Archive for April, 2008

A figure so bad, the company won’t make it public?

April 30, 2008

Gannett’s online revenue growth at its domestic newspapers is apparently pretty bad. For the second consecutive quarter, GCI has refused to publish growth rates in a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The latest report, for the first quarter, was filed today.

Those rates had been declining through 2007’s third quarter — the last time the company disclosed them. At that time, online revenue was growing at just 11% — about half the industry average. Now, ask yourself: If the figures reflected well on management’s vaunted Information Center model, wouldn’t Gannett publish them in, like, 72-point type? (For the record, I asked chief spokesperson Tara Connell, again, whether the company had discontinued publishing these rates. Her response: “We don’t publish every number.”)

[Image: today’s Reno Gazette-Journal, Newseum]

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Reader: Hopkins ‘wimped out’ at annual meeting

April 30, 2008

Regarding my attendance at today’s annual shareholders meeting, a reader comments: “No challenges at the session, the speech stayed in your pocket and you never asked the object of your scorn a question. You can rationalize it all you want but instead of exercising your alleged journalistic courage you wimped out. It is easy to create some dumb-ass T-shirt but when the guy is standing there eye to eye you pissed your pants. At least the guy in the leisure suit had the balls to get up and ask his question. Back where I come from they refer to dudes like you as ‘All Hat No Cattle.'”

Read my response, and join the debate — in the original post.

Reader: Someone ‘pulled a Cherry Hill’ in Cincinnati

April 30, 2008

I’m sorry to say I knew exactly what a reader meant when I opened my e-mail this morning to see a note about The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I heard from a few newsroom co-workers this morning that someone ‘pulled a Cherry Hill‘ in one of the newsroom restrooms (women’s) overnight,” the reader said. “I would not at all be surprised that tensions have boiled over here. Things have been very tense ever since the Enquirer started enforcing its time card policy all of the sudden (in response to Cherry Hill).”

Cincinnati staffers: Can you confirm — and add (tactfully!) any details? Leave a note in the comments section, below. Or use this link to e-mail your reply; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: this morning’s Enquirer, Newseum]

Meeting notes: Yonkers, Louisville — and Shalala

April 30, 2008

I traveled 2,800 miles to McLean, Va., from my San Francisco home for an annual shareholders meeting this morning that I suspected would produce no news. I wasn’t disappointed. About 300 people gathered in the auditorium at Gannett’s headquarters — a pretty good turnout that might have been partly motivated by expectations there’d be fireworks. The company’s shares, after all, are down about 50% from a year ago, when stockholders held their last meeting. Today’s gathering was over and done in less than 45 minutes, however.

There were a couple of amusing moments, of course. A stockholder from Yonkers, N.Y., made occasionally rambling remarks in a delightfully genuine New York accent — quoting chapter and verse from company documents he’d apparently memorized, right down to page numbers. (And I haven’t seen a leisure suit like the one he was wearing in years.) Another shareholder, from Louisville, said Kentucky is one of the nation’s reddest states — then complained that The Courier-Journal only endorses Democrats. (Take that, David Hawpe!)

I didn’t say a word. The statement I stayed up late preparing remained in my pocket. I accomplished what I set out to do: Making sure at least some members of the board of directors know about this blog — and the employee views it reflects. After the meeting, in the soaring, sun-filled lobby, I saw director Donna Shalalah (left), heading for the exit.

“Director Shalala,” I said. “May I introduce myself?”

She gave me a wary look as I approached. I handed her my Gannett Blog business card. She glanced at it for a second, then looked up at me and beamed: “Oh, you’re Gannett Blog!” she said. “I love blogs!”

So, there you have it.

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Fun facts: How the annual meeting will be run

April 30, 2008

No surprise! Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow (left) has total control over today’s shareholders meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. at Corporate headquarters in McLean, Va. The event is open to stockholders (or their designated representatives) and anyone else who requested tickets, according to the “rules of procedure,” which I requested in advance.

