By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Alt-weekly local newspaper the Providence Phoenix will cease publication next week after more than three decades in Rhode Island, its parent company announced Thursday.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal’s new owner is likely to cut jobs while boosting revenue through a service that helps local small businesses with online marketing, analysts said Wednesday.
There was widespread agreement among analysts Wednesday that GateHouse will probably cut jobs at The Journal once the deal closes, which is expected to happen by Sept. 30. But they said employees who work in back-office operations are at more risk than reporters.
There’s a new media giant in town: New Media Investment Group, GateHouse Media’s parent company, is buying The Providence Journal for roughly $46 million. The deal instantly gives GateHouse, a major force in Massachusetts newspapering, a huge foothold in Rhode Island less than a year after the company exited bankruptcy.
Jon Chesto is managing editor of the Boston Business Journal and a former business editor at the Patriot-Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts, which GateHouse owns. A close follower of GateHouse, Chesto wrote a perceptive analysis of the Journal deal Tuesday night. He spoke with WPRI.com on Wednesday about the deal and what it means for the paper’s future. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start with the basics for people down here in Rhode Island. What is New Media Investment Group? What’s its relationship with GateHouse?
New Media Investment Group is a publicly traded company that’s an umbrella group that includes GateHouse and a number of companies that have been acquired by Fortress [Investment Group]. Prior to that it was an affiliate of Fortress that bought the Dow Jones community papers formerly known as Ottaway, and those were sort of the original New Media papers. There have been several papers since.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal has been sold to GateHouse Media parent company New Media Investment Group Inc. for approximately $46 million, Journal owner A.H. Belo announced late Tuesday afternoon.
The newspaper was put up for sale in December by A.H. Belo, which bought it in 1997. In addition to GateHouse, which emerged from bankruptcy last year and owns a number of papers in Massachusetts and other states, New Media’s other divisions are Local Media Group Inc. and Propel Marketing.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Three local publishing executives and a prominent real-estate investor are among the contenders trying to buy The Providence Journal, WPRI.com has confirmed.
The paper’s print circulation was 96,656 on Sundays during the six months ended March 31, down by 12,860 or almost 12% from the same period last year, the Alliance for Audited Media reported Thursday. The advertising-heavy Sunday paper is the most lucrative edition of the week for most publications.
The Journal also sold an average of 72,023 traditional print editions on weekdays between Oct. 1 and March 31, a decrease of 7,221 or 9% since March 2013.
The Journal said its total average circulation on Thursdays was 235,539 when print and digital “branded editions” are added, which would include its free ProjoExpress publication, an increase of almost 5%. The audit group changed its rules in 2011 to count those.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Sunshine is finally breaking through the clouds at The Providence Journal.
The Journal’s total revenue was up nearly 3% between Jan. 1 and March 31 compared with the same period in 2013, rising to $21.2 million, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed Wednesday in an SEC filing.
If the trend continues for the rest of the year, it will mark the first time The Journal’s revenue has increased on an annual basis since at least 2005. The newspaper has continued to earn a profit even as revenue plunged 43% over the last eight years.
The Journal was buoyed in the first quarter by a 19% jump in its revenue from the printing and distribution of other newspapers and magazines, which brought in $3.7 million. Circulation revenue also rose 5% to $8.3 million, which the company attributed to a double-digit increase in rates for home delivery.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The effort to try and sell The Providence Journal is moving full speed ahead.
“I’d say we’re midway through the process right now, and I think it’s going very well,” A.H. Belo Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel told investors on a conference call Tuesday.
• Related: Projo revenue slid 4% in 2013; ad losses hit $96M (March 12)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal’s revenue declined at a faster pace in 2013 as continued growth in its contracts for printing and distribution failed to offset falling circulation and another double-digit drop in advertising sales.
The Journal’s revenue totaled $90.1 million in 2013, a Securities & Exchange Commission filing by its parent company A.H. Belo shows. That was a 4% decrease in revenue compared with 2012, more than the prior year’s 1% drop but less than the declines of the five years from 2007 to 2011.
Total Journal revenue has plummeted 46% since 2005, when the newspaper pulled in $165.6 million. A.H. Belo is now in the process of trying to sell the local daily, a process that Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel recently said could be completed by April or May. It’s unclear who the buyer would be.
