June 3, 2016 Last Updated 2:43 pm

Tribune Publishing rebrands itself as ‘tronc’ – media observers can’t stop giggling about it

The newspaper company, founded in 1847, will be branded like a tech company, complete with ‘a gobbledygook of buzzwords’ as new owner takes charge after fending off takeover bid by Gannett

The publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune will be known as ‘tronc’ come June 20. The news broke the same day the company, whose name Tribune Publishing will now fade into history, held a shareholders’ meeting to confirm its Board of Directors and once again rebuff Gannett’s attempts to acquire the newspaper company.

tronc. (lower case, don’t capitalize that first letter folks!)

What’s in a name? I am sure there have were those, many years ago, who wondered how they ended up working for “a fruit company” and were a bit embarrassed to admit they had sunk so low, or so they thought. And who would want to move from a publishing company with a history that goes back to over a hundred years to work for something called Google? What a silly, stupid name, right?

But tronc?

“Tribune Publishing Co. today announced that the Company will change its name to tronc, Inc., a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels,” the company said in an epic press release “tronc, or tribune online content, captures the essence of the Company’s mission. tronc pools the Company’s leading media brands and leverages innovative technology to deliver personalized and interactive experiences to its 60 million monthly users.”

The company will also move from the New York Stock Exchange to the Nasdaq, the home of most of the big tech companies. The moves, the new name (tronc, just to remind you) and the shift in exchanges, is supposed to symbolize the radical changes CEO Michael Ferro plans on instituting, the new strategy:

  • Reorganizing the business into new operating and reporting units to increase transparency and drive corporate focus.
  • Launching troncX, our content curation and monetization engine, to combine existing assets with new artificial intelligence (“AI”) technology to accelerate digital growth. The Company conducted a 30-day pilot of its AI efforts involving 1% of its traffic, delivering a 400% increase in the yield on programmatic revenue.
  • Partnering with Nant Capital and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong to accelerate the transformation from a legacy news company to a technology and content company, including gaining access to over 100 machine vision and artificial intelligence technology patents for news media applications.

The move must have caught its own newspapers a bit by surprise as the Chicago Tribune could only dedicate any space to the title change on its front page and then proceeded to get the new name wrong, capitalizing it to Tronc,

ChiTrib-tronc

It’s tronc, thank you.


OK, one of the nation’s largest and most important newspaper companies has just changed its name to tronc. Go ahead and have at it media observers…

The Verge, Casey Newton:

Tronc is also a very funny word and let’s talk about that for a minute!
Tribune’s name derived from the Roman officials whose job it was to protect average citizens from the unfair actions of patrician magistrates. Tronc, on the other hand, is the sound of a millennial falling down the stairs. (It is apparently a portmanteau of Tribune Online Content. The company styles it lowercase, because that’s the way that teens are talking on Slack these days, but we are not about to be led down that path today!)

The Washington Post, Erik Wemple:

Far worse than the name and punctuational idiosyncrasies is the direction in which Ferro is pushing the company. The vision calls for perhaps the most concentrated mess of buzzwords that digital publishing has ever seen, and that’s some feat. Feast on this: “tronc pools the Company’s leading media brands and leverages innovative technology to deliver personalized and interactive experiences to its 60 million monthly users.” A statement by Ferro further clouds matters, saying that the company “is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders. Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.” If that’s not enough, the company will be working to “accelerate the transformation from a legacy news company to a technology and content company, including gaining access to over 100 machine vision and artificial intelligence technology patents for news media applications.”
If all that baloney sounds like the work of a team with no background in journalism, then it accurately represents itself. As Andrew Ross Sorkin noted in the New York Times, Tribune (sorry, tronc) is stacked with executives and directors with little or no journalism experience, including Dearborn himself, who moved to Tribune/tronc from Merge Healthcare, an IBM outfit.

Robert Feder:

How did we ever get from the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” to this?

…What’s more, employees who previously identified with their respective newspapers got official word from their new bosses that they’re now working for “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.” Yep, that’s tronc!

As corporate names go, it’s even worse than Wrapports, which Ferro inflicted on the Sun-Times before the self-styled tech entrepreneur began his five-year reign of failure there. That name (which at least was given the dignity of a capital letter) was meant to signify “the ‘rapport’ of new technology and the ‘wrapping’ of a traditional print newspaper.”

On Thursday, Chairman Michael W. Ferro Jr. changed the name of Tribune Publishing to tronc — yes, tronc — a move that engendered nearly universal revulsion and ridicule.

TechCrunch, John Biggs:

The Tribune Company’s decision to rebrand as Tronc is completely silly and will probably be reversed in the next few weeks. However, how funny is it that a centuries old media company thinks it can turn itself into a cutting edge new media company with its desiccated finger on the pulse of America’s youth? How silly is it that a media company that once spanned the globe with amazing coverage is now dedicating itself to “content?” And how sad is it that, in the end, none of it matters…

…Why did the company pick Tronc? Presumably because it would shake things up. Tribune Company sounds like a place your uncle the accountant would work. Tronc? That sounds young, hip, and connected. The company figures they can get young media types to eschew PR and marketing and hop on the Tronc train to cash town. They figure they can still pay small wages for good work and that a new generation will see Tronc as a place to make a career and not a stepping stone to a job at Disney. But a name change won’t change the fact that places like the Tribune Company underpay, under-deliver, and underwhelm year after year.

Salon, Scott Timberg:

Well, that sure got weird, didn’t it? Tribune’s takeover of what used to be called Times-Mirror was messy when it started, a decade and a half ago, and has gotten worse every few years: This is the company, after all, that took over several great newspapers, crowed about “synergy,” and made a few legendary editors so uncomfortable that they left their posts. (One of them was Dean Baquet, who’s now executive editor at the New York Times.) And they sold their papers to Sam Zell, who had no background in newspapers and made an even bigger mess of things before filing for Chapter 11. Last fall, the company put Tribune Tower, where its original newspaper is based, up for sale.

But now Tribune has a new trick: It has renamed itself tronc – a term that means, in French, “poor box,” and if modulated to “trunk,” something worse.

The Huffington Post, Kim Bellware:

The company’s statement on the rebranding — a gobbledygook of buzzwords like “monetization” and “premium, verified content” — also noted it would shift from the New York Stock Exchange to Nasdaq, where it will begin trading June 20.
Topping off the company’s tone-deaf nonsense, the team behind the rebranding apparently forgot to check tronc-related social media accounts before the announcement:

MarketWatch, Wallace Witkowski:

Could this be the worst rebranding since New Coke?

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