An Outsell Insights report from Outsell Affiliate Analyst, Ken Doctor…
Important Details: While Europeans are used to multiple national newspapers, Americans — living across a broad 3500-mile (5632 km) expanse — look to no more than three. Of those, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are clearly the agenda-setters, with Gannett’s USA Today more of a populist read.
Both the Times and the Journal — locked in mortal combat for readers and advertising revenue — have been looking for new leaders.
The Journal’s immediate parent, Dow Jones, lost its CEO in July. Then, 52-year News Corp employee Les Hinton stepped down, amid the beginnings of that company’s Hackgate scandal in the UK. The company is now in talks with former Bloomberg CEO Lex Fenwick about taking the position.
The Times’ opening appeared unexpectedly just before the holidays. Long-time CEO Janet Robinson wasforced out, as the company-controlling Sulzberger family sold its Regional Newspaper Group properties to Halifax Media, and family member Michael Golden, who’d been president of the group, planned a return to the mothership from Florida. The company is now looking outside of the family, and most likely the company, for a successor.
The CEO succession questions occur as the US industry is seeing a speeding up in the pace of business transformation. While advertising revenue still hasn’t seen a positive quarter since 2006, the innovation of the tablet as a replacement news reader and the inroads of digital circulation programs (at least 10% of American dailies have a paywall of one kind or another), are creating great business model change.
In addition, there’s a more fluid, if directionally uncertain, movement of sales of newspaper properties.
“In 2011, there were 11 separate daily newspaper transactions equaling $788 million in volume, which has been the most daily newspapers sold since 2007, when 91 newspapers were sold representing $20 billion in volume,” Owen Van Essen, one of the country’s largest industry brokers, recently noted.
The ferment is palpable, even if much of it is going on behind the scenes. Job cuts continues apace — as the only route to continued profitability — and major executive and property changes accompany them.
It is a time of unprecedented transformation for everyone, but for these two companies, the CEO choice is game-making or game-breaking.
In the next several years, news companies are seeing their world finally turned upside down, with all the growth coming from digital, and its cousin, all-access digital/phone access.
As Outsell has outlined most recently in Information Outlook 2012: Break and Reset, this digital transition isn’t just about serving readers or advertisers on mobile devices. It’s about a fundamental rethinking of how the businesses operate, and how they learn from the GAFA companies to become real-time optimization companies. That optimization will be absolutely essential for satisfying sellers of goods and services, aka advertisers. Transactional models, led by business buster Amazon, are competing with impression-based models in ways unforeseen. So the next CEO of the Journal and of the Times must prepare his or her company to play and to partner, or wither. Both can look down the road at USA Today, the Gannett-owned daily once clearly #1 in national circulation, and now facing business oblivion as the world passes it by.
Analytics becomes the energy driving these businesses.
For consumers of news and information, these two CEOs find themselves swimming in oceans of opportunity. News is now truly ubiquitous; its monetization far less so. Deciding where and how to bet on this ubiquity — connected TV, iPad 8, the Facebookization of the web, aligning media with the digital education revolution — likewise will separate out the fortunes of the Times from the Journal, and both from the many other competitors eating away at their current core businesses.Discuss