Mississippi Business Journal Covers Gannett Scheme | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mississippi Business Journal Covers Gannett Scheme

The Mississippi Business Journal published a page 1 story about Gannett/The Clarion Ledger new "TDN" distribution scheme in its new issue that reached subscribers this weekend and hits newsstands on Monday. The paper interviewed most of the new members of the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance, which formed to fight the Gannett scheme, which will severely hamper the ability of smaller media to compete with the corporate giant in Mississippi. In the story, JFP publisher Todd Stauffer calls Gannett's effort an attempt to get "protection money" out of publishers, and the publishers explains how the exorbitant cost of paying Gannett for the privilege of being included in their exclusive boxes will hurt competition, raise the costs of advertising for businesses and hurt consumers because they will have a harder time finding the free publications. No alliance members have agreed to allow Gannett to distribute their publications.

The article explains that Gannett led businesses to believe that these free publications would be available to the businesses if they signed the agreement — although none had signed on. The YMCA's Pam Sultan said her organization is caught in the middle and believes that the problem will be "rectified." Gannett/Clarion-Ledger/TBN refused to comment on the article, but released this same statement to the Business Journal.

The article also quotes Stauffer saying that Gannett should "clean up their own messes," being that the Gannett Corp. owns more free publications than any other company in the area. But, he said, they should not try to control the distribution with "exclusive" agreements that present a barrier to entry and decreases competition for their publications.

The article is available subscription-only for Mississippi Business Journal subscribers.

Previous Comments

ID
170558
Comment

Maybe you've already mentioned it elsewhere and I missed it, but is this being done in other cities where Gannett has papers?

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2006-05-30T12:00:04-06:00
ID
170559
Comment

Yes, it's been done already in Greenville, S.C. They're doing it now in Sioux City and Des Moines, I believe, and probably others we haven't learned about yet. See the Goliath Blog for links to stories about those areas. Interestly, for a scheme that Newhouse promised is so good for us all, the Gannett Corp. isn't exactly bragging about this one all over their corporate Web site. You get the feeling they prefer to stay under the radar on it. That, however, is not our plan for it. If they're going to do it, let's make sure people understand all the ins and outs of the scheme. Again, I feel most sorry for the businesses that were led to believe that it was a tidy little idea that benefits everyone involved. Gannett should not have played those businesses in such a way.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-05-30T12:11:14-06:00
ID
170560
Comment

This should be a national story because other papers look at what's happening here, Greenville and Sioux City and do the same in their cities. Who's to say that Cox wouldn't do it in order to "protect" the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Creative Loafing, or Tribune in Chicago to keep alt-presses at bay from the Chicago Tribune? I hope publications like Creative Loafing and the San Diego Reader pick up on this and let readers know that such a thing could happen there.

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2006-05-30T14:03:53-06:00
ID
170561
Comment

It *is* a national story. I'm holding back the name for the moment, but a national piece about what's happening here is supposed to be on its way shortly. I'll keep you posted.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-05-30T14:05:33-06:00
ID
170562
Comment

And we're hearing from people in markets around the country. Maybe there needs to a national alliance of independent publishers against anti-competitive schemes -- headquartered here in Jacktown, of course. ;-D

Author
ladd
Date
2006-05-30T14:06:37-06:00
ID
170563
Comment

Anti-competitive schemes are a hallmark of old MS business. Go into any small town in the area and you will eventually find some leftovers from the days gone by where this was common place. Don't be surprised if you don't get a lot of support on this issue. It's probably a good idea to continue strengthening your relationships with local businesses by helping them to understand the impacts that an agreement with CL/Garnett would have. If you keep them informed on issues like this they will appreciate it. Local MS businesses get swindled enough as it is by outside forces and if they will sign an agreement like the “TDN” then who knows what. We need local hometown heroes “JPF” to continue looking out for us. Keep up the good work and people will remember you for it.

Author
wade G.
Date
2006-05-31T08:34:04-06:00
ID
170564
Comment

Oops. We need local hometown heroes “JFP” to continue looking out for us. Keep up the good work and people will remember you for it.

