Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Tribune ponders future; Times hangs in the balance

Posted on | September 21, 2006 | No Comments

So tonight, the board of directors of the Tribune Co. announced a plan to figure out their future. (A look at their press release). What took ’em so long? The publishing business in general has been in a freefall as has the broadcast media business, and the Tribuners are deep into both. In addition, they’ve got a staff revolt on their hands at the L.A. Times, which, frankly, has been managed into the ground since the Tribune bought out the Times years back. And big-bucks locals in The Southland are eyeing individual attempts to buy the Times for the sake of the local market. Admirable, but as Salon’s Jack Shafer points out, each is a little nutty to say the least.

It seems to me that the era of the media conglomerate has come to a close, and this may put the punctuation on it. The synergy that supposedly was going to be leveraged in these media sweep-ups never really materialized. Remember AOL-Time-Warner? If all politics is local, so too all media is local. The guys in Chicago seem to be coming to that realization.

So what’s a board to do? Take it private and get some new management in there. Media still throws off tons of cash, and the returns will be far better than there are in the public markets. They can restructure and operate out of the glare of Wall Street. Sure, things will be leaner, but buyout firms aren’t stupid. It’s about return and they’re not going to kill the goose.

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