Gannett has announced that it will split into two separate entities — one focused exclusively on digital and broadcasting and one focusing on print. Gannett is the nation’s largest newspaper publisher. Its portfolio includes flagship USA Today and 81 other papers around the country.
In addition to splitting, it has announced that it will purchase the remaining 73% of Classified Ventures LLC — read: Cars.com — for $1.8 billion dollars cash. Gannett already has a 27% stake in the online venture.
According to a Gannett press release, Gracia Martone, president and CEO, says, “The bold actions we are announcing today are significant next steps in our ongoing initiatives to increase shareholder value by building scale, increasing cash flow, sharpening management focus, and strengthening all of our businesses to compete effectively in today’s increasingly digital landscape. Cars.com doubles our growing digital business, while our recent acquisitions of Belo and London Broadcasting doubled our broadcasting portfolio. These acquisitions, combined with our successful initiatives over the past 2-1/2 years to strengthen our Publishing business, make this the right time for a separation into two market-leading companies.”
Can you read those tea leaves? Read closely in-between the bullshit jargon words. Investing in broadcasting and online media and separating print means that when the shrinking newspaper revenues reach non-profitability — and they are not there, yet — it will be much easier to jettison print without hurting the overall bottom line.
On one hand, it’s another nail in the coffin of print as we know it. On the other, you have to admit, it’s good business. For the shareholders, obviously. And really, who else are they thinking about? The reader? Surely, you jest!
Meanwhile, over at the hallowed halls of The Washington Post Company, July 2014 saw WaPo’s most traffic month ever on washingtonpost.com. Insiders credit new owner Jeff Bezos and commitment to digital as the drivers of the upward trend. The Post has added about 60 staffers on the editorial side this year; most of them on digital, according to reporting at GigaOM.
All this begs the question: just how much time is left on the clock for the printed daily paper?