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Lesson for Newspapers from the Surviving Bits of the N.Y. Herald-Tribune

February 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

International Herald Tribune LogoWith many newspaper flags are falling these days, there is a great opportunity for folks to pick up the pieces of the brands. We happened upon a great discussion on Metaprinter.com about saving newspapers; one central point of the discussion is that a newspaper brand, however struggling it is, gives credibility to online sites.

These brand names have value in a web-centric world.

With that in mind, let’s look at one newspaper, the New York Herald-Tribune. When the newspaper died in the 1960s, what survived was the International Herald-Tribune and the supplement, the New York magazine. The latter was rescued by Clay Felker in 1964 and turned into a very profitable magazine brand. Each flourished; perhaps one could argue that if the Herald-Tribune company had sold off or shut down the newspaper and kept New York and the IHT, it would still be in business. (We wonder how long New York Times Co. is going to keep the IHT brand? We believe that they should NOT change it. What they are doing now is perfect, leveraging the content of the Times, but still keeping the IHT identity. It’s a totally different paper. NYT did shut down the IHT website.)

I noticed on the website Newspapertiger.com that Journal Register had closed down a number of flags. (Read a great Alan “Newsosaur” Mutter analysis here.) While not having a familiarity with the exact market, in general any local newspaper that has been around for over four decades has much regional clout, and long relationships with local advertisers, even if they have been ruined by over-leveraged companies. In addition, they have back issues that sometimes go back 100 years. This is all legit “goodwill” that needs to be sold for cheap, not ditched. Dirks, Van Essen & Murry, a longtime broker, handled the sales; I am sure they would love to talk to anyone with cash.

Now, I am not saying these papers have LOTS of value. They have small value. What I am saying is that there is some value there, and with the investment of tiny amounts of money, and large amounts of expertise and time, many of these properties do not have to disappear. Perhaps the company could offload them for nominal amounts for a five-year balloon payment of some reasonable sum. That way there might be some long-term hope for the local flags.

It looks like some newspapers are being saved. For instance, in the Media Post story by Erik Sass, he writes that says that The East Hartford Gazette was closed, but its longtime editor Bill Doak has reincarnated it as “The Gazette,” serving as publisher, chief writer, and deliveryman. This type of setup has a long history in newspapering.

According to the Media Post story, the daily newspapers, The Herald of New Britain and the Bristol Press, were “saved from closure at the last minute when they were sold to Mike Schroeder, a former Newsday executive who also bought three weeklies: the Wethersfield Post, the Newington Town Crier, and the Rocky Hill Post.”

God bless Schroeder.

Interesting that Journal Register could not find buyers for the Harlem Valley weeklies. Some of these readership areas are very affluent and that the company was unable to find a buyer speaks not only to the crazy market, but to the company’s utter lack of imagination in figuring out how to run these small papers. The reality is that most of these papers could have run themselves if given independence from the parent company, but realistically, they sucked so much life and cash out of all these small papers for so long that it is no wonder they could not survive. I wonder if the company had so much to worry about that it just couldn’t do it all in time.

A few mentioned in the story:

Taconic Press (Journal Register subsidiary)

  • Millbrook Round Table
  • The Voice Ledger of Pleasant Valley
  • The Gazette-Advertiser of Rhinebeck
  • The Pawling News Chronicle
  • The Harlem Valley Times
  • The Hyde Park Townsman
  • The Register Herald of Pine Bluffs
  • The Putnam County Courier

Connecticut (apparently) closed:

  • Bloomfield Journal and is said to be preparing to close the Shoreline Times
  • Pictorial Gazette
  • Branford Review
  • Clinton Recorder and The Advertiser, of East Haven.

Interested in saving the actual newspaper? Read our post 20 Ways to Save the Daily. You might not agree with them all, but I think you will find that there are some suggestions that make you think. You might also read my story on saving newspaper flags; there I mention that over a decade ago I revived a newspaper name in Richmond, The Richmond State. We lasted for two years; perhaps at age 28 I wasn’t ready to run a newspaper. But in that scenario, I learned that using an old flag made a start-up much easier. I can look back on the project and see many mistakes that are easy to see in hindsight; one thing that was NOT a mistake as taking an old legacy newspaper flag and reviving it. Instantly, I found a spot in local libraries, and with the community.

I would love to hear from some folks in NY and Connecticut about these individual flags. While many cannot be rescued immediately, the folks at Journal Register should listen to suggestions on how to keep these newspapers alive in some form, so that these great towns can still have a voice. When these newspapers disappear, it is not like a filling station closing up. The soul of a community often leaves with the weekly newspaper.

More branding stories of interest:

20 Ways to Save Your Dying Newspaper
Twing Your Brand, Twing Your Competition
Reader's Digest, Get Back To Basics (and Apologize to the Wallaces)
Many Issues Surround Proposed Delta Worldport Demolition
Branding Medicine After the Healthcare Bill
History of New York Company Gebott's Sought

Tags: Media · Regional Brands

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 New International Herald Tribune Redesign | // Mar 30, 2009 at 4:21 am

    […] The newspaper, and the magazine New York, are the two surviving elements of the New York Herald-Tribune. Read our post Lessons from Newspapers from the Surviving Bits of the NY Herald Tribune. […]

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