At Annual Confab: NYT Offers ‘Stock’ Answer, While Gannett Skews Older — and USA Today Grows Online

By: Jennifer Saba

Executives with Gannett Co. and The New York Times Co. presented at the annual Media Week conference for analysts and investors in New York City today. The Times rejected any idea that it would change its dual class structure while Gannett, amid all the talk of reaching younger audiences, said it was firming up its efforts to reach its “core” older crowd.

During the New York Times? presentation, President and CEO Janet Robinson said, ?This has been a tough year ? a tough few years.?

On the dual class structure, Robinson said, ?The family has no intention of opening our doors? to outsiders. The Sulzberger family owns 20% of the equity of the company and controls the shareholder voting.

As for the New York Times? intentions to sell the Boston Globe, she said, ?We are constantly evaluating our portfolio. That said, New England is a very important asset to the New York Times Company.?

Robinson said that they have a new team in place in New England with a streamlined cost structure. She said that the division has ?the opportunity to perform nicely in the days ahead.? But she also noted the challenging New England economy.

Meanwhile, Gannett executives stressed their news-center initiative.

Sue Clark Johnson, president of Gannett?s Newspaper Division, said the company?s newspapers will now focus on adults age 45 and older. ?We are not abandoning our core audience,? she said. ?Our newspapers are going to be positioned more in the direction to those more comfortable reading print.?

Analysts and investors questioned Gannett on its intention to possibly acquire the Tribune Company or some of its assets. Gannett executives reiterated that they are continuously evaluating investment opportunities in the interest of all shareholders.

With Tribune on the block, there have been questions surrounding its stake in Career Builder, which is owned by McClatchy, Tribune, and Gannett. Executives with Gannett said there is a provision in Career Builder that if Tribune was sold, the new owner would take over Tribune?s economic stake in the recruitment site. However, the governing structure would change.

An excerpt from Gannett’s official statement today follows.
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Craig Dubow, chairman, president and CEO, said: “We view the changing media landscape as a great opportunity for Gannett. We are focusing on a number of strategic initiatives that embrace those changes and move us forward. Central to our plan is enhancing our core while growing a major international digital business.”

Dubow discussed Gannett’s Information Center initiative and the progress of Gannett Digital.

Sue Clark-Johnson, president of the Newspaper Division, said: “We are completely transforming our newspaper operations in the way we gather and deliver information. Our Information Centers enable us to connect to the community, engage readers and provide a more customer-centric approach for our advertisers. In our test markets, Web traffic has accelerated after the launch of the Information Center as did the pace of revenue growth,” she said.

Craig Moon, president and publisher of USA TODAY, said: “USA TODAY’S legacy – and its future – are centered on providing accessibility to information in easy-to-use formats such as blogs, podcasts, mobile and ‘My USATODAY’.”

“USATODAY.com’s audience continues to grow. In addition, its display advertising growth is exceeding the industry average,” Moon said. “In 2007, we expect advertising to increase at USATODAY.com in the range of 18 percent to 20 percent.”

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