Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Memo from Dean Singleton and Jody Lodovic

May 8, 2009

To: MediaNews Group Employees

From: Dean Singleton

Jody Lodovic

Re: Interactive Strategic Summit

Two weeks ago, 22 executives from across the company, including Publishers, Editors, and Interactive leaders, met to discuss MediaNews Group’s interactive strategy. While our websites attract a significant audience and drive considerable page views, we face three daunting challenges that needed to be addressed. First, we continue to do an injustice to our print subscribers and create perceptions that our content has no value by putting all of our print content online for free. Not only does this erode our print circulation, it devalues the core of our business - the great local journalism we (and only we) produce on a daily basis. Second, our interactive revenue growth has slowed because it has been too closely tied to our print classified business, which has suffered with the advent of Craigslist and other free online classified opportunities. Finally, we are not significantly extending the reach of our audience, as our online products too closely resemble the newspaper, and thus fail to meaningfully reach the next generation of readers.

This interactive summit was meant to address these issues head-on; to build a strategic plan that places a value on our content, protects our core print business, extends the reach of our audience, and creates new revenue opportunities online. We cannot continue to give all of our content away for free; we must consider, create and deploy new products and sites that both decouple our interactive revenue from our classified business and offer a compelling new experience for a younger (non-newspaper buying) demographic. From this conference, we have built consensus on a three pronged approach to enhance our business moving forward:

· We will begin to move away from putting all of our newspaper content online for free. Instead, we will explore a variety of premium offerings that apply real value to our print content. We are not trying to invent new premium products, but instead tell our existing print readers that what they are buying has real value, and to our online audience (who don’t buy the print edition), that if you want access to all online content, you are going to have to register, and/or pay. If a non-subscriber wants the newspaper content in its entirety online, they will be directed to some sort of registration or pay vehicle (and if they are a print subscriber, they will have full access at no charge). To be clear, the brand value proposition to the consumer is that the newspaper is a product, whether in print or online, which must be paid for.

· We will begin differentiating our sites from the newspaper and focus on strategies designed to reach younger audiences and extend our reach. The websites, newspaper.com as we call them now, will become a different product. This new site, which we have been calling news.com, will be a regional news site that is actively managed to present breaking news. It will continue to draw a content from the newspaper (but probably in a more abbreviated form), but will also have user-generated content, community involvement and third party content. News.com will continue to serve our existing audience, which spends a lot of time on our sites, and drive significant traffic. They like and depend on our sites for their national and local news. We must not alienate them as we strive to expand our audience and attract younger people and non newspaper subscribers. Obviously, our sites must draw upon the content of the newspaper, but the presentation of that content will be different. News.com will be an entry page to new content offerings, local retail advertising opportunities and premium offerings.

· We will build a new local utility site (Local.com), which is an ecosystem of local information, resources, user content, shopping guides, and marketplaces. This site will be focused on a younger audience as well as other targeted audiences based on demographics which are attractive to our current and potential advertisers. We have the advantage of being the trusted source of for news and information in our communities and have a large base of traffic to feed into Local.com. Local.com will leverage existing newspaper content and existing traffic, and we will add new content (such as Entertainment/Lifestyle) to target a younger audience. Central to this local site will be an aggregation of city or community sites (in the YourHub model) and marketplaces. Local.com will be the ultimate site for people to find stuff, do stuff, and get stuff done in their local market.

We will initially focus on five or six niche vertical content channels to support targeted advertising opportunities (many of which have reverse publishing opportunities). We will build these out with a common template, for ease of execution and maintenance, and deploy across the company.

New tiered circulation pricing strategies will be considered as part of, and tied to, the above online strategies. Such pricing strategies will be designed to maximize revenue, improve overall profitability, add value to full priced, seven day delivery, subscriptions, and reinforce the value for online content.

In order to execute this vision, we have agreed that these new strategies will be done with a template approach, using a menu of common tools and vendors. We will take advantage of the size of MNG to leverage enterprise solutions and build off a common platform that allows for fast implementation and a companywide rollout.