The Journal remains profitable, according to Engel. Howard Sutton, The Journal’s longtime publisher, and Karen Bordeleau, the paper’s executive editor, did not respond to a request for comment.
Providence Journal owner A.H. Belo’s stock is on a tear just as the company prepares to sell the local daily.
Shares of Dallas-based A.H. Belo have jumped more than 30% in New York Stock Exchange trading since closing at $8.05 on Feb. 11, a day before the company announced a $16 million annual profit for 2013 and gave an update on its efforts to sell The Journal. The stock was at $10.49 at 11:56 a.m. Monday.
The rising share price has triggered at least 10 stock transactions by A.H. Belo insiders, SEC filings show.
It’s a far cry from the grim days of early 2009, when A.H. Belo stock tanked amid the post-crisis market crash and deep uncertainty in the newspaper industry. The company’s shares fell as low as 68 cents on March 10, 2009, meaning an investor who bought the stock that day and held it would have a 1,442% gain today.
A.H. Belo Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel told investors Feb. 12 that the company would send out sale books to potential Journal buyers this month, and that she expected the process “to wrap up, I would assume, sometime in April or May.” Engel didn’t respond to an email requesting further comment; Journal executive editor Karen Bordeleau declined to comment.
A.H. Belo already sold its third major newspaper – The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. – last year, so selling The Journal would allow the company to narrow its business focus to its flagship Dallas Morning News and associated businesses in its home base of Texas.
A.H. Belo is moving ahead with its plan to try and sell The Providence Journal.
“We’ve been working very diligently,” Alison Engel, A.H. Belo’s chief financial officer, told investors last week when asked about where things stand with The Journal. “We really didn’t get started on the process until after year-end for a variety of reasons, including just the holidays and having to complete the 2013 close, etc.”
A.H. Belo, which has owned The Journal since 1997, put the paper up for sale in December as part of an effort to refocus the company on its flagship newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, and its market.
Engel said A.H. Belo executives have “made a lot of progress” in working with Stephens Inc., the investment bank that’s shopping The Journal, to put together a presentation about The Journal’s finances that will be given to potential investors. She said those who’ve expressed interest in buying the paper would likely receive the detailed information by the end of this week.
This morning’s coverage of A.H. Belo’s plans to sell The Providence Journal contains a few new nuggets.
First, from Sheryl Jean’s story in A.H. Belo’s own Dallas Morning News (emphasis added):
Jim Moroney, chairman, president and chief executive of A. H. Belo, thinks Providence will attract “several interested parties.”
“The Providence Journal is a powerhouse brand in Rhode Island and will attract a lot of buyers,” he said. “I think you could see some other newspaper companies that have been more acquisitive … and you could see some local people who might be interested in having a stake in the Providence Journal.”
A. H. Belo is not in talks with any potential buyers yet, Moroney said. A. H. Belo plans to separately sell several pieces of property in Providence, including the Journal’s building, he said.
Analyst Barry L. Lucas said the Providence Journal might fetch a higher price than Riverside because it is larger, with better financial performance. Lucas estimates Providence’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to be 5 percent to 9 percent of total EBITDA.
The big news in Rhode Island Wednesday is, of course, that A.H. Belo is putting the Projo up for sale.
The decision won’t surprise veteran Journal-watchers, particularly after Belo’s recent move to shed one of its other two papers – The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. – for just $27.3 million. It didn’t make much sense for a Dallas-based company that now owns only two big newspapers to have one of them be in its hometown and the other, much smaller one halfway across the country.
Back in 2010, I published a WPRI.com feature story about how much The Journal might fetch these days. On Wednesday I asked two top media analysts to weigh in about the question now, and here’s what they told me, from my updated WPRI.com story:
“I’m not surprised,” Ken Doctor, a media analyst at the research firm Outsell and the author of “Newsonomics,” told WPRI.com. “It’s clear that A.H. Belo is circling the wagons around its home base, Dallas. The Morning News has outperformed Projo and Riverside and has always been a more dominant player there.” …
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A.H. Belo, the Dallas-based company that has owned The Providence Journal since 1997, announced Wednesday morning it has begun seeking a buyer to purchase Rhode Island’s statewide daily, but cautioned that it might not find a suitable purchaser.
