Archive for December 17th, 2009

Financial move could ease McClatchy’s pain

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Efforts to refinance a portion of its debt could result in slightly better ratings for McClatchy stock by Moody’s and Standard & Poors, according to Fitz & Jen.

“McClatchy is proposing to amend its credit facility to allow it to issue about $875 million in new senior secured debt that would be used to pay down amounts in the facility, refinance public debt maturities and stretch out the credit facilities maturity to 2013 from 2011 now,” the Editor & publisher editors’ blog says.

“[T]his could result in the company’s liquidity position strengthening to a point where we may no longer believe a debt restructuring is imminent,” says an S&P analyst.

Neither service has made the final call, and both rate the publisher’s stock as junk, but “Pushing out maturities would provide McClatchy additional flexibility to manage through the advertising downturn and realize the potential de-leveraging benefits of a cyclical advertising recovery,” says a Moody’s analyst.

Fitz & Jen has both services’ full statements at the link at top.

McClatchy stock was down a penny on the day Thursday at $3.39.

Social nets spread the word, build the readership

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

American Journalism Review looks at the “distribution revolution” at newspapers reporting via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking venues.

The article focuses first on Wilmington’s  Star News, a New York Times newspaper. “[T}he Star News is putting out stories and discussion topics on 15 Twitter feeds. Meanwhile, 30 of its staffers have their own accounts, which they use to promote their work, engage the community and mine story ideas. The paper (if one can still use the term) is also pushing out stories on its own Facebook page and encouraging reporters to do the same on their own pages. Many do. Says the Web development manager, Vaughn Hagerty: ‘That conversation, that feedback, is key to a lot of the things we’re doing.'”

“What was once the province of doorsteps and homepages is now about the hustle of networking, the savvy application of technology and the dark art of promotion and marketing. And, increasingly, it’s everyone’s job,” the article continues. “The imperative for newsrooms to push stories far and wide is redefining the work of reporters and editors and prompting even more questions about the future of audiences, news brands and that standard-bearer of online journalism: the good old homepage. That the social networking scene has pushed into the news business is no surprise, but what is raising eyebrows is how quickly the famously slow-footed industry has embraced it.

“… By having newsroom staffers manage social networking accounts, they multiply the organization’s reach across the Web. Getting a story placed high on Digg — a live ranking of the Web’s most popular offerings — can, in turn, draw thousands of more hits. Twitter followers have proven to be avid and loyal readers, engaging with reporters who cover fields of interest to them. Facebook pages have become a venue for news organizations and individual reporters to post links to stories and respond directly to comments and questions.

“Readers are blushing from all the sudden attention; news organizations, meanwhile, are hoping that social networking will reduce their dependence on the unknowable algorithms of search engines to deliver traffic.”

(Thanks to Skyterrain for the heads-up.)

McClatchy wants to cut severance pay

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Unionized Sacramento Bee workers are negotiating with parent McClatchy Newspapers over concessions that include reducing severance pay from a maximum of 40 weeks to 26,  the Sacramento News & Review says.

“Among the other concessions that the company is seeking are the unlimited use of part-time and freelance workers, and the ability to assign Bee employees to do work for other McClatchy newspapers and Web sites,” the SN&R says.

“Guild representatives say the new severance rules would make it $10,000-$20,000 cheaper to lay off some veteran employees. Although Bee workers that SN&R spoke with are hopeful that major layoffs are, for now, in the past, the severance proposal has been troubling news,” the newspaper says.

Non-unionized McClatchy workers who have been laid off have typically received a maximum of 26 weeks pay as severance.

“[D]espite [CEO Gary] Pruitt’s cheerful report last week, McClatchy still plans to cut costs companywide by more than 20 percent in 2010. According to Editor & Publisher magazine (which, in another sign of the times, went out of business last week), McClatchy wants to outsource more of its production and share more editorial content between newspapers.”

McClatchy papers join Google headline service

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

McClatchy Newspapers has thrown in with Google’s Fast Flip news page, along with about 90 other titles, in an arrangement that  is to include revenue sharing, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Fast Flip, a product of Google labs described by the Web site as “blindingly fast overviews of headline pages of top newspapers,” debuted in September. McClatchy’s Sacramento Bee, Miami Herald and Kansas City Star are among its sources that include newspapers, magazines, Web sites, newswires, and television and radio broadcasters.

Agence France-Presse, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Newsweek, and online news sites TechCrunch, Salon and Slate are among the original participants in Fast Flip. Tribune Co. newspapers, including  the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, along with Popular Science, Reuters, Public Radio International and US News and World Report are, with McClatchy’s papers, among the newly announced partners.

“The Mountain View, California-based Google has had a strained relationship with U.S. newspaper owners and its news aggregator Web site Google News has drawn fire from some for linking to articles without sharing advertising revenue,” AFP says.

“Unlike Google News, Google shares advertising revenue from Fast Flip with its media partners.”

Earlier this month, Google introduced Living Stories, a Google Labs product that bundles newspaper articles about specific topics on a single page. Google said it plans to offer the Living Stories software to newspapers free of charge.