We will form four taskforces (News, local, premium and technology) to drive these ideas to market. They will focus on content, sales, marketing, research and build a business plan. We will also form a technical taskforce to evaluate the needs of a new content management system.

We will keep you posted periodically as we develop these new products and as this strategy evolves. Our online business is a critical piece of the future growth of this company and is integral to growing and targeting new audiences. Our newspapers continue to attract the largest and most desirable audiences in our local markets, but we feel strongly that developing new and targeted audiences online will position us to deliver the most comprehensive and effective solutions for our advertisers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Think Piece by Lee Abrams*

April 30, 2009


Constantly hearing the doom and gloom...the cutbacks, the negative stuff. It's pretty real, but throughout our company there's a LOT of re-invention going on. In fact, when this economy improves, WE will be the ones with the upper hand because instead of dwelling on the pain, we're doing something about it. Economically of course, AND IN CONTENT/CREATIVE. As sad as the state of the economy is, it's equally sad to see people whining, complaining and feeling sorry for themselves and the industry, when that energy can go toward breaking down some walls.

Just a few of the people out there moving FORWARD:

From Digby Solomon:

We had a full house for our upfront party for advertisers last night, announcing we were taking The Daily Press all-color. The Mayor even showed up to praise the Daily Press for taking a proactive stance during a recession to keep up with the times, and to tell people were we’re important both to the community and to local business. We got great feedback from our clients, and reset their view of us from part of a troubled industry to someone who was working to help them market themselves during a recession.

The link to our Daily Press page on you Tube shows the video we presented at the art museum last night to tell the story. The first part is a 30-second commercial we'll be running (free) on WTKR for consumers. It's not Hollywood quality, but the price was right, mostly done in house.


SACRAMENTO VS. YOUTUBE: Instead of letting the web own something, they’re fighting back and claiming their ground as a TV station.

From: Mercer, Brandon
To: Abrams, Lee
Sent: Thu Apr 23 01:05:37 2009
Subject: Local TV

Also.... remember the Southwest rapper you sent out a while ago? I'm working with Southwest to fly him out for our morning shows, and share him with Trib/LTV stations that want him, while he's here.


It's a MODEL for brands working together. Amazing. A year ago this stuff would be impossible...now, it's happening:
From Joyce Winnecke:
Last week was Recession Relief Week for Chicago Tribune readers. And it was Recession Relief Week for Hoy, WGN-TV, WGN-AM and CLTV audiences too.
We coordinated editorial content and promotion across the newsrooms and business offices to create a full-market experience for millions of readers, listeners and viewers. Recession Relief Week began in our newsroom as an extension of the consumer team’s ongoing Recession Survival Guide. Very early in the planning stages, we expanded our story lists to include segments produced by each of our partners, many featuring Chicago Tribune expertise. We promoted in every direction possible, in our pages, in Hoy and on-air.
As Tony Hunter said yesterday, we acted like one company for the first time.
You’ll see more of this. We know that using the full strength of Chicago Tribune Media Group is key to our vision of becoming the dominant news and information destination in Chicago. We’re looking for more and better ways to coordinate with our partners.
Sheila Solomon is leading the charge for us. She’s giving WGN our front-page stories to tout on-air each evening. She’s arranging for our writers to discuss their fine work on-air. And she’s finding experts from our newsroom to help broadcast partners when they have specific needs. We want to promote Hoy, WGN-TV, WGN-AM and CLTV every chance we get too.
We’ll seek more opportunities like Recession Relief Week, and with those we will take the all-important next step – working far enough in advance to allow advertising teams to sell against the coordinated coverage.
This editorial coordination and cross-promotion is a critical part of our drive to thrive. Please send me your thoughts and ideas.

I added:

I think, moving forward, we look at topics beyond (and in addition to) the "how to cope with how bad everything is"
Imagine what the GROUP could do with Chicago hot buttons like:


Around the country I notice there's a LOT of recession help type stuff and obviously that’s important...but the GROUP power focusing on other mass appeal issues and PASSIONS could be very strong.



