Early last year, I wrote here and here about the similarities between how Robert Nutting runs his newspaper chain (Ogden) and his baseball team (the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Here’s some of the important elements of the newspaper’s business model as I described them in my first post:
- 1. Minimize costs by cutting workers, overworking those who are left, and underpaying them.
- 2. Utilize economies of scale by printing previously-used local editorials throughout the chain.
- 3. Periodically publish columns and editorials reminding readers what a great job the newspaper is doing.
It certainly looks like nothing has changed since last year. For example, Nutting recently bought another newspaper, The Register in Sandusky, Ohio. Here is the beginning of the last editorial on July 31 under the old management:
Today is a difficult day at the Register. For some of our co-workers — through no fault of their own — it’s their last day working for this community newspaper. As it transitions to new ownership for the first time in 150 years, a management and operations shift resulted in a reduction of force here at Jackson and Market streets.
(Note – I could not find how many lost their job in the transition.)
And here is the next day’s upbeat headline as Ogden took control:
Register’s new owners have a rich history
The article then gives us a short history of Ogden Newspapers and then concludes:
Under the Nutting family’s guidance, the company has expanded beyond West Virginia. It now owns 49 daily newspapers across the country with publications stretching from Hawaii to New Hampshire.
Despite its increasing size, Ogden Newspapers has continued to keep the emphasis on serving the communities of the papers it owns.
(This writer will go far.)
Economies of scale
The number of outside-the-Wheeling-area local Ogden editorials* showing up in our local papers appears to be increasing as well as the number of outside-the-area, Ogden-produced articles. For instance, local Wheeling readers recently read about a smelly landfill 34 miles from Wheeling – an editorial that first appeared in Ogden’s Steubenville paper. Earlier this month, an editorial about “Debating New Ohio Gun Laws” ended up in at least six of Ogden’s Ohio papers as well as this West Virginia paper. (Hey, doesn't West Virginia have its own landfills and gun laws to debate – but these editorials do take up space even if they have little relevance.) And it's not just local – on national issues, a Google search suggests that almost every Ogden-owned paper carried the same recent attack on the possibility of national gun control legislation.
Add news articles to this practice. For example, last Tuesday brought us a totally-irrelevant article about a wedding cookie table from Ogden’s Washington (PA) paper:
Wedding bells chimed in Monongahela, Pa., as couples tied the knot in Chess Park alongside a record-setting wedding cookie table.
The park was filled Sunday with thousands of cookies as people poured in to set the record for the largest wedding cookie table on the final day of the city’s 250th birthday celebration.
Saturday morning’s Intelligencer continued the story with a follow-up story from the Observer-Reporter about efforts to beat the record in Youngstown, Ohio:
Youngstown Group Ready To Challenge Cookie Record
Monongahela is 52 miles from Wheeling and Youngstown is 95 miles. (Ogden papers in Altoona and Uniontown also carried this story.) Local relevance, anyone?
Today, both local papers carried a story from the Ogden's Washington paper:
Contractor Must Pay Back Wages for Pa. Mine Work
The article is about a lawsuit involving a Pennsylvania mine in which the judge ruled that the contractor had violated Pennsylvania’s minimum wage law. The ruling was handed down on August 9 and the only local connection that I could find in the story was that the lead plaintiff was from Wheeling – but he and Wheeling are inconsequential to what is essentially an 11-day-old Washington, Pennsylvania story.
Finally, it should be noted that we are due for yet another Intelligencer editorial telling us what a great job they do.
Later this week, I hope to look at how Nutting’s baseball team uses a similar plan.
*A footnote – Ogden’s editorial pages do get noticed by other bloggers.
In the course of researching this post, I found this from Blue Virginia, a progressive Virginia blog:
.Does the Winchester Star Have the Worst Editorial Page in Virginia?
After surveying the competition, blogger "lowkell" nominated Ogden’s Winchester (VA) Star for the honor:
I hereby nominate the Winchester Star as the worst editorial page in Virginia. Others (e.g., the Daily Progress and Roanoke Times) are bad as well, but the Winchester Star “wins,” IMHO, because it’s so consistently godawful.
Interestingly, Lowkell discusses the above-mentioned editorial about gun control as one of his examples.