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Denver Post's decision to sell stake in Colorado Rockies not sign of financial turmoil, CEO says

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Last week, the Denver Post announced a desire to sell its 7.3 percent stake in the Colorado Rockies -- an asset acquired due to the Rocky Mountain News's 2009 closure. A knowledgeable source tells Westword this move was motivated by dire financial problems at the Post -- ones serious enough that they could lead to bankruptcy. But Post CEO Ed Moss denies this assertion while highlighting what he sees as progress in improving the paper's economics.

"There couldn't be anything further from the truth," Moss says about Chapter 11 fears -- concerns likely stoked by the September bankruptcy filing by the Journal Register Company, a sister firm of MediaNews Group, the Post's owner. "The attempt to potentially sell our stake really has everything to do with what I stated in our press release, and what John Paton" -- MediaNews Group's CEO, as well as the Journal Register Company's top dog -- "has been talking about, which is that we're focusing on our core business. And we're actually making great strides at improving our position overall."

Moss, who came to the Post after serving as the publisher and president of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 2009 to 2011, points to the figures contained in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report, made public in late October. The complete press release on that topic is below, but highlights include a 19 percent pageview increase to the paper's website, contributing to a huge total of 72 million, plus a 32 percent boost in mobile pageviews and hefty rises in readership among tablet users and visitors to the Post's digital replica edition. Circulation as a whole is also up incrementally, thanks in part to new ABC accounting methods that pair some of those digital figures with ones related to print copies.

"We've stabilized our print business, we're showing tremendous growth in our digital business, and we're seeing audience growth in the combination of the digital and print business," Moss notes. "If you look at our total audience, we're number ten in the entire U.S., and we're fourth in the nation when you look at newspaper publications."

In addition, Moss goes on, "we're making great strides on the revenue side" -- the rub for newspapers, which have more readers than ever, but have found it challenging to monetize all those eyeballs.

Continue to read more of our interview with Denver Post CEO Ed Moss. While Moss, who's been at the Post for about ten months, declines to "get into specific numbers" from the paper's ledger, he says, "we're growing our digital business by 20 percent a year -- and that's revenue. And at the same time, the print business is much more stable than it's been. That's what's got me so excited. Stabilizing print and growing digital significantly is a formula for success, and it's a model that will sustain us for decades to come. That's why I came here, and that's what we're building."

Could a paywall in which free online access would be restricted for non-subscribers be part of the structure going forward? Moss doesn't dismiss the possibility, but neither does he imply that such a move is inevitable.

"The company is doing testing in some of our smaller markets, but at this point, we have no plans for a paywall at the Post," he stresses. "We're evaluating it all the time, but we have no plans to do it anytime soon.

"I know there are many newspapers that have moved to a paywall, and we'll look at the successes they have. But the way I look at it, and the way John looks at it, is that we really believe that the win on the digital side is on the ad-revenue side. And as we continue to build the audience, it gives us that much more to sell advertisers. That's the model we're working on right now."

Why sell the piece of the Rockies, then, if everything is going so well? Moss reiterates that "it doesn't really fit with what our core business is" even as he makes it clear that attracting a buyer right away isn't an absolute necessity. In his words, "we're testing the waters, seeing if there's interest in it. If there is, we'll sell our minority stake, and if there isn't, we'll be happy to keep it."

Continue to read the Post's release about its growing audience. Denver Post press release:

Readers embracing digital delivery of The Denver Post

DenverPost.com traffic increases 19%, mobile page views up 32% and tablet readers soar by 37%

DENVER (Oct. 30, 2012) -- More metro area adults than ever before are choosing The Denver Post as their number one news source, driving Post readership to record-setting levels. According to a detailed analysis of the latest circulation figures filed by The Denver Post, as well as other traffic measures, over the past six months average monthly page views of DenverPost.com increased 19% to over 72 million, monthly mobile page views increased 32% to 24 million and Denver Post Facebook fans jumped 22% to nearly 300,000 fans.

In addition, readers of The Denver Post on tablet devices soared 37% and traffic to The Post's Digital Replica Edition increased 22% when compared to the previous reporting period (Oct. 2011-March 2012), demonstrating that consumers continue to embrace The Post on every available platform.

"Over the past six months, we've seen tremendous growth across our digital platforms," said Ed Moss, Denver Post President and CEO. "This summer we released a new iPad app with a dynamic interactive layout and incredible photo galleries, and our digital replica edition allows readers to view every story, photo and offer in the printed Post on their iPad or tablet device. These innovations are clearly connecting with Colorado's consumers."

The analysis of the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) report shows total circulation for The Sunday Denver Post increased 1.48% to 604,184 for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2012, compared to the previous reporting period (Oct. 2011-March 2012). Total Saturday circulation increased 2.60% to 439,724 and daily circulation rose 2.88% to 412,669 during the same six month period. The new numbers include circulation for home delivery, single copy and other printed copies and editions, plus people accessing The Post's digital replica and non-replica editions on mobile devices, tablets, e-readers and computers.

As ownership of smart phones and tablet devices continues to increase, traffic on Denver Post mobile sites has exploded. Mobile unique visitors to DenverPost.com increased 87% to nearly 1.4 million visitors per month, and mobile page views increased 32% to almost 24 million a month, when compared to the previous six month averages (Oct. 2011-March 2012). During the same time period, monthly page views of The Denver Post digital replica edition increased by more than one million to a monthly average of 5.6 million, a 22% increase.

More people than ever before are visiting DenverPost.com throughout the day for news and information. According to Omniture, Verve Wireless, Spreed and Doapps, over the past six months DenverPost.com had average monthly page views of 73 million, a 19% increase compared to the previous six months. An average of 7.2 million unique visitors now log on to DenverPost.com every month, giving The Post the largest online audience in the Denver DMA among local media websites, according to comScore.

Over the past six months, the network of all Denver Post sites, which includes DailyCamera.com and ColoradoDaily.com, had an average of 9.5 million monthly unique visitors accessing an average of 82 million pages a month.

"I think it's clear that people are turning to The Denver Post first when they want information," said Bill Reynolds, Denver Post Senior Vice President of Circulation. "Whether it's a breaking news story like Peyton Manning joining the Broncos or our photo gallery of the summer wildfires, people know the best way to stay connected to their community is by reading The Denver Post on the device they use the most."

In the increasingly important social media marketplace, Denver Post Facebook fans and Twitter followers continue to lead all local media competitors. Over the past six months (April-Sept. 2012), the average monthly number of Denver Post combined Facebook fans increased 22% and Twitter followers increased 9%. As of Sept. 2012, The Post had 676,679 combined followers on Twitter and 298,138 combined fans on Facebook.

The Denver Post is a brand of Digital First Media. Headquartered in New York City, Digital First Media jointly manages MediaNews Group and Journal Register Company properties. According to Omniture, Verve Mobile and Spreed Mobile, in August 2012, Digital First Media had more than 60 million unique visitors and 51 million smart phone, app and tablet page views across more than 880 multi-platform products in 18 states.

More from our Media archive: "Denver Post & MediaNews Group: Fallout from partner Journal Register Company bankruptcy?"

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