Author
wade G.
Date
2006-05-31T08:59:20-06:00
ID
170565
Comment

Thanks, Wade! Remember, all, this battle isn't over. Keep up the fight. We need everyone of you. In fact, you can start right here right now. Here's our brand-spanding new online petition, and you can send a message to Gannett at the same time. Go for it! (Thanks, Knol!)

Author
ladd
Date
2006-05-31T14:48:37-06:00
ID
170566
Comment

Nasty. Ugly. Nasty. Read this good piece from James Shannon (quoted in the MBJ story above) about Gannett's "competitive" tactics: Closer to home, Gannett papers include the Greenville News and the Asheville Citizen-Times. They even own the leading newspaper in the state of Mississippi, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. This fact would not be particularly remarkable for our discussion today, but that paper was founded in 1862 by my great-grandfather and namesake, Col. J.J. Shannon. But don’t cry for me, Simpsonville. The Colonel sold our off family legacy long before your humble narrator was conceived in liberty. The point is that almost all of these newspapers once represented the life’s work of generations of publishers and editors, but are now operated with a corporate mentality not too different from Service Corporation International. That conglomerate dominates the funeral industry by bringing mom and pop funeral homes under the corporate heel while maintaining the veneer of a tradition of family service. If you think your hometown newspaper is part of the great traditions that built your community, think again. Chain newspapers are to hometown values what Big Macs are to hamburgers cooked on a backyard barbecue grill on the 4th of July. While there may be a superficial resemblance between the two, the flavor and substance are miles apart. Although other news sources — principally television — have supplanted some of the essential functions a daily newspaper provides to a community, other doesn’t necessarily mean better. The demise of a second daily newspaper in most cities has usually meant a reduction in quality in the paper that survives. Human nature being what it is, a lack of competition does not generally drive an institution to excel.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-06-01T14:34:08-06:00
ID
170567
Comment

MORE Richard McCord is a career journalist who has observed this phenomenon from a ringside seat, as a reporter, editor and publisher. He characterizes what happens when a city’s daily newspaper is absorbed into a large chain: “You lose connection with your local community,” says McCord. “You subordinate every other quality to the quality of making money. That becomes the most important thing and everything else takes its place behind it.” In an interview, McCord tells MetroBEAT of a pattern he has seen repeated as daily papers are acquired by large chains: “You economize your resources in order to make more money,” he says. “You reduce your local staff, don’t put as many resources into local reporting, don’t care as much about the community, and you try to do it in a monopoly or almost monopoly so no matter how low your quality goes, there is no one there to compete with you. So you can just keep reducing your quality and still be the biggest or the only game in town.” While it is true that corporate efficiencies have swelled the bottom line for shareholders, citizens of a community also have a stake in whether their hometown newspaper does a good job, but are often left holding an empty bag. Alternative newspapers have emerged to fill in some of these gaps, mostly weekly papers like MetroBEAT and its counterparts in more than a hundred cities across the country. While the daily newspapers have often ignored the alternative weeklies or treated them with contempt, it seems that even that small share of local advertising revenue that is often a weekly paper’s sole means of support is now coveted by the big boys. In truth, the conglomerates that run most of the country’s major daily newspapers had another motive for coveting the readers of these alternative newsweeklies. Their own research showed that younger readers in the 25-to-34 age group — deemed most desirable by advertisers who aren’t selling Depends and denture cream — are tuning out newspapers in large numbers. Rather than acknowledging that the lagging quality of their papers might be the problem, they began to emulate their competition by launching free weeklies of their own.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-06-01T14:34:38-06:00
ID
170568
Comment

LITTLE MORE: Gannett took a typical corporate approach, forming a task force in February 2000 called Rx Prescription for Readership Growth. The concept was to find out exactly what these young non-readers wanted to see, with the idea that a free weekly paper could somehow influence the kids into joining the grown-up world of the lowest-common-denominator daily rag. What did that mean for the alternative weeklies that had carved out their own niche over the years? That was less clear, but the way a monopoly competes does not honor the word “competition.” If some of these papers did not survive the onslaught, the chains would gladly absorb their market share.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-06-01T14:34:51-06:00

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