July 31, 2009
Lunch with Robert
Decherd was refreshingly candid and jovial -- I wasn't the only one who thought so. I met Belo stock buyer and rumored newspaper taker-over Brian Ferguson afterwards and he concurred: "I've never seen him like that. It's always been in more formal presentations. I might want to play golf with that guy." (The two were confab-ing afterwards at the Fairmont valet.)
In addition to spilling a pot of coffee on our table and name-dropping former PegNews managing editor Catherine Cuellar unaware that she was seated inches from me, I managed to Tweet some of Decherd's more interesting remarks. In the interest of accuracy, and of not having to take time to rewrite, here's the stream-of-consciousness notes with typos fixed and a couple relevant links added after the fact:
- At luncheon with #belo head Robert Decherd as speaker. Tidbits tk if interesting â€¦
- "We have been ridiculed for some of our early investments, but the fact is that we were there" #cuecat
- Minor irony: as this talk goes on, many AH Belo sites are down â€¦
- "How do you support great journalism in the face of this kind of revenue decline?"
- Current revenue of all AHC papers < DMN alone in 2000.
- 4th recession Decherd has seen. Difference = Internet.
- "Have to receive a fair value for what we deliver every day."
- Remembering days of customer complaint over Sunday paper being too big for dog to pick up. (ah, memories)
- "Our advertisers don't care what our circulation is in Tulsa or Amarillo.
- Attrition rate from higher sub prices is far less than modeled.
- The nonprofit model is a swell idea. It doesn't work. (room laughs appreciatively) (Definite veiled reference to Texas Tribune .)
- Nonprofit model is not "commonsensical" b/c no wider print distribution. Foundations/donors will lose interest.
- Philanthropy is fickle. Don't be lulled into notion it is substitute.
- " Briefing has probably annoyed the heck out of a lot of you" Al Dia profitable. Quick "will be there"
- "The Internet cannot save traditional media." Price destruction.
- "All about the core" (niche sections didn't work. It's metro, sports, etc)
- Paid online won't save the day. Online fees + ads will not replace what was lost. Industry missed the boat years ago.
- (On why DMN is not on the Kindle) Kindle is horrible financial deal for us. (All newspaper Kindle deals now have a 30-day out.)