May 20, 2016 Last Updated 8:37 am

Tribune-Gannett story reaching the silly stage; Android Instant Apps concept debuts

Morning Brief: The longtime publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Betsy Brenner, to leave following acquisition of Journal Media Group by Gannett

There is an old saying, really old saying, about the newspaper business. When there is no news you need to make it. I doubt anyone actually thinks that is a good way to run a paper these days, but I remember the editor of the Copley paper I once worked for saying that to me. What he meant was innocent enough: when reporters aren’t busy with stories assigned to them, they needed to go and find the news.

CTrib-5-20-16-300But the concept applies whenever I see a report like that from Ken Doctor on the Tribune Publishing-Gannett acquisition story. Doctor’s report has Tribune CEO saying that he is putting a bid together for Gannett, a highly unlikely conclusion to a story that is more soap opera than actual mergers and acquisitions news. (At first blush I thought Doctor was playing Sean Hannity to Michael Ferro’s impersonation of Donald Trump, but as Doctor got his information from a source rather than directly I guess Doctor wasn’t filling the role of Ferro surrogate.)

Gannett’s only response to the silly story was that “as a matter of policy, Gannett does not comment on rumors or speculation.”

Meanwhile, just up the road from where I live, the impact of Gannett ownership is starting to be felt. Betsy Brenner, who has been the publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for over a decade, is leaving now that Gannett has taken over Journal Media Group. Brenner will be ending her newspaper career that began in 1977 when she started as a city news reporter for the Chicago Tribune, after receiving her journalism degree from nearby Northwestern University. Like a lot of us, Brenner moved around a lot as required by a career in publishing, but she is in every sense a local, someone who knows and is involved in the community.

Brenner’s spot will be filled by Gannett, and if I had to bet, someone from outside Milwaukee, but inside of Gannett will be brought in. That person will likely have a revenue background (which I consider good for the publisher’s spot) but be from outside the newspaper.

Brenner is the last of the major executives from Journal Media to leave their Milwaukee posts after Gannett acquired the company as both the CEO and CFO exited immediately after the April closing.

Epi-chrome-400Yesterday Digiday reported that the Condé Nast property Epicurious was serving up a message to web readers who using an ad blocker. But like a number of websites using the technology, it simply doesn’t work well. My own experience at the site is that I am not receiving either ads or the ad blocking message when I visit the site using my Chrome browser with a standard issue ad blocker extension.

This is one reason why I find these efforts rather lame: the solutions are often not thoroughly tested, and the results are often touted more to justify the effort. It’s just something else CEO Bob Sauerberg can talk about at those executive roundtables magazine executives are addicted to.

If you missed it, the big news for developers coming out of the Google I/O conference was probably Android Instant Apps. Business Insider is trying to position it as an Apple App Store killer, but as that website considers everything as an Apple-this or Apple-that killer the claim can’t be taken too seriously.

But I did the idea a good one, and one that seemed to me to have interesting implications for publishers.

The basic idea is that apps would be made instantly available via the web even if the user/reader doesn’t have that app installed on their smartphone. Google is rolling out the concept slowly, working with a small group of companies that include BuzzFeed, B&H Photo, Medium, Hotel Tonight, Zumper and Disney.

It would have been even more interesting if one of the companies working with Google on this was a digital publishing platform.

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