David Geffen and Why Newspapers Must Survive

I spoke to a friend today in the entertainment industry who was confident that entertainment industry mogul “David Geffen is buying the LA Times.” I disputed that it was a done deal (at least publicly) and said that the Tribune Company has asserted that — for the time being — the Times isn’t for sale.

I hope it comes to pass.

I think the hope for many newspapers is to be taken private. Those papers that have to respond to the public markets aren’t necessarily going to be able to take the steps necessary to position themselves for the longer term.

A single disgruntled major shareholder precipiated the drawing and quartering of Knight Ridder. The market undervalues newspapers partly because of circulation declines and some negative revenue news and partly because there isn’t a coherent and compelling story that newspapers can yet tell about their future.

Today the Tribune Co. fired the LA Times publisher Jeff Johnson who supported an editor who refused to make editorial cutbacks Tribune ordered. While some cost cutting may be justified in the newspaper industry there’s a point at which it’s the nose to spite the face situation.

I continue to believe that newspapers are critical to US democracy and that they need to survive for that reason. But to do so they will need to figure out how to more effectively compete as shopping and advertising vehicles online.

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Peter Krasilovsky posts on the new combined print/online audience reach and demographic metrics being promoted by the NAA in its Newspaper Audience Database (.pdf file).


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