Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fairfield County is Hearst country

Where have I been? A friend told me last night that the Connecticut Post had been sold as of last Friday.

No, not the huge shopping mall in Milford; the newspaper in Bridgeport. Not only that, but New York-based Hearst Corp., the Post's new owner, also bought the Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time and Danbury News-Times.

The Denver Business Journal ran a story that said Hearst paid $155 million for the Post, less than the $200 million shelled out by former owner MediaNews Group eight years ago to buy it from Thomson Newspapers. MediaNews Group, headed by Dean Singleton, owns the Denver Post, which is why the Denver Business Journal cared about the sale.

The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time had been part of the Tribune conglomerate, which still owns the Hartford Courant. They had been bought earlier this year by MediaNews, as had the Danbury News-Times. The Danbury paper had once been a member of the Ottaway chain, which had been owned for years by the Dow-Jones Co., former publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

Confused yet? There's more. 

MediaNews Group, which is a privately held company, as is Hearst,  had been losing money and announced the sale to Hearst was meant to solidify its bottom line. Hearst had owned a large minority stake in MediaNews, which means it had owned a piece of the papers that it bought last week. 

So, in essence, Hearst now owns every daily in Fairfield County except the Norwalk Hour. A half-dozen weeklies formerly owned by Brooks Community Newspapers was also part of the deal.

Why should we care? Well, first of all, the Connecticut Post competes with the New Haven Register in Stratford, Milford and the Lower Naugatuck Valley and circulates in New Haven itself. Secondly, some of the weeklies owned by the Journal-Register, the Register's owner, which is not in good financial shape to say the least, compete with the Brooks weeklies.

But the advent of a well-financed, well-run newspaper chain that owns most of Fairfield County, could bleed even more business away from the Journal-Register. That company's in such bad shape now that you could buy about 150 shares of its stock for the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee.

The purchase of the three Fairfield County papers gives Hearst  dozen daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has won two Pulitzer prizes, both for editorial cartooning. The nearest Hearst site before this purchase was in Albany, N.Y., where the company had announced in the spring that it was putting up for a 70,000-square foot printing and packaging facility.

The Times-Union is a decent newspaper, with a good deal of local news. 

Western Connecticut will be just about all Hearst. There is a  Journal-Register-presence  in northwest Connecticut, the Register-Citizen covering Torrington and Winsted. 

The only real competition along near the New York border, especially south of Litchfield, would be from Gannett's The Journal-News in Westchester and Putnam counties of New York. I'm not sure, however, that the J-N knows or cares about what goes on in Connecticut.

I went looking for a media consultant for this story and remembered that I'm a newspaper consultant.  So I asked me.

It will take a while for Hearst to gets its feet wet in its diverse new holding. The problems in Stamford and Greenwich are vastly different from those in Danbury and also different from the concerns in Bridgeport.

But it's no secret that the Journal-Register would love to sell itself, or at least part of itself, to a sugar daddy the way some of MediaNews Group did. But having a well-heeled neighbor that controls everything between the New Haven County line and the New York border south of I-84, with the exception of the small Norwalk Hour and the Waterbury Republican-American, may give a potential buyer pause. Add to that the fact that the J-N's debt is quite big and the suitors may not be coming around so quickly.

Page 2

This is just too much fun not to include today.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's name will be put in nomination at the Democrats' convention in Denver later this month. Not only that, but a roll-call vote will be taken on the nomination.
Wouldn't it be fun if she could get just enough votes to deny Barack Obama the nomination on the first ballot?

Wouldn't it be fun if suddenly there is an open convention and....Nah.

Until next time...

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