Saturday, November 19, 2005

Second City Journalism?

From an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal on the possible sale of Knight Ridder:

On Nov. 1, Private Capital Management LP, a large shareholder in numerous newspaper companies, wrote to the management of Knight Ridder asking that the nation's second largest newspaper chain "aggressively pursue the competitive sale of the company." Two days later, two other large shareholders seconded the motion. Shortly thereafter, Knight Ridder announced that it had decided to "explore" alternatives, "including a possible sale of the company."

It is axiomatic on Wall Street that bear markets beget consolidation. The bear market in the newspaper industry should foretell a spate of mergers and acquisitions. But what if there are no buyers? This is the question that looms over Knight Ridder. Companies that might reasonably be expected to jump at the opportunity to acquire Knight Ridder, like Gannett and the New York Times, have expressed zero interest. New media companies -- Yahoo! and Google -- weren't even called for comment. In the end, it was left to a few Wall Street talking heads to announce interest, which they did by insisting that "big private equity firms" would be the likely buyers, if only to acquire the whole at a discount and then sell off the parts for a gain.

This lack of enthusiasm for a company once regarded as a money machine is evidence of how thoroughly the Internet has disrupted media business models. And with broadband now reaching into more than half of U.S. households, disruption has morphed into menace.

Comes this shot:

Knight Ridder has been publishing mostly second-rate newspapers for as long as anyone can remember.

He did say "mostly second-rate" so perhaps his broad brush swipe doesn't include our local KR entity.

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