As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor. We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in today’s news stories, but it is our long-standing policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring.
Missy Cohlmia, spokeswoman for Koch Companies Public Sector, in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter on rumors that the Koch brothers are seeking to buy the Tribune Company’s newspapers. These include the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times. Hollywood Reporter, Koch Brothers Mulling LA Times Bid.
The Kochs own Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in America, founded Americans for Prosperity in 2010 and spent $40 million on a successful drive to help Republicans regain congress, and then spent millions more this last election cycle on supporting Tea Party and Republican candidates.
For better background, see LA Weekly, which calls the rumor “a doozy wrapped in a bombshell exploding inside a Drudge siren.”
The news yesterday that newspaper giant Tribune Company is developing a tablet makes me wonder where and how publishers should technologically innovate.
The plan reminds me of a recent Adweek article about the publishing industry’s ongoing woes with Content Management Systems. In it, Erin Griffith catalogues how BusinessWeek spent upwards of $20 million trying to create a social networking layer on top of its proprietary CMS; how Salon.com — which launched in the 90s — is still using the home-rolled CMS it used in the 90s but is reportedly migrating to WordPress; how Time, Inc. has worked on a home-brewed CMS for seven years but will probably abandon it; and how AOL spent three years trying to create a proprietary CMS before ditching the effort, buying Blogsmith for about $5 million and now trying to migrate to the Huffington Post’s highly customized version of Moveable Type.
Add a marketplace crowded with content-management options, tight budgets, and a string of media mergers—and the corresponding change in personnel—and the result is that these troublesome tools are being plied in a cultural clusterfuck. The result is a growing number of bloated, tangled CMS platforms reviled by the editors that publish on them, and the IT teams that maintain them.
That’s just the tip of the Content Management iceberg and doesn’t even begin to touch on the difficulties of creating a friction free workflow for multiple platforms (Web, print, mobile, tablet). In hindsight, it’s easy to say publishers shouldn’t have rolled their own. But with foresight does it make sense for Tribune to get into the tablet game?
The short answer is no, but that’s not to say news organizations should ignore in-house technical innovation.
Instead, it’s to ask how and where they should allocate resources in the pursuit of technological innovation.
Part of the answer is remembering the core product, journalism, and then investing time and resources into technologies that enhance it.
For example, technologists from the New York Times and ProPublica collaborated to create Document Cloud, a Web-based platform that allows organizations to analyze large data dumps across multiple documents.
Document Cloud, in turn, uses Open Calais, a Web service developed by Thompson Reuters that layers semantic metadata over content.
These are innovative technological investments in the service of a publishers’ core news and information product.
Meanwhile, Tribune ramains in bankruptcy, is laying off editorial staff and is plowing human and financial capital into a product that will compete with the iPad, Kindle and other market leaders.
From this corner of the Internet, it seems an investment gone wrong. From another corner, Markus Pettersson, head of reader relations and social media at Göteborgs-Posten, writes that Tribune is “afraid, clueless and [has] lost track of what is [its] core product: journalism. It tells everyone including your readers and ad buyers that you have business ADHD, and cannot be relied on to focus on developing your core product: journalism.”
Agreed, and thinking we’ll be writing something very similar to Griffith’s Adweek CMS article a few years down the line. At that point in time, it will be Tribune as the poster boy for tech investment gone wrong.
Some might remember when ESPN tried to create a branded phone. Steve Jobs’ response at the time, “Your phone is the dumbest fucking idea I have ever heard.”
ESPN, it’s reported, lost $135 million on the venture.
Quite recently, the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times were three of America’s best newspapers. Now, they’re each facing potentially era-ending challenges. Is there any hope for the Great American Newspaper? Sure—for the lucky ones…
Access to the best and most timely information, in the form of the best newspapers, is a significant advantage in an information economy. Twenty years from now, we’ll look back on the era of universal free online access to newspaper content as a historical aberration, and a dumb one at that.
Information isn’t free. It’s expensive. Especially if you can’t afford it.
Gawker Media grew to maturity by exposing the foibles of legacy media employees and their top brass. With one or more of the leading national papers fearing for their very existence, Gawker properties continue to show impressive growth, and their bevvy of writers no longer need malign media bigwigs in order to satisfy an increasingly broad audience. My, how the tables have turned.