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Going, Going, Gannett, Gone! -- Epitaph For A Venerable Vocation

Updated on July 12, 2012

Going, Going, Gannett, Gone! -- Epitaph For A Venerable Vocation

by Robb Hoff

July 11, 2011

I've been reading Tim Sullivan's columns for quite some time. Sullivan, Mark Purdy, Mac Engel and Paul Daugherty are all sports columnists who I have perused on a regular basis over the past four years as I meander my way through the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Dallas/Ft. Worth Star- Telegram, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Cincinnati Enquirer among some 80 other newspapers that I skim, scan and sometimes delve into deeper than just the surface.

So I was quite relieved, as it were, when I saw the Louisville Courier-Journal sports headline today that Sullivan had turned up on the staff there. I had wondered for the past month or so why I was staring at Kevin Acee's name instead of Tim Sullivan's from the slot above Nick Canepa's.

Now I know.

I admired Sullivan for the intellect he always imparted in his Union-Tribune columns, much more so than most of the plethora of other columnists that I have to read.

Plus, I grew up in many ways reading Sullivan's articles and columns about the Cincinnati Reds when he wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

But I came face-to-face with a troubling sign of the times when I went to the Courier-Journal online this morning: my limited time for unlimited viewing of articles on the site is nearing its monthly termination deadline.

Like many, I've enjoyed the unlimited access to online newspaper content for quite some time, and like many others I'm sure, I'm sad to know that just as Sullivan has been hired to write for the Courier-Journal, I might not be able to read him any more.

The limits to online access has been brewing for quite some time throughout the Gannett chain that includes the Courier-Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer. As a subscriber to the Sunday print edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, I was forewarned some time ago that the end was near.

So I'm not surprised. Just disappointed.

I might be tempted to say that the idea to limit online access to editions of Gannett papers was hatched by the same lamebrain who hatched The Deal Chicken. I would've bought into that more if the concept had featured, say, the pint-sized Chicken Hawk always on the hunt for Foghorn Leghorn, holding an ax in one hand and a bucket of "Foghorn Leghorn Fried Chicken" in the other, shouting "I bought this ax through Deal Chicken!". But as it were, the Deal Chicken is just not for me.

With Gannett set to report quarterly earnings Monday before the market opens with an estimate of 53-cents per share, I've got to wonder if the whole enterprise isn't looking a little plucked right now. The options action sure points that way -- the $14 put is in quite a bit more demand than the $15 call.

And I'm wondering if the next "Deal Chicken" brainstorm to cluck up some revenues by forcing online users to subscribe, isn't going to have a whole lot of analysts pronouncing Gannett, "Going, Going, Gannett, Gone!" by the time Street Signs starts on CNBC Monday afternoon.

Despite the personal disappointment in the Gannett decision to vampire revenues off of all of us online vampires (folks, we just can't subscribe to everything everywhere like we would want in a perfect world), I actually am starting to divine some bullish signs in the Gannett tail feathers.

Why?

Certainly not because of strokes of brilliance like Deal Chicken or limited online access, but rather, because of decisions like the one to hire Sullivan and even published poor scribes like myself:

http://cincinnati.com/blogs/daugherty/2012/02/13/the-morning-line-213-football-nostradamus-edition/

You see, as the "Fiscal Cliff" starts to suck more and more of us in like lemmings, we will seek the familiar, and for many of still, that familiar is the ink on the page or at least the recognizable byline online.

I don't believe that the online access decision will work. In fact, it's a headwind down the road because most people won't buy into it.

But the idea will sell enough to advertisers in the short term for them to bite into the whole targeted marketing concept enough to nudge Gannett forward into a better position.

Now if the Courier-Journal has footage of Hunter S. Thompson's ashes being shot out of a cannon in Colorado or Muhammad Ali tossing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River, I reckon I would be partial to paying a going rate to subscribe to the Courier-Journal online.

As it stands now, I won't subscribe but I will be settings my sights long on Gannett because in the end, it will win the battle for the hearts and minds (and eyes) of the local connection one way or another as the world starts to get a little smaller for most of us.

I'm a buyer at $12 a share.

Having said that imagine my disdain when I know that I and others won't be able to do something as harmless as looking up, say an old high school friend who writes about the Louisville Bats for the Courier-Journal:

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20120708/SPORTS07/307080049/1036/sports/Louisville-Bats-catch-break-win-3-2-against-Mud-Hens?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CSports%7Cp

But, hey, at least I can read this while I'm watching the International League All-Star game on the MLB Network for now.


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