Last week, we considered the impact on Denver Post owner MediaNews Group after its Digital First Media partner, the Journal Register Company, declared bankruptcy. Now, John Paton, the chief executive of all three firms, is speaking out on the topic, saying MediaNews Group and the Post are in great shape amid statements whose optimistic tone isn't dampened by less-than-impressive JRC digital revenue figures.
In an interview with the New York Times, Paton calls the Journal Register Company bankruptcy filing embarrassing but necessary even as he talks up the future of journalism as a profession. In addition, the Times writes: "He stressed that his other newspapers, like The Denver Post, which are part of the Media News Group division of Digital First, are thriving."
This statement could be called into question given a series of buyouts at the Post late last year, plus the layoffs of big name staffers Mike Littwin and Penny Parker in March -- a move that forced the paper to cover the Aurora theater shootings without an official columnist.
Granted, plenty of other publications, including this one, have had layoffs during the same period. And the Post hasn't shed any high-profile types in recent months, which has got to be considered a positive in the tough newspaper climate. At the same time, however, a reader tells us the paper is ending delivery to some of the more remote homes in mountain suburbs -- another indication that pennies are being pinched.
Of course, Paton is famous for saying print dollars can be replaced by piles of digital dimes. But in a piece published by the Columbia Journalism Review, it's clear a significant imbalance between revenue streams remains. Here's an excerpt from the report, featuring figures provided by Paton:
Of JRC's $295 million in revenue last year, $167.1 million of it was print ads, $86 million was print circulation, and $30.1 million was digital ads. That means digital ads were 10.2 percent of JRC's total revenue.
CJR points out that the 10.2 percent figure is "up sharply from the pre-Paton era, when it was a miserable 2.8 percent." But do these numbers live up to Paton's hype?
Whatever the case, the CEO's use of the phrase "thriving" in regard to the Post suggests that a MediaNews bankruptcy is unlikely, at least in the immediate future. Beyond that, there's no way of knowing.
Here's Paton's letter to Journal Register Company employees about the bankruptcy, followed by an FAQ document on the subject.
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