Friday, October 1, 2010

Late Friday News: Judge gives OK to Philly newspaper sale to hedge fund; Fast Company goes slow; Globe to create new separate website, and charge for access

It's the end of the week and time for the usual information dump:

A judge has given the OK to the bankruptcy sale of the Philadelphia newspapers, a sale valued at $139 million. Now the papers will be owned by hedge fund company Angelo, Gordon & Co.

"We look forward to operating the company out of bankruptcy, revitalizing the Inquirer and Daily News, and building the most successful regional portal in the country," new publisher Greg Osberg is quoted by the AP as saying.

Well, if it's a nightmare being owned by a PE firm, what's it going to be like being owned by a hedge fund?

Fast Company has come out with its first iPad app called the Fast Company Reader -- it should more properly be called the Slow Download Reader based on the performance of the app (see at right). And what do you get after waiting for it to download an article? A pop-up ad.

The app is clearly dependent on the servers of the publisher to pull in copy as this free app weighs in at only 2.6 MB. In reality this is an RSS reader for the iPad, an odd approach for a magazine to take.
I suppose it should be pointed out that the publisher, in this case Mansueto Ventures, has decided to create an unique product for the tablet platform rather than simply create a replica edition. Normally I would congratulate them for this approach. But I'm not sure this works -- I mean that literally, I'm not sure this works.

The Boston Globe is taking a rather unique approach to creating an online paywall: it announced it is launching a brand new website that will be behind a paywall, At the same time it will be maintaining its current open site at

According to a story posted on the current website, the site "will have limited access to journalism that appears in the newspaper, but will have wide-ranging access to content the Globe’s newsroom produces throughout the day for the website".

The new site, at, "will contain all the stories and other content from the day’s paper as well as exclusive reports, in-depth news, analysis, commentary, photos and graphics, plus video and interactive features."

Interesting, no? The problem I see is that stories written "for the website" go on one site, whereas stories written for print go . . . on a website. And where does breaking news go? Wouldn't that go on just as it does now? Probably, which means the free site would prove more valuable to web readers than the paid site.

"Our research shows that currently attracts several different types of users. Some are readers whose main interest is breaking news and things to do, while others want access to the entirety of The Boston Globe," said publisher Christopher M. Mayer.

I like the boldness of the approach, but I have my doubts about the philosophy behind it. Most web readers want the information contained in a daily newspaper, but they want it presented online in its native format. My own preference would be to create a tablet version of the Boston Globe and charge for that, while maintaining one free website.

But, I must say, I like to see experimentation and the Boston Globe crew is certainly doing that. I'll be interested to see the new site and to find out if their plans work out.