May 31, 2016 Last Updated 1:51 pm

Print publishing spin-offs Tribune Publishing and Time Inc. struggle to gain their footing

With shareholder meeting set for later this week, Tribune most still fend off Gannett’s acquisition efforts, but then what happens at a company no longer diversified, and burdened by debt

The strategy for managing a successful publishing company has been, for years, to diversify. Newspaper and magazine companies bought broadcast properties, publishing books, and went into events. But many of the media spin-offs that occurred over the past few years have been about pushing those print properties out of the company – if only so their CEOs could stop talking about print revenue losses during their investor conference calls.

LAT-5-31-250Most spin-offs began their new lives as print centric firms, loaded down with debt by their parent companies. Tribune Publishing and Time Inc. being two of the best examples. News Corp stated its new life separate from the movie and TV businesses still fairly diversified, and even with some money in the bank.

Tribune Publishing, a company seemingly that doesn’t know how to drive revenue, is now being pursued by Gannett – another company that was separated from it broadcast properties. It is an unlikely marriage, one that promises few up sides for readers or advertisers. Few think Tribune has the newspaper management skills necessary to turn around its declining revenue fortunes, while everyone knows what happens to staff sizes and news holes should Gannett succeed in taking over the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.**

But that is unlikely to happen now that Tribune has brought in a new investor. Gannett continues to hold out hope that shareholders will “Withhold’ their support for the slate of board members set to be approved at the June 2 shareholders meeting later this week.

TimeMag-cover-6-2-16“Gannett believes the Tribune Board has shown a disregard for all its stockholders’ best interests,” Gannett said today in another of its press releases it has been issuing throughout their acquisition effort. “Gannett urges Tribune stockholders to “WITHHOLD” votes for ALL of the Tribune director nominees and send a message to the Tribune Board to engage constructively with Gannett regarding its offer to acquire Tribune. Gannett believes the Tribune Board has prevented stockholders from realizing superior and certain cash value for their shares through a series of actions over the past few months.”

Over at Time Inc. the company started life about $1.2 to 1.4B in debt, not as bad as some companies, but not insignificant for a company that is losing revenue. Its strategy has been to make enough acquisitions that any revenue losses from print might be overcome by revenue gains brought about by the new properties. So far it has been pretty much a wash.

The problem at Time Inc. is the company remains a massive, slow moving, traditional media company – but now with pockets promising new properties. But one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, as evidenced by some of its personnel moves.

** Is this sentence too strong? I’ve received a call regarding it, but I think it is valid. After all, every time I write about Gannett possibly taking over the Tribune-owned papers a relative of mine in California writes to say “No!” to the idea of a Gannett-owned LA Times. But that is what many in Southern California thought when it was announced that Times Mirror would sell to the Tribune Company in 2000.

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