Monday, November 14, 2011

Following the bouncing Examiner; paper that launched the Hearst newspaper empire sold to Canadian publisher

The San Francisco Examiner has been sold off, again. The paper that launched the Hearst newspaper empire has been sold to the Canadian publisher Black Press (not associated with Conrad Black, it should be noted).

The history of the Examiner is fairly amazing. It was launched in 1863 as as the Democratic Press, a pro-slavery newspaper, but after its offices were destroyed following the assassination of Lincoln it changed its name to the Daily Examiner.

In 1880 George Hearst bought the paper, supposedly as payment for a gambling debt, and in 1887 it was given to his 23-year old son, William Randolph Hearst, to run. Thus began Hearst Newspapers.

But the Examiner eventually became the weaker paper in the JOA established in 1965 with the Chronicle. Hearst's fortunes in San Francisco only turned around when the de Young family, owners of the Chronicle sold their paper to Hearst.

Hearst then sold off the Examiner to the Fang family and the soap opera of the Examiner then became surreal.
Eventually the paper was sold to Philip Anschutz, and the paper has been part of Clarity Media Group since 2004.

Now it has been sold again to the Black Press which owns papers in British Columbia, as well as Washington state, Hawaii (where it owns the Honolulu Star-Advertiser) and Ohio (where it owns the Akron Beacon Journal).

Under Clarity Media Group, the Examiner has not really been competition for the Hearst owned Chronicle, nor has it been exactly a leader in digital publisher either. A look at its website for the property shows that its advertising comes in mostly from ad networks, and that its news selection is, well, questionable at best. (The home page contains a story on the Seattle Seahawks win over the Baltimore Ravens – nothing on the 49ers big win over the NY Giants.)

While the Examiner under Clarity has not been experimenting with native mobile and tablet editions, launching replica apps through PageSuite, the new company is doing very little, as well. This could be simply swapping one print-centric owner for another – though there is no doubt that the new owner is most likely on more solid ground when it comes to its finances.

Note: I am a former Hearst Newspaper employee, though in Southern California not the Bay Area.