Once recognized by Dubow, stockholders may address the meeting for up to three minutes. But, watch out, because Dubow will rule as out of order any discussions that are, among other things:

  • Irrelevant to the business of the company, the meeting, or the issue at hand.
  • Proposals related to the conduct of the company’s ordinary business operations.
  • Disorderly.
  • Generally repetitious statements already made by other persons.
  • In furtherance of the speaker’s personal or business interests, rather than stockholder matters.
And, of course, there will be no live-blogging because, well, the clicking sound of a laptop keyboard is so distracting!

Navigationally yours: A new, improved search box

April 29, 2008

Wonder if I’ve written about something? Now, you can use Search Gannett Blog, Etc., in the green sidebar, upper right.

Program note: My blogging’s going to be light

April 28, 2008

[Big cheeses: Gannett’s board of directors]
I’ll be traveling most of tomorrow to company headquarters in McLean, Va., for Wednesday morning’s annual shareholders meeting, where directors will gather to hear from GCI ‘s owners. I’ll do my best to keep up with comments and e-mail during the day, but posts are likely to be few and far between.

Hat tip: Louisville braces for its Derby close-up

April 28, 2008

For anyone struggling to gin up a fresh angle on an annual community event, consider The Courier-Journal‘s challenge this week, as it enters the final stretch of one such occasion: Saturday’s 134th Kentucky Derby. (The C-J traces its history to 1868. The first derby didn’t run until 1875.) This year, the paper will staff the race like never before, ombudsman Pam Platt says in a new column: Three dozen staff and freelance photographers and reporters will shoot still pictures and video at Churchill Downs on Derby day, providing many of the tens of thousands of photos planned for the paper’s website all week. I’m looking forward to lots of pictures of crazy funny hats.

Got a community event that’s older than dirt? Tell us some of the novel ways your paper or TV station covered it, in the comments section, below. Or use this link to e-mail your reply; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo: Eric Williams of Chicago last year, by Bill Luster, C-J]

Cutlines Only: The Journal News

April 28, 2008

High school student Jeremy Blum of Armonk, N.Y., shows his prosthetic hand project, an example of hundreds of regional students tackling ambitious science class research, The Journal News says today. Photo by Stuart Bayer, Journal News via Newseum.

Cutlines Only showcases Gannett website art. E-mail suggested links here; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

How does USAT’s ‘Blue Chip’ program survive?

April 28, 2008

Publishers say they’ve voluntarily slashed sponsored and third-party circulation, helping explain the latest round of big circulation declines disclosed today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. This leads me to wonder about Gannett flagship USA Today‘s circulation model.

The Dallas Morning News, for example, reported a 10.6% drop in daily circulation, to 368,313, after parent Belo said it was reducing less-valuable copies distributed by third parties. As I understand it, here’s how that circulation works: One day, you open your front door to find a copy of that day’s paper in the driveway. The paper bears a note that says, “Courtesy of ABC Furniture Co.” You haven’t asked for a subscription; it’s coming to you unsolicited.

Such third-party readers are now less valuable to advertisers because it’s assumed many of those papers go unread — leading me to USA Today, which held to its No. 1 rank in today’s new ABC report. A huge proportion of the paper’s circulation is so-called Blue Chip accounts: Hundreds of thousands of papers sold in bulk daily to hotels for delivery to individual rooms. Many guests grab those papers on the way downstairs to breakfast.

But many also simply step over the paper, leaving it behind for the housekeeper to recycle. Rival New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. once took a shot at USA Today, when its slogan was “Never Gray.” Three years ago, comparing his paper’s tiny bulk sales to USA Today‘s, Sulzberger said the slogan should instead by, “Never Read.” (More recently, USA Today adopted the unfortunate new slogan: “We’re all in this together.)

Is USA Today‘s Blue Chip program immune to pressures on third-party circulation? Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: this morning’s USA Today, Newseum]