Only five years ago, the prospects of information (and employee) sharing between a local TV station and its newspaper counterparts were seen as the ultimate business synergy. Together, they would become powerful multimedia brands that would command a premium in local advertising dollars.
Now, the dream that ignited the media ownership rule change battle appears to be in shambles.
In a report last week in “The Washington Post,” a survey of the results of some recent TV-newspaper marriages looked like the case list in divorce court.
At the Washington bureau of the Belo newspaper chain, the “Post” reported that two veteran TV reporters whose stories appeared on Belo’s 19 broadcast stations were laid off and are to be replaced by videographers who will shoot digital video for the Web sites of Belo’s 11 newspapers, including “The Dallas Morning News.”
Tribune, owner of 11 newspapers and 24 broadcast stations, has found little interest from bidders to buy the company. Now Tribune is considering selling off the TV stations. The New York Times Co. recently sold its nine TV stations for nearly $600 million. This came only months after the newspaper ended participation in a high-profile TV channel with Discovery Communications.
Last week, E.W. Scripps, owner of 19 newspapers and 10 TV stations, announced that it might split its newspaper and TV properties into different companies.
According to “The Washington Post,” the arrival of Web television and the emergence of such popular video sites as YouTube and MySpace is causing these partnerships to be less profitable than expected.
Both Web sites, the report said, have demonstrated a massive audience appeal for short video clips, whether it's amateur-made clips provided viewers or professionally produced shorts. Newspapers, the “Post” said, have found that it is far cheaper to ask entry-level videographers to shoot digital video of a news event and post it on a Web site than to pay a TV reporter, video photographer and producer to create a three-minute news report for television.
Newspapers, including the “Post,” are currently training their reporters to shoot video with their stories. Some camcorder-equipped print reporters shoot video to accompany their articles when they appear on their newspaper’s Web site. Some newspaper sites now have more original news video than their television counterparts.
Also, on sites such as YouTube, visitors can post their own video with that of the newspaper. That bond is proving popular with advertisers, creating the potential for higher profits than with traditional media.
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