Archive for October, 2007

Got a tip? Want co-workers to know what’s up?

October 30, 2007

E-mail Gannett Blog. I won’t publish your name or other identifying information unless you specifically tell me to. Nervous about sending e-mail? You can also leave an anonymous comment, below. (I personally review and approve all comments before they get published — unlike, regrettably, many Gannett newspaper websites.)

Program note: I’m offline most of Thursday

October 29, 2007

That means I may not be available if, say, the board of directors announces a dividend cut — a step Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore hinted might happen this week.

If the board does slash the payout, please post relevant text from any announcements — plus your insightful comments, in the Real Time Comments open forum.

Gannett stock: It happened this week

October 26, 2007

Click on this chart for a bigger, easier-to-read view. Well, it’s nice to see Gannett finish the week higher. Shares (blue line) closed today at $41.93, up 1.97% for the week vs. a 2.31% rise in the S&P-500 Index (red line), a broad measure of the overall stock market.

Still, GCI traded at a new 10-year low earlier in the week: $40.70 a share. As it trended lower, I wondered whether shares would finally fall through $40. They didn’t.

[Chart: Google Finance]

And our presses are now Centers of Ink ‘n’ Paper

October 25, 2007

Gannett has given its rapidly consolidating customer service operations a fancy-schmancy new name: Centers of Excellence, according to this internal memo on Jim Romenesko’s blog.

Shapiro gives board more journalism experience

October 24, 2007

Neal Shapiro (left), named to Gannett’s board of directors yesterday, is a former president of NBC News who is now president of the non-profit that oversees New York’s fine public television station, WNET. Maddeningly for a news-media company, Gannett doesn’t give Shapiro’s age. This story suggests he’s about 49. His brief bio on Wikipedia is here. His longer WNET bio is here.

As near as I can tell — the company’s statement doesn’t make it clear — Shapiro replaces Louis Boccardi, the former CEO of the Associated Press; Boccardi retired from the board after turning 70, effective Aug. 27. So, CEO Craig Dubow is swapping one director with a journalism background for another — a good thing. Of course, Shapiro’s experience is more New Media, given his TV background, where Boccardi was more Old Media.

With Shapiro’s appointment, the board once more has nine members. (Here’s what the board looks like, prior to Shapiro’s appointment.)

Shapiro has another distinction. By my count, he’s the fifth director appointed since Dubow became CEO in July 2005. That means a majority of the board is now beholden in some way to Dubow. In the world of corporate governance, that strengthens Dubow’s hand even more as he restructures the company.

Of course, directors don’t take these jobs solely out of the goodness of their heart. Based on rates published for 2006 in the most recent proxy report to shareholders, GCI directors are paid $45,000 a year, plus another $2,000 for each meeting they attend (typically, four a year). They also get $15,000 more per year if they run one of the board’s committees and $1,000 for each committee meeting attended. And they get 1,250 shares of stock or 5,000 options on stock.

All in all, that’s not much compensation. It’s not uncommon for some publicly traded companies to pay directors an annual base fee of $150,000 — often, much, much more.

[Photo: WNET]

There’s only so much I can say…

October 24, 2007

… about myself, that is. So, I’ll start here: I’ve worked with Gannett in several states for more than 20 years now.

Please tell co-workers about this blog

October 20, 2007

It’s time for my occasional marketing note: I’m always looking for more readers. So, if you like what you find on this blog, please consider e-mailing the address for Gannett Blog (it’s http://www.gannettblog.blogspot.com/) to some of your more than 50,000 Gannett colleagues!

Gannett partner MediaNews on copy editors

October 19, 2007

Why does every newspaper need them? That was the rhetorical question MediaNews Group President Joseph Lodovic asked Bloomberg News — before immediately providing the answer: “In this day and age, I think copy-editing can be done centrally for several newspapers.”

Lodovic’s assertion — and I totally disagree with him — is noteworthy because privately-owned MediaNews under CEO William Dean Singleton (left) has co-owned with Gannett partnerships publishing newspapers in California, Texas, New Mexico, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Lodovic proposes centralizing copy editing at nearby newspapers as a cost-saver. Gannett is taking similar steps, although I don’t know whether they involve copy editors. For sure, they include centralizing some circulation and other customer support work at a handful of call centers — a move senior executives highlighted Wednesday during the quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

But others have pointed to the folly of centralizing newsroom functions — most notably, John Bowman, a former editor of the MediaNews-owned San Mateo County Times south of San Francisco. “The copy editors — who check stories for errors and style, put headlines on them and position them in the paper — have been moved out of the newsroom where they could consult easily with reporters and editors about stories,” Grade the News reported this past summer on what happened at the Times.

“To cut costs, they’ve been transferred some 30 miles away to Pleasanton, to a central copy-editing desk, and their numbers have been reduced. ‘Copy desks are so thinly staffed that they are making an incredible number of errors,’ says Mr. Bowman. ‘These errors are in the headlines and [photo] cutlines so they are glaring.'”

In a Grade the News sidebar, a MediaNews editor disputes Bowman’s contentions. Whatever the outcome, MediaNews bears watching. It’s adept at cutting costs in ways I’ve never seen taken by Gannett, lessons I hope GCI doesn’t adopt.

[Photo: Bloomberg]

Gannett stock: It happened this week

October 19, 2007

Click on this chart to see a bigger, easier-to-read view; you also can go to an online version, here. It was a brutal week for investors of all stripes, including those with a stake in Gannett. GCI shares closed today at $41.12, the lowest closing price since March 11, 1997, when they finished at $41.06.

For the week, GCI (blue line) fell 7.2% vs. a smaller-but-still-painful 3.9% drop in the S&P-500 Index (red line), a broad measure of the overall market. Look carefully at that chart, above, and you’ll see things really started coming apart for GCI on Thursday, the day after it released third-quarter earnings. I don’t know why Wall Street reacted so negatively a day after the fact. But in any case, I suspect investors were disappointed that GCI didn’t follow the lead of Belo and Scripps in announcing a corporate breakup into newspaper and non-newspaper companies.

Dubow: No plans for a company split

October 17, 2007

That’s the headline so far from the Q&A session this morning between company executives and Wall Street analysts after the release of third-quarter results. CEO Craig Dubow was asked about the Scripps and Belo spinoff plans — and the company’s previous position that it would not take that path. “We look at all these and discuss things. But at this time: No, our position has not changed,” he said.

Other points raised during the call:

  • Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida especially dragged down quarterly results because of extra-high losses in real estate-related advertising in those four states.
  • Good news: Quarterly online advertising revenue rose more than 16% from a year ago, an improvement from the 12% rate in the first and second quarters.
  • Expect more severance-related costs in the fourth quarter, so buyouts and layoffs certainly aren’t over.
  • Consolidation of jobs, and offshoring of such work as ad production, continues to be an option.
  • Staff reductions are mostly permanent, although advertising sales positions could be refilled — if ad revenue picks up.