.

    I truly hope this makes sense and that certain courses of action can be examined further as the industry evolves both at USA TODAY and other newsrooms.

    I somewhat regret having to express my ideas (I had to avoid specifics, sorry) here rather than to my supervisors directly, but I simply don’t feel comfortable stating this in any other venue at this time for reasons I can’t reveal. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I know some of the ideas I have outlined don’t relate to every department at USA TODAY, but I feel I have heard enough from around the building, and certainly have been adversely impacted by decisions from my team leaders to validate my opinions. I believe that most of my remarks here are a reflection of how the folks I supervise generally feel, though I don’t claim every observation is universally seen.

    I am also asking Jim to post this as a separate item on the blog so that it will be more visible and that something good can come from it. Regardless, I hope everyone will take this in the spirt it is given. I don’t want to be confrontational or alarmist, but some things just need to be brought to light for the sake of USA TODAY and a number of people I respect and whose careers hang in the balance for various reasons.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    In other words, 12:27, my way or the highway? But in the view of many of my colleagues, it is that way that has led to the problems we face today. Rather than top-down, I do not see why USAT could not be more collegial a place to work. It is now “us” and “them” and divided camps. I don’t read anything in your comments that would correct that impression.

  34. Anonymous Says:

    I think 12:27 is trying state there needs to be far more thoughtfulness put into all decisions and actions in order to restore faith in a damaged newsroom. I think 12:27 stated it fairly well, without inciting more flaming. I found it to be a good read and wouldn’t mind working for an editor who thinks that way. The final decisions lie with the people paid to make them, but I think 12:27 is calling for more upfront attention to detail and less exclusion of the troops.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    I think being offered a “golden parachute” buy out after 20 years is great…wish I had that option.
    what’s next Jim? you cant be in Spain forever.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    12:27 (I assume that is from the other posting he or she is speaking of), hammered home a very valid concern. Grand plans and vision from the top can inspire those below. But it’s the nuts and bolts of those plans and visions that provide the confidence and true buy-in. Think of it this way… What is more meaningful to you, your child giving you a $100 gift certificate or making you a gift by hand, painted, constructed or worded in a a maticulous manner? That attention to detail is usually what matters most, not the value or scope of the gift. USAT newsroom managers keep rolling out various broad initiatives that sound good in theory, but once it’s discovered that so many intricate details were ignored, faith and meaning is dimished. In some way, 12:27 was trying to convey that if decision-makers want things to go smoother, they should show us folks that they really did agonize over the smallest details of their plans, and how they would impact each of us, rather than just say how excited they are and how enthusiastic we should be. I think we’re all getting tired of faking enthusiasm.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    “11:14 AM
    And just what might those advertisements you’re suggesting honestly tell people? In other words, what are people missing by not going to one of the news sites?”

    ummm…updated stories/pictures/videos? This internet thing is on like all day! I know, it’s crazy!

  38. Anonymous Says:

    I second 3:05’s comments. I have no idea who 12:27 is, but, from the post, I know for a fact that he or she is definitely not my editor. It’s like 12:27 has been eavesdropping on my thoughts and conversations with friends. As 12:27 wrote: “But when mid-managers and their staffs have little or no say in their futures or day-to-day tasks, it can be unbearable just coming to work.”
    That’s why I, for one, was hoping that Moon was going to announce another round of buyouts.

  39. Anonymous Says:

    Might I suggest 12:27 find an editor because I have a really hard time finding the point buried in this torrent of verbiage. This editor says the reason for this post is where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Yes, unless it is someone behind the curtains blowing smoke. I have a gut feeling that might be this case, and I am paid for trusting a gut feeling until proven otherwise.

  40. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with 12:27…this is the worst writing I have ever seen. This editor needs to find another job. Gosh this is just a painful piece of writing or “non-writing”.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    3:16 PM
    But why should I go to a Gannett site instead of all the others? That’s what I’m asking you to tell me. What are the sales people able to offer advertisers that they won’t find anywhere else.

  42. Anonymous Says:

    3:55. So you’re more concerned with grammar than substance in 12:27’s message? I enjoyed some of the ideas expressed in the comment and had no trouble understanding 12:27. Yes, it’s a bit long and rambling, but I felt some important points were touched on in an honest way. And on this blog, compared with most comments, I think it was a good effort to discuss change and how we might go about it in a healthier way. Please don’t bash people for not running their sincere comments through the copy desk. Just makes you sound small and like an elitist. If you must, pick on the people who are only here to make quick, nasty comments, completely void of any good intentions.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    Rumor has it that if you’ve been w/the co for less that 2 yrs that the standard severance package won’t apply to you and those will be the ones who will be let go the first.

  44. Anonymous Says:

    What an arrogant statement 3:55 made. But hey, he or she spelled everything correctly. Maybe they used a spell-checker. I don’t come to this blog much anymore because when someone does try to express true feelings, as 12:27 did, there’s always some insecure person who who bashes them. Then the main point is lost and it becomes an argument over the style guide, which then deteriorates into name calling. As for your “gut” feelings that you are so well paid for, 3:55, I don’t think anyone is impressed.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    This may post twice, my apologies in advance.

    Here’s a good, old-fashioned news story. This kind of stuff never gets old and makes journalism fun.

    Readers like it, too.

    Tip of the hat to Drudge for calling it to my attention.

    http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/NEWS/80828006

  46. Anonymous Says:

    I like the meatier posts on here. While I do not often have time (or writing skills! LOL) to write much myself, I enjoy some of the insights people try to relay. I find this to be a mostly healthy forum. I even read 12:27s long posting and IMHO thought it was good. Wish more employees outside the newsroom would post, but I dont mind reading what the editors and reporters are writing. I regret that sometimes people filter through who are petty and mean spirited. Maybe some aren’t even within the Gannett family. I do not write much because I don’t want to be scolded for not being an English major.

  47. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,

    Thanks..That’s all.
    Just a simple thanks for providing this conduit for an exchange of information between all of us “mushrooms”.

    All the best, from the West.

  48. Anonymous Says:

    Regarding the MetroMix comment near the top of this thread:

    Your point is well taken, but keep in mind that there is already a lot of forced bundling taking place. It’s very likely that any bundling with MetroMix is just going to replace combo packages that already exist.

    In my market, I assume MetroMix will replace the Young Reader Flub (er, Pub) we rolled out three or four years ago. Sales in the current product are already bundled with either the web site or the weekly entertainment tab inserted into the daily pub each week.

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