Newspapers and the Star Tribune

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.

2 Responses to “Newspapers and the Star Tribune”

  1. Howard Owens Says:

    It’s all about user experience.

  2. Mick Says:

    Greg, Excellent blog. I read you often.

    A private investment group bought the Star Tribune this week for $530 million. Avista Partnerships has offices in Houston and New York and its mission statement focuses on three sectors: Energy, Healthcare and Media. I’m guessing the investors don’t see a gem in the rough. I think they bought the Star Tribune to clean house, bust the unions and then flip it to a bottom feeder company like MediaNews Group, or a wealthy ill-informed local MN group of investors. Never mind their press releases, that “they want to provide excellent content.” So how will they do that, hire more journalists covering a small city in the tundra?

    “The Star Tribune is one of the best newspapers in this country,” Pruitt said in 1998. “The Twin Cities is one of the most attractive newspaper markets in the country. And it was a near-perfect fit in terms of values and traditions.”

    Things change. It appears that some of the editors in the McClatchy chain may have been going to night school for some Management Accounting and Economics 101.

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