Whither Gannett?

Dateline: Tue 04 Dec 2007

Gannett Blog -- which keeps track of the "wrenching changes ...sweeping the newspaper industry," has an interesting post today titled "Gannett on Wall Street's Hot Seat Wednesday"

See the link:

http://www.gannettblog.blogspot.com/

The anonymous editor states of his/her role: "Not in management. Not a union member. No ax to grind. And Gannett Blog has no formal affiliation with Gannett Co. Inc.:"

Here are the first two graphs:

"GCI executives, under pressure to launch a new strategic plan, talk to stock analysts this week about where they think business is headed next year. The meetings are part of the twice-annual presentations big media makes to the powerful analysts who often hold sway over a company's stock price. Gannett's audience Wednesday at 10 a.m. (ET) is the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. GCI says it plans to talk about 'strategic initiatives, particularly its digital strategy, and the company's outlook for 2008.'

"Tough questions from analysts ought to include: Does Gannett plan to split into more than one company? That's what some Wall Streeters want. GCI's position so far has been a big fat no. But if Gannett's going to do an about-face, look for that news well before 9:30 a.m. ET, when stock markets open. News that big typically gets announced long before trading has started, or soon after it ends."

In an earlier post, Gannett Blog Editor wrote:

"Wall Street analysts are pushing management to divide the company at least in two, following the example of newspaper publishers E.W. Scripps and Belo. Analysts believe that separating Gannett's faster-growing businesses from no-growth ones will create additional overall value. The sum of the parts, this thinking goes, is greater than the whole. Translation: ka-ching!

"So, imagine Gannett in the future as two publicly traded companies, each with their own management, boards of directors and stock."

Under that scenario, says Gannett Blog Editor, Gannett would create a new company for its digital world holdings, possibly its TV stations, etc. The newspaper family would "go to journalism's equivalent of a nursing home."

Very interesting. In an email conversation with Gannett Blog Editor, he/she had this to say:

"Part of my goal is to educate employees about the business realities of Gannett so they know what's going on with their employer, and so can take steps to protect themselves."

In the past, in my experience, many journalists would have chosen to cover a school bus wreck with dead children rather than take a hard look at what was happening within the industry or even their own newsroom. I'm not talking about water cooler buzz; I'm talking about analyzing the company that writes you a check every other week. But it's like knowing you're terminal; sometimes you just don't want to spend another hour in the doctor's office. Too painful.

Still, knowledge is power. Nobody should know that better than the men and women of the press.

I'm also remembering an article from -- I believe -- the Columbia Journalism Review, written 10 or so years ago. At that time, Gannett was hot. So hot that when the financial analysts held confabs devoted to newspapers, the Gannett spokesperson was the equivalent of the dancer at the hootchie-koochie show. Everyone rushed in, everyone wanted a peek and a piece of the action. That was back when Gannett was pushing 22-25 percent profit margins. Those days are over.

Seriously, keep your sights set on Gannett Blog. That is where the action is today.

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