Now in the News: CherryRoad Media Acquiring Three Utah Newspapers

October 19, 2022

CherryRoad Media Acquiring Three Utah Newspapers

CherryRoad Media Inc. is acquiring three weekly Utah newspapers from Brehm Communications Inc. (BCI). The titles include The Richfield Reaper, The Vernal Express and the Uintah Basin Standard. Dirks, Van Essen & April, a media merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is representing BCI in the transaction. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 1888, The Richfield Reaper had been owned by BCI since 1990. The Uintah Basin paper, founded in 1909, and the Vernal Express, founded in 1891, were acquired by BCI in 2007.

Now with a presence in a dozen states, CherryRoad Media has been among the most acquisition-minded companies during the past two years. The company believes the newspaper is an essential resource for developing strong communities, and that it can leverage technology to supplement the printed newspaper with enhanced digital capabilities. “CherryRoad is excited to become a part of these communities and the State of Utah. We look forward to helping strengthen local journalism through our understanding of technology, which is our goal everywhere we go,” said Jeremy Gulban, CEO of CherryRoad Media. “These operations, like so many in our industry, have struggled under the weight of disruption and a challenging economy. We are confident these newspapers can be strengthened through technology and made viable for the long run.”

“This transaction is bittersweet as our family has been in the newspaper business for over 102 years, however we felt it was time to pass these amazing publications and employees to a new home,” said Ryan Schuyler, president and CEO of BCI. “We believe the new owners will carry on the important mission of community journalism for years to come.”

Daily Herald Newspaper’s Parent Company Says It Will Stop Printing Controversial Mailer

Decision comes amid fallout after revelation that the newspaper’s parent company, Paddock Publications, Inc., is printing politically charged publications for Local Government Information Services

The Daily Herald’s parent company announced Thursday it would stop printing controversial political publications that were being mailed to homes throughout northern Illinois on behalf of conservative operatives. The decision was posted Thursday afternoon on the newspaper’s website. Hours earlier, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s campaign sent Paddock Publications Inc., a letter stating he would not participate in an upcoming Illinois Associated Press Media Editors candidate interview in which the Daily Herald was involved.

Pritzker’s campaign said in a statement to the Northwest Herald Thursday evening that in light of Paddock dropping the publications, they are “reconsidering” the governor’s participation. “Recent news stories and social media posts have taken Paddock Publications, the parent company of the Daily Herald, to task for a printing job it accepted from Local Government Information Services,” according to the note from Paddock Publications’ senior management. “It was a business decision to take on the job. The perception among some has become that the Daily Herald is the publisher of these publications. We are not. The company does not endorse the content of any of the print jobs it does for vendors, including many newspapers. It neither embraces nor condemns them. It merely prints them.”

Lee Enterprises Is Offloading $86 Million In Pension Liabilities

Lee Enterprises has apparently taken a page from Gannet Corp. in seeking to transfer millions of dollars in pension liabilities. Lee said in an SEC filing that it has executed “a risk transfer agreement in September 2022 buying annuity contracts for $86 million of our pension obligations.”

The firm also reports that pension plans are “now frozen and fully funded in the aggregate and not expecting any material pension contribution in 2022.”“As of Sept. 26, 2021, the company’s pension plan assets totaled $398 million, while projected benefit obligations totaled $384 million, for a funding ratio of 103.6%, according to its most recent 10-K filing with the SEC,” writes Pensions & Investments in covering the news.

Lee cited $20 million in debt reduction in the first nine months of 2022 and $113 million since refinancing in March 2020. The debt in Q3 of 2020 was $576 million, and is now $463 million, it says.

In August, Gannett Media Corp. said in an SEC filing that it had transferred $450 million of its pension liabilities to two unnamed insurers.

The unnamed insurers will have responsibility for payments, administrative and customer service as of Nov. 1, the firm stated. Benefits will not be reduced, it added.

Thirty-One News Organizations To Receive Support From The American Press Institute Through Election Coverage And Community Listening Fund

Thirty-one news organizations will receive support through the American Press Institute’s Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund, an initiative aimed at empowering newsrooms to implement community listening in their elections coverage.

The projects funded will start immediately and run through this election year, but they will also yield important lessons for 2023 and 2024 that can be shared through journalism networks and conversations facilitated by API. The funding made possible through this initiative is designed to help these news organizations try new approaches to election coverage or expand on existing projects that show promise.

“At a time when democracy faces challenges at multiple levels, these projects will help news organizations nurture deeper relationships with their communities. All of the participants will share news and information that helps people more fully participate in our society,” said Michael Bolden, CEO and executive director of API. “It’s also essential that the participants will learn from one another and share those lessons to benefit news organizations across the country that are trying to engage people whose information needs have long been overlooked.”

In selecting the participants, the American Press Institute prioritized projects that seek to shore up trust and engagement between news outlets and communities of color. Many of the newsrooms are looking to expand their reach into communities that have been underserved or undercovered, leading to distrust and a disconnection from many media organizations.

The New York Times Looks To Gaming Product To Grow Subscriptions

The Times has published a daily crossword since 1942, but its use of games as a subscriber funnel is part of a renewed focus on gaming sparked by its acquisition of Wordle in January. Although Wordle is free-to-play, many of the New York Times’ most popular games are premium offerings, requiring users to pay for either a games-specific subscription or a full New York Times editorial subscription before they can access higher levels. “Our focus this year has been growing that games business, thinking of Wordle as an incredible opportunity to introduce all those people to our games,” said New York Times head of games Jonathan Knight.

The strategy has paid off, according to Knight. “In recent weeks, we’ve definitely seen evidence that, when we ultimately offer people a subscription to games and give them the choice to take the games subscription or take the larger New York Times bundle, people take the bundle,” he said, though he declined to provide specific subscription numbers. “It’s an exciting opportunity to introduce people to everything that the New York Times has to offer, so we’re definitely beginning to see that strategy play out.”

And there is a logical overlap between the audience for the Times’ puzzle games and its editorial content. “The people that are attracted to word games, in general, are a pretty good fit for somebody who wants the more intellectual news coverage,” said Peter Ericson, creator of the digital subscription platform Leaky Paywall.

The significant demographic expansion of its gaming audience due to the Wordle acquisition was a motivator for the Times to more directly leverage its gaming product. Knight said that the makeup of the Times’ gaming audience has shifted considerably toward international markets, though he was unable to provide specific demographic figures.