Monday, December 5, 2011

Morning Brief: Two radio giants form alliance for daily deals, apps; Lee Enterprises attempts to restructure its debt, faces higher interest payments

No one, apparently, wants to be left behind in the rush for Groupon-like features, even radio giants like Clear Channel and Cumulus Media.

Clear Channel, the NYT said last night, will begin running ads for SweetJack, the daily deals site that is owned by its competitor Cumulus. At the same time the radio stations that Cumulus runs will become part of iHeartRadio, the app released by Clear Channel.

Clear Channel probably gets the best of the alliance as their iHeartRadio app is not exactly well thought of inside the App Store (the main complaint involves the forced use of Facebook).

Samsung may be gloating about its victory over Apple in court last week – Apple's attempt for an injunction preventing Samsung from selling its Galaxy Tab was defeated – but it still faces the daunting task of getting buyers to prefer its product.

A trip any Best Buy or other electronics store shows that there are often crowds around the table containing tablets from Samsung, Motorola, etc. But buyers seem to be walking out of the store with iPads under their arms, more often than not.

Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that the seven inch form factor is too much like a mobile device. Consumers have been moving to smartphones at an amazing pace, the last thing most buyers want is another mobile device.

I will admit, however, my own bias against these seven inch tablets may prove to be wrong and more a personal preference. But in any case, as long as Apple continues to be the only one committed to the ten inch form factor it will continue to dominate sales to those who want their tablets to be closer in size to a magazine than to a smartphone.

Another newspaper company has announced that it will file a "prepackaged" bankruptcy, one of those gimmicks that corporations can take advantage of. This time it is Lee Enterprises, the publisher of 54 daily and over 300 weekly newspapers across the U.S.

Lee Enterprises will be attempting to refinance about $1 billion in debt, while getting lenders agree to extend loads. The company will not, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch report (a Lee paper) be shedding any debt, and in the end will be paying higher interest rates on the current debt it owes.

"Although the refinancing will require Lee to pay higher interest rates, it and our strong cash flow will keep Lee on solid financial footing as we continue reshaping our company for long-term growth by expanding our digital platforms, building audiences, driving sales and improving our balance sheet," Lee's Chief Executive Mary Junck said in the company's announcement.