The Providence Journal’s advertising sales continued to decline by double-digits this past summer amid industry upheaval, but the impact was largely offset by a growing number of printing and distribution contracts.
The Journal’s ad revenue was down 10% between July 1 and Sept. 30 compared with the same period in 2012, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Quarterly ad sales fell to $9.4 million, a decrease of $1.1 million.
Total third-quarter revenue at The Journal from all sources was down just 1% from 2012, falling to $22.7 million. Circulation revenue fell 0.5% to $8.8 million. Printing and distribution contracts surged 25% to $3.6 million thanks to new distribution contracts for various other papers and magazines obtained in July from a settlement with another distributor.
The Journal’s average weekday circulation fell from 83,733 to 76,447 during the six-month period ended Sept. 30, according to the most recent report by the Alliance for Audited Media. The paper’s Monday-to-Friday circulation has dropped 47% over the last six years as Rhode Island’s economy struggled.
The paper’s Sunday print circulation was 104,010, down 13,774 from the same period last year, the Alliance for Audited Media reported Thursday. Sunday is the most lucrative edition of the week for most papers.
The Journal also sold an average of 76,447 traditional print editions on weekdays between April 1 and Sept. 30, a decrease of 7,286 since September 2012.
The Journal said its total average weekly circulation was 106,605 when “branded editions” are added, which would include its free ProjoExpress publication. The audit group changed its rules in 2011 to count those.
Saturday print circulation fell by 12,034 copies – from 106,775 to 94,741 – as of Sept. 30, the group said.
And then there were two.
The Providence Journal’s Dallas-based parent company, A.H. Belo, announced Thursday the sale of one of its three newspaper divisions: The Press Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., acquired for $27.3 million (including real estate) by Freedom Communications Holdings, owner of the Orange County Register.
The possibility has been floated for a while by A.H. Belo investors, who’ve noted how many different companies are currently operating in the Southern California newspaper market. Meanwhile, Freedom chief Aaron Kushner has aggressively doubled-down on the print side of the newspaper business at the Register.
The sale leaves A.H. Belo owning only two major newspapers: its flagship Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal here in Rhode Island. The Journal is a much smaller operation, contributing only 21% of A.H. Belo revenue during the first half of 2013; Dallas provided 66% and Riverside 13%. Here’s a chart:
There was no mention of The Journal in A.H. Belo’s press release about the sale, though A.H. Belo CEO Jim Moroney said the company would use the $27 million in proceeds “to continue to diversify its revenue streams and increase shareholder returns in the future.” The Journal’s union is currently bracing for more layoffs.
• Related: No reason for Belo to sell Projo with price at $51 million (Dec. 28, 2010)
A dozen members of the Providence Newspaper Guild have agreed to accept buyouts at The Providence Journal but layoffs are still expected to hit the newspaper later this month, a union official said Tuesday.
Guild President John Hill told WPRI.com 12 of his union’s members have taken the buyout, including nationally syndicated opinion columnist Froma Harrop, who serves on The Journal’s five-member editorial board. Harrop has been with the paper since at least the mid-1980s.
Harrop told WPRI.com she will continue to write her twice-weekly column, which is carried in more than 150 newspapers, for distribution by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate. The column will continue to appear in The Journal because the paper has agreed to pay to carry it, she said.
Two other newsroom veterans who took buyouts were Richard Dujardin, a longtime religion reporter, and Tracy Breton, a legal and investigative reporter. Dujardin has been with The Journal since 1966, except for a three-year stint in the U.S. Navy, while Breton has been with the newspaper since 1973.
Providence Journal executives told employees Friday they plan to cut roughly 30 jobs in the coming weeks through buyouts, and will resort to layoffs if too few workers choose to leave voluntarily, a union official said.
Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill said reporters, editors and other employees were informed Friday morning about the decision to downsize the staff.
“We were told today they’re looking for in the ballpark of 30 positions but did not have a specific number at this point,” Hill told WPRI.com. “They said the uncertainty is because they want to see how many people will put in for buyouts.”
