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Posts Tagged ‘Postmedia’

Penny for your thoughts? Yeah, right.

September 21, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been asked a lot of things in my time as a community newspaper reporter. But the one thing I’ve never been asked is what I think my newspaper chain can do better. I’ve thus also never been asked how it might make more money, or produce better content, or alienate fewer readers, or piss off fewer employees. (Which is, of course, one of the reasons I started this blog.)

Every now and then you’ll read a story about an innovative company that is great to work for. What sets these companies apart isn’t usually what they produce, but how they produce it. Google allows workers to set aside something like 20 per cent of their time for their own personal projects. Toyota asks front-line workers to suggest improvements to allow it to run more efficiently. Other companies ask their employees what they can do better. Not newspaper companies. At Postmedia, which has blessedly sold off its community papers, Paul Godfrey set aside time a couple times a year to answer employee questions. Which is a nice gesture, I guess, but also condescending and ridiculous and symptomatic of all that’s wrong with the industry.

Or you have the old executive visit. This happens at most every paper: you’re working a pumping out another edition when the publisher or editor brings some guy in a suit around to your desk. Your boss states your name and position, makes small talk and facilitates a handshake. It’s an utter waste of time and demeaning for all concerned, the equivalent of dogs sniffing each others’ asses. Except at least the dogs might find something interesting.  The reporter and editor goes through the charade because they have to, obviously. The boss does it to plant the company’s flag and show his face and, if he’s an idiot, because he (it’s always a he) thinks it’s good for morale.

If the guy really cared, of course, he wouldn’t ask about the news of the day or how the family is doing, but rather if there’s anything he and the other folks at head office should know that would make the paper run better. To pull this off requires skill and the allocation of actual time and effort on the part of the suit. The workers need to know he’s coming (so they can prepare their pitch) and be promised that any suggestions they make won’t come back to bite them in the ass. But it’s not that hard. And it shouldn’t take that much time: most employees will be too shy, or too apathetic, to offer suggestions. Some might, though. Maybe it’ll help. Maybe processes can be streamlined. Maybe new markets can be found. Maybe smart new employees will reveal themselves. And maybe somebody will show that even non-executives can have good ideas, or at least the same old bad ones.*

Maybe the suits will ignore all the suggestions. But at least they’d be pretending to fucking care.

*One of the problems with newspaper chains is that innovation (if you can call it that) tends to only happen from the top. All the websites (save that of the Powell River Peak) look the same, and all changes can only be implemented on a chain-wide basis by somebody working at some head office or location set apart from the individual papers. There is no room for experimentation. An idea is conceived and implemented across dozens of websites. This takes substantial time and money. If it fails…scratch that….nobody’s allowed to admit failure because doing so requires someone to admit that all that effort was wasted. And because the chains discourage failure, they inevitably discourage innovation and promote imitation. Imitation, of course, is safe and comfortable and allows the suits to keep collecting their salaries while they cut from the bottom.**

**Maybe that’s why chains don’t want to hear from us.

How Twitter reacted to Postmedia/Glacier deal:

October 19, 2011 2 comments

I’ve experimented/wasted too much time with using Storify to document reactions on Twitter to the Postmedia/Glacier deal and its effect on the B.C. community newspaper landscape. Click the following link to make my effort at least a little worthwhile:

View “Online reaction to Glacier/Postmedia deal” on Storify

Categories: Industry stuff Tags: , ,

Sayonara, Postmedia! We welcome our new Glacier overlords.

October 19, 2011 6 comments

I’m taking a break from my self-imposed exile to celebrate the abandonment of the B.C. community news sector by Postmedia. I’m sure you’ve already heard that Glacier agreed to buy Postmedia’s Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland papers, along with the Victoria Times-Colonist, for 80-some million dollars.

This has been greeted, predictably, with great enthusiasm from at least those people in my Postmedia newsroom. As I explained several months ago, Postmedia never knew what the fuck to do with its community papers. (Actually, that may be wrong. They took profits from the community papers and threw them into the great mysterious Postmedia debt hole. Unfortunately, that debt hole was posed to gobble up all the chain’s money for a great number of years.)

To escape that burden (sorry Vancouver Sun and Province journos!) feels like a new lease on life.

Sure, an avalanche of money isn’t about to flow our way. It never does. But at least there will be hope for the future and competency in the present. For one, Postmedia’s “digital-first” strategy, with its focus on page views at the expense of building good and readable news sites, was idiotic. Photo Galleries! Photo Galleries! More Photo Galleries.

Thankfully, judging by Glacier newspapers’ sites (including that of the Powell River Peak [!]), there doesn’t appear to be the drive to obtain page views, no matter how fleeting, at all else. The sites also appear, while not exactly beautiful, at least competently put together and simple. That’s another welcome change from the scrapheap of random widgets, links and ads that currently comprise the Lower Mainland papers’ sites.

On a not-unrelated note, I’m going to try and update this blog every week or so. Sometimes posts may come more frequently. Probably, they’ll be more sporadic. But either way, I hope to still be here.

It’s a brand new day!

Am I wrong to be so optimistic? Post a comment below.

