March 4, 2015 Last Updated 3:33 pm

Tribune Publishing CEO outlines transformation plan for the new year following its spinoff

CEO Jack Griffin highlights cost reductions, programmatic buying, possible new acquisitions, and new digital circulation, as among the keys to stronger earnings in the new year

Tribune Publishing today outlined new initiatives the company will undertake this year, its first full year following the spinoff from The Tribune Company (the broadcast side now known as Tribune Media).

Jack Griffin, CEO of Tribune Publishing, revealed what he called “the five core tenets of our transformation plan” in the conference call with investors this morning:

  1. Accelerating our transition to digital;
  2. Diversifying our revenue base;
  3. Lowering our cost structure;
  4. Executing accretive acquisitions, and
  5. Realigning our national sales organization

“With year-over-year and sequential improvements in digital revenue and digital subscriptions, we remain focused on converting our digital consumer base into paying customers and believe significant potential exists in this area,” Griffin said in a preview to TNM of statements to be made in the conference call.

Tribune Publishing owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. In October, Tribune Publishing acquired the 38 daily and weekly suburban titles in the Chicagoland area from Wrapports LLC, the publisher of the Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader. Earlier in the year Tribune Publishing acquired two papers adjacent to the Baltimore Sun. Griffin says these new acquisitions should bring in about $20 million in EBITDA in 2015.

The company said it is still interviewing candidates for its CFO opening.

As for digital initiatives, Griffin mentioned a move to programmatic purchasing of inventory, though no mention was made of upgrading the company’s atrocious digital editions which are strictly third party produced replicas. The company, though, is seeing good growth in digital non-replica circulation (this would be website driven paid readership) in its latest publisher’s statements from its papers in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“This transformation takes time,” Griffin said on the conference call.

“We only launched our digital products pretty much mid-year to Christmas time. We were playing catch-up. It’s a new suite of products, its a new leadership team,” Griffin said. “We’ve put in place new units in the business to take advantage of monetizing these products, but we’re in early days. So we have a lot of work to do in 2015. My entire management team is highly focused on digital monetization.”

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