The Journal’s management plans to get rid of both union and non-union jobs across the company, and Hill said they are “probably looking for more [cuts] from editorial than advertising.” The news was first reported on Twitter by Mike Stanton, who retired recently as The Journal’s chief investigative reporter.
By Ted Nesi
FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has sold its Dow Jones Local Media Group – which owns 33 publications including the New Bedford Standard-Times, the Cape Cod Times and The Inquirer and Mirror of Nantucket – and handed over their management to GateHouse Media Inc.
When John Henry bought The Boston Globe for $70 million earlier this month, it got at least a few locals talking – once again – about the possibility that The Providence Journal could get returned to local ownership.
While anything’s possible, especially in this era of media turmoil, there’s been absolutely no signal that Dallas-based A.H. Belo, which owns the Projo, is interested in selling the paper – particularly since, just like The Globe, The Journal has probably lost more than 90% of its value since Belo bought it in the 1990s.
Nevertheless, it’s worth comparing how The Globe and The Journal have fared over the past few years as newspapers’ top lines have been battered by falling revenue and declining circulation. Here’s the year-over-change in advertising sales at the two newspapers from 2007 through last year:
And here’s the year-over-change in circulation revenue at the two publications:
(Note that The Globe’s figures are for The New York Times’ New England Media Group, which also includes the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.)
The patterns look pretty similar. The Projo’s advertising slide has been a bit worse than The Globe’s, though it started a little later. But the Projo has boosted circulation revenue at a faster pace. (Both papers have raised prices as readership fell, which is why a lower circulation hasn’t led to lower total circulation revenue.)
• Related: Spring ad sales down 14% at Projo; CEO blames RI malaise (July 30)
The Journal’s advertising revenue was down 14% between April 1 and June 30 compared with the same period in 2012, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Quarterly ad sales fell to $10.3 million, or $1.7 million below last year’s level.
Total second-quarter revenue at The Journal from all sources was down 8% from 2012, falling to $22.1 million. Circulation revenue fell 2% to $8.5 million. Printing and distribution contracts, which had been offsetting ad losses, fell 2% to $3.3 million.
Asked Monday on an investor call to give an overview of the situation, A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd was blunt: “There’s really not much good news in the Rhode Island economy right now.”
The Providence Journal’s parent company, A.H. Belo, announced Wednesday that Robert Decherd will retire as its chairman, president and CEO on Sept. 11 and be succeeded by Jim Moroney, the Dallas Morning News’ longtime publisher and CEO.
Decherd, 62, will move to a new role as vice chairman of the board – and he’ll be richly compensated for doing so, according to a filing late Wednesday with the SEC.
Decherd will be paid $300,000 a year in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to serve as vice chairman of A.H. Belo’s board of directors, the company disclosed. Although Decherd will stop being CEO in September, he’ll still get his full $600,000 annual salary for 2013 and will be eligible for a full year’s bonus. Decherd earned $1.9 million in 2012.
The Journal’s advertising revenue was down 15% between Jan. 1 and March 31 compared with the same period in 2012, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Quarterly ad sales fell to $9.6 million, or $1.7 million below last year’s level.
Total first-quarter revenue at The Journal from all sources was down 9% from 2012, falling to $20.6 million, thanks to a 10% increase in its contracts to print and distribute other newspapers. Circulation revenue fell 7% to $8 million.
“In Providence we got off to a bumpy start for a variety of reasons,” A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd told investors in a conference call last week. He said some of The Journal’s promotional plans for the start of the year were hamstrung by the winter storms that hit Rhode Island.
The Providence Journal’s Sunday print circulation fell 10% during the six months ended March 31, figures released Tuesday showed, as the newspaper’s parent company reported a first-quarter loss of $8 million.
The Journal’s print circulation on Sundays – the most lucrative edition of the week for most papers – totaled 109,516 copies, down by 12,763 since March 2012, the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) reported Tuesday morning.
The Projo sold an average of 79,244 traditional print editions on weekdays between Oct. 1 and March 31, a decrease of 6,252 from a year earlier and 45% fewer than in September 2007.
Saturday circulation dipped below 100,000 for the first time, falling by 10,484 to 98,651. Weekday circulation fell below 100,000 for the first time in 2010. The overall pace of circulation loss has slowed since 2009-10, when the annual rate of decline on Sundays peaked at 17%.