CCNAs by company

March 18, 2011 Comments off

As I did with the Ma Murray Awards, I’ve broken down the CCNA British Columbia and Yukon nominees by media company (Black Press papers in Alberta don’t count, if any of them are nominated).

This time I’ve broken the awards down into four categories: Blue Ribbons and Newspaper Excellence, for which a paper is counted only once, even if they’re nominated for Best Front Page and given Blue Ribbon status; Special newspaper awards (i.e. Outstanding Arts Coverage); Writing; Photography.

Again, I’ll leave interpretations of the results up to the reader. I may have messed up when I did the math, however; if you spot an error, please leave a comment and I’ll fix it.

Here we go:

Newspaper excellence:

Black Press – 20

Postmedia – 8 (incl. one daily)

Glacier – 5 (incl. one daily)

Special newspaper awards:

Black Press – 7

Postmedia – 2

Glacier – 4

Independent (Yukon News) – 4

Writing:

Black Press – 22

Postmedia – 7

Glacier – 1

Independent (Yukon News) – 7

Photography:

Black Press – 10

Postmedia – 3

Glacier – 2

Independent (Yukon News) – 2

Leave a comment.

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This blog had more visitors in February than any previous months. It’s still a one-person show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Ma Murray awards by media company

March 9, 2011 2 comments

So I’ve broke down yesterday’s award nominations by company and the results are interesting.

The following is made without comment because, frankly, I don’t know what conclusions there are to be drawn from this. That, however, is not to say there are no conclusions to be drawn. There are, especially about the general allocation of resources. I just don’t know what.

Some disclaimers: Black Press owns far more papers than Postmedia which owns more papers than Glacier. The only independent paper to be nominated was the Yukon News. I’ve separated the dailies — Nanaimo Daily News for Postmedia, the Prince George Citizen and Kamloops Daily News for Glacier. Finally, I left Kamloops This Week in the Black Press family mainly because little to nothing has changed there since a company called Thompson River Publications took over late last year. For example, their websites remain the same)

Overall Excellence

Black Press — 17 nominations

Glacier — 3 nominations

Postmedia — 1 nominations.

Writing

Black Press — 16 nominations

Postmedia — 11 nominations

Glacier — 4 nominations

Glacier dailies — 4 nominations

Independent – 4 nominations

Postmedia dailies — 1 nomination

Photography

Black Press — 17 nominations

Postmedia — 5 nominations

Independent — 4 nominations

Glacier — 3 nominations

Glacier dailies — 1 nomination

Any idea why this may be? Leave a comment.

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This blog had more visitors in February than any previous months. It’s still a one-person show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Black Press made $17.9 million (US) last year

March 5, 2011 Comments off

The Hawaii Reporter, umm, reports that Black Press made $17.9 million (US) last year:

An earnings report filed by Torstar Corp., which owns almost one-fifth of Black Press, shows the Victoria, British Columbia-based Black Press had an about $17 million profit excluding impairment charges during 2010. That compared with about $12.9 million of earnings in 2009.

The year was a busy one for Black Press, which publishes more than 100 weekly and daily newspapers and shoppers. It bought more than a dozen newspapers, at least four of which it closed.

more…

The Reporter is interested in Black Press because those purchased included the Honolulu Advertiser, which it “merged with its Honolulu Star-Bulletin to create the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In the process it fired more than 450 people as CEO David Black combined the operations while hiking advertising rates and prices for commercial printing at his Kapolei press.”

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Meanwhile, the rating of Postmedia’s debt — or, rather, a portion of its debt — was raised from horrible, to merely bad — or something like that.

A public offering of the company’s stock this year will take place sometime before August, at which point life could get better for its employees.

Fooled again?

February 17, 2011 2 comments

Postmedia has been very, very naughty this week, both pimping and outsourcing.

Yep, Postmedia has decided to once again outsource production operations for most of its Lower Mainland papers to Langley. All production and ad control operations have been centralized, meaning many people across the chain have been laid off or told to commute to beautiful Langley Township. Reporters and editors aren’t directly affected, but it’s hard to see how some part of the system won’t become a major problem for all involved.

They’ve tried it before and it was a flying success. Or not. But I guess headquarters thought to give it another go. If it fails, they’re opening themselves up to plenty of “Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice ….” references.

All this is, obviously, most distressing for those production staff who are involved. But it also  seems like the barebones Postmedia chain is stripping down even further, I guess with an eye to make the balance sheets look as good as possible before the company goes out on the open market. Indeed, the move comes not long after the company layed off Maple Ridge Times editor Chris Campbell and delegated his duties to the Langley Advance’s Roxanne Hooper, and just months after Marlyn Graziano was made publisher of Surrey Now—while retaining her editorial directorship. Departing reporters also aren’t being replaced.

Basically, it seems like this has been engineered by those trying to wring every last cent out of the community papers by making less people do more jobs. In the meantime, who gives a damn abut the actual people working at the papers, right?

You may have noticed the qualifier “most” up there. The Burnaby and Coquitlam Now papers are not having their production centralized. Someone told me that the Burnaby and Coquitlam Nows are also a couple of the only unionized Lower Mainland Postmedia papers. I’m kinda ambivalent about the whole union thing, but it seems like it may have worked there.

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