Boston Globe Gets Stay: New York Times and Unions Reach Agreement

digital-news2-sm.jpgThe print media’s struggle to adapt to the drastic changes wrought by the Internet is far from over but today the New York Times Co. managed to at least partially defer the immediacy of one of its pressing problems:  Boston Globe union negotiations.  After more than a month of contentious talks, a settlement was reached with most participants.

The Boston Globe paper lost $50m in 2008 and was poised to lose another $85m this year if it continued on the same path.  Looking to slow the bleeding, the Times Co. wanted at least $20m in concessionary cutbacks, and other contractual concessions (including the elimination of some lifetime job guarantees).

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Google Book Search Settlement Review Extended

In October, Google announced the settlement of a three year copyright battle over its practices of scanning and displaying books at Google Book Search. 

With high level soundbytes, the deal was billed as an achievement.  Richard Sarnoff, Chairman of the Association of American Publishers, characterized it as a “win for everyone.”  All that was necessary to go forward was court approval and that was considered a formality scheduled for May 5th.   Turns out, that timetable was a little optimistic.

On Tuesday, responding to objections made by a number of authors, Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York extended the settlement’s review period until September 4th and scheduled a final fairness hearing for October 7th, 2009.

The authors had expressed concern that the original schedule didn’t provide enough time to review the complex settlement’s terms.  They requested six more months.   Google and the Author’s Guild, the core parties of the settlement, thought a sixty day extension should be enough.  The judge split the difference.

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Kindle’s Margins? Teardown Yields Clues

kindle image metueAmazon beat the street Thursday with a 24% gain in earnings and operating margins well ahead of expectations but true to form, the company broke out little detail on its high buzz, in-house, product, the Kindle.

Kindle is a tiny part of Amazon’s larger retail and services businesses and at this point, the company is choosing to keep the product’s performance metrics under wraps.   Fortunately, for those looking for color, iSuppli recently completed a tear-down of the eBook reader.  The results can’t shine a light on sales totals or consumer demand but they do give a hint at the margins Kindle’s making on hardware sales.

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Exits and Beginnings: ex-Seattle P.I. Staff Start New Competitor

digital-news2-sm.jpgIn March, Hearst  made a difficult decision and shuttered the 146 year old Seattle P.I newspaper, hoping instead to salvage the brand as an online-only news portal.  The goal, Hearst CEO Frank Bennack, Jr., said in a statement, was to turn into “the leading news and information portal in the region.”   That goal may be a little harder to achieve thanks to some of the very staff the paper let go.

Tuesday, a collection of prior Seattle P.I. staff launched a competing site at

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2008 Print Ad Revenues Quantified, Tally is Bad

newspaper revenue numbersYou don’t need a crystal ball or a keen sense of current events to know the newspaper business is a mess.  Regular bankruptcy and layoff headlines, or even just the reduced quality of many local papers (which are relying on less original reporting, fewer pages etc), make it immediately apparent to even the most passive watcher.  But now there’s even more evidence: new numbers from the Newspaper Association of America out yesterday.

2007 had been the market’s worst year, that is… until 2008 wrapped up.  

According to the NAA’s figures, total ad revenues dropped off another 16.6% to $37.8b for the 2008 year.     The print segment was off 17.7% to $34.7b while online revenue, a bright spot in the past four years, slipped 1.7% to $3.1b.

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News Evolution: Seattle P-I Goes Digital and New Data from Pew

digital-news2-sm.jpgThe occasional journalist Mark Twain famously told a newspaper reporter that the report of his death was an exaggeration.  For the staff at Seattle’s daily Post-Intelligencer, reports of the paper’s death were anything but.  After weeks of rumor, failed efforts to sell the paper, and a last tortuous week of expectation, Hearst finally pulled the band aid off the wound and confirmed today that it’s stopping the presses at its Seattle property.

In place of the P-I, Hearst is set to launch a reworked, digital-only news service.  Hearst representatives explicitly avoided calling the new incarnation a newspaper, however.  The goal, Hearst CEO Frank Bennack, Jr., said in a statement, is to turn into “the leading news and information portal in the region.”

“ isn’t a newspaper online – it’s an effort to craft a new type of digital business with a robust, community news and information website at its core,” explained Hearst president Steven Swartz.

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Amazon Debuts Kindle 2.0

kindle 2When Amazon launched its Kindle eBook reader in late 2007, opinions on the device ran the spectrum.  Some analysts and pundits criticized it.  To them, the execution was bad. The device was unwieldy and immature.  The market opportunity for eBooks was narrow at best.   With Kindle, they thought, Amazon was chasing rainbows.   Others looked at the vision and thought the opposite.  They projected the Kindle would be transformational.  Even with its warts, they lauded the first generation device and proclaimed it the publishing industry’s equivalent to the iPod.     

After more than a year of sales, the verdict is still out but the Kindle has proven one thing: it’s no joke.  The device has been in short supply since launch.  Customers have raved about it and thanks to Kindle, eBook sales have climbed to ten percent of Amazon’s total book sales.

This morning, Amazon rolled out the second generation. 

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