Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bay Area News Group pulls a Netflix, decides against its own controversial rebranding plan; launches Community Media Labs initiative featuring open newsrooms

The president of the Bay Area News Group said today that the company had reconsidered its idea of rebranding its local newspapers and will instead retain "the majority" of its current newspaper titles. "

"After carefully considering the feedback we received after we announced our plan to rebrand our newspapers, we decided to embrace a strategy that maintains the majority of our current mastheads and includes bringing the community into the newsroom," Mac Tully, president of Bay Area News Group said in the company's announcement.

The original plan was to rebrand the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times as the East Bay Tribune, but that won't happen. The group will, however, combine the Tri-Valley Herald, Valley Times, and San Joaquin Herald, into one title, the Tri-Valley Times.

The rebranding plan, along with the decision to close the Walnut Creek office that used to serve as the headquarters for Lesher Communications, was widely seen as both a retrenchment and as simply a cost savings move – especially in light of fact that the announcement also said that the Oakland Tribune, The Argus and the Hayward Daily Review would halt Monday home delivery of their papers.

The papers included its announcement of its decision reversal in a story about an effort to create a more open, community focused newsroom called Community Media Labs. The idea is to create a newsroom open to the public, literally. These Labs will include computers, space for community meetings, blogging stations, Wi-Fi access and there will be classes taught by the public and news staff.

"This strategy is in the forefront of the newspaper industry's transition from print-centric businesses to a locally focused provider of news and information across multiple platforms," said John Paton, who was recently named Chief Executive of Digital First Media, and CEO of MediaNews Group, the parent company of the Bay Area News Group.

The first Community Media Lab will be instituted at the Oakland Tribune, and expanded to other communities over time. Update: Oops, forgot my usual disclaimer – I was formerly in management at the Valley Times, now part of BANG. But at the time the paper was not part of MediaNews Group, and in fact competed against MediaNews Group (and quite effectively, I might add).