Peel back the layers of contentious bankruptcy, scandalous management and Sam Zell’s 2007 leveraged buyout gone bad at the Tribune Co. and there is an intriguing story about media survival and the larger reinvention beginning to resonate within the beleaguered publishing industry.
That the Tribune Co. now refers to its self as a media and business services company that happens to publish a few newspapers underscores its shift from print to digital and from conventional news headlines to activist hyper local journalism that positions it for a new owner in 2011.
The new guard could include former Walt Disney (DIS) chairman CEO Michael Eisner, who has been buying the private media company’s debt, perhaps to endear himself to angry creditors and be able to step in when Zell walks away post-bankruptcy. “I don’t envision having any role going forward,” Zell said recently. “I'll turn it over to whoever the creditors decide they want to run it.”
Uncertainty was crippling when all of Tribune Co.’s businesses, including the flagship Chicago Tribune, cut about 30 percent cost from their budgets and some 4,200 jobs companywide. In the past 19 months, there have been no layoffs at the Chicago Tribune Media Group (CTMG), which has increased staff 12 percent, adding nearly 60 jobs to its investigative units, and its universal digital media on demand newsroom.
The ubiquitous newsroom manages at least 25 percent of the feature news for the Tribune Co.’s seven other cash flow positive newspapers. The 75 percent of the editing and production mechanics CTMG does for Tribune’s Newport Daily News is the shape of things to come.
Read more here.
Diane Mermigas is an award-winning business writer, analyst and consultant specializing in media, entertainment, telecommunications and the Internet, as well as the economics, trends and issues that drive them. She is a “must-read” for her unique contextual big-picture analysis, strategic forecasts, and high-level executive interviews for a better understanding of the dramatic and rapid change reshaping these industries.