OWNING THE CUBS beyond airing the games…they are engaging the stars with a “60 Seconds” feature. The stars may be time pressed, but getting them for ONE minute shouldn’t be impossible.
Here are three that aired. This week is Ryan Theriot. I'll be sure to have the talent mention the player name at least 3 times in the segment. Once at the beginning....middle....end.
The files are here: http://sn.im/gd95e-fci

From WGN TV’s Marty Wilke:
Here's the first look at our new audio logo (incorporating the WGNA sonic notes) for the Chicago TMG brand!
Starts tomorrow on our air and will run everywhere on the station.
Shared w the TMG cross-marketing and promotion representatives today @ our regular meeting and will be pushing out to them today for use on their websites, pre/post-rolls, and presentations -- wherever and whenever we can to co-brand the most dominant brands in Chicago!

And...from WGN AMERICA.


(I have heard that there's some mysterious research indicating that people don;t like audio on websites. I imagine it can be a little annoying if you are barraged...but it seems to work fine when you click onto Windows or a Mac)

Take a look at some of WGN-AMERICA'S "local" images. Of course, 'local' for them is the whole Country. The point here is how the channel captures 'local' flavor via Reality instead of cliché. In other words, instead of the Grand Canyon or a Mom holding a baby that's holding an American flag, these are more REAL America. I think this is a good angle in capturing the REAL market vs. either:

*The clichés: The obvious landmarks that are ore about tourism than those who live there

*The fake: Fake skylines that are....fake

...future "postcards" will incorporate characters. REAL people.

I'm adding 89 new images to our on-air postcard library. Sean, some of these pix are yours, some are Langmyers and some are ones that i've gathered. we've got a good mix of shots here - urban/rural/country/industrial.

Ignore the seasonal one from Ohio - that will air in the fall. the statue of soldiers @ iwo jima is part of a thing i'm putting together for memorial day. the retro stamps are just freakin' cool.


SFL MORNING SHOW : A note I sent to Randy, Ed, Sean and others after experiencing WSFL:

Very blown away by the morning show! Not only the show, but the spirit and attitude of EVERYONE involved. If we can get 10 percent of this level of afdi, energy and willingness to reinvent at our other stations, we'll truly revolutionize TV.
There were quite a few nitpiks that I'll review today with the group, but overall, they are soooo local and soooo refreshingly and NOTICEABLY different from EVERYone else.
The other stations look disconnected, TOO professional and slick and "nationalized" in comparison, and I think this show is on track to hit its psychographic head on. Watched the competition and it was hilariously dated—Stiff, evil looking Ivory Tower news people wearing 1987 Reagan era suits, taking “news speak” with blue and silver everywhere. As organic and real as a chunk of linoleum. The CONTENT was generally fine, but undermined by a dated-playbook presentation.

They know their place on the intellectual/culture scale---and nail it well.

One BIG challenge is going to be to get the other 20 hours of sfl to match the magic of the morning show. 24/7/365

There's of course a lot for them to do but I can tell we have the makings of a winner that can be influential at our other stations. This show is SO south Florida, you can't simply recreate it, but it CAN serve as a model of breaking away, blowing up the playbook, creating a wonderful internal vibe (more like a killer radio station in 1975 than a TV station), and afdi.

I'm impressed and excited about where this can go. In a year...look out!

There are so many things they're doing right--the breezy way they refer to YouTube and facebook (vs "tech minute") to the set (love the retro photos and the painting of the city instead of a fake backdrop).
A work in progress of course, and not perfect, but they got the mojo going.
Now, just gotta make sure this sprit happens 24/7....and the whole station sings with new image innovation!
ZERO TV baggage…and it shows. Traditionalists will laugh…kinda like the old farts at BMG laughed at the audacity of “digital music”.

…The teamwork in Chicago, the spirit of reinvention in South Florida...Just two of the things that will define the Tribune Company, and in time the whole Media Industry.
*Editor's Note: I deleted a few lines from the Abrams' memo that offered password access to an online photo gallery.