When McClatchy bought substantially all of KnightRidder last year it was initially a surprise that the company immediately turned around and sold two of its flagships: the San Jose Mercury News and the Philadelphia Inquirer. But even more surprising was last week’s sale to a private equity group of one of McClatchy’s “marquee” publications: the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (The Star Tibune’s “Shop Minnesota” has been recognized by the newspaper industry as an exemplar of how to integrate online shopping into a newspaper site. My view is that it’s pretty good but not great.)
Here’s a NY Times piece that does a nice, anecdotal job of highlighting the generational problems confronting the newspaper industry right now. If you want more data than you know what to do with on online newspapers, you’ll find it here (NAA database).
We’re likely to see more upheavals this year as newspaper print growth is totally flat or down slightly and online newspaper growth is much stronger (in the mid 20% range). Online newspapers continue to experiment with community, feeds, video and content aggregation. Eventually a model will emerge that others can emulate. My belief now is that major metro dailies will build local content and ad networks with different or subsidiary brands in their markets.
In contrast to my former argument that newspaper brands were a great strength, the newspaper brand emerges as a mixed blessing according to newspaper insiders — trusted and resonant with some audiences, flat among others. I however tend to believe it’s less about the brand than the overall user experience.
Related: Susan Mernit points to an interesting site, Placeblogger, which seeks to aggregate local content/blogs. McClatchy just acquired local, community blog sites FresnoFamous and ModestoFamous. Watch for more such acquisitions and the blurring of editorially produced content and local user-generated content.