Parent company of Saratogian, Record files for bankruptcy. Again.

troy record front page 2012-09-05The Journal Register Co. -- the parent company of the Saratogian and the Troy Record -- announced today that it's filing for bankruptcy. That prompted a WTF? moment for a lot of media people because JRC has already been through bankruptcy recently, emerging in 2009.

So, what's the deal?

John Paton -- the CEO of Digital First (the umbrella company that manages JRC -- yep, an umbrella company for a parent company) and "newspapers' digital apostle" -- posted today that bankruptcy "will have no impact on the day-to-day operation" and urged employees to keep doing what they're doing. He also explained some of the strategy for heading back to Chapter 11. The short story: the company is still being held back by "legacy obligations" -- so the private equity group that owns it is basically washing the company through bankruptcy so it can be sold, freed from many of those obligations, to a related entity.

Update: Romenesko has posted an email from JRC reporter with an understandably critical take on the situation.

Update: Poynter has gotten a hold of an FAQ memo sent out to JRC employees. Among the "unsustainable" legacy costs: defined benefit pensions. (Thanks, Bob)

Update September 6: The New York Post reports a failed deal involving the Philadelphia Inquirer may have also played a role in the bankruptcy. [via @beacongal]

Over at Nieman Lab, Josh Benton has a good explainer/speculation about the future for the situation. A clip:

Digital revenues are growing, but from an unspectacular base. Many of the company's initiatives seem, while interesting, unlikely to move the revenue needle much. Print revenues are a problem, just as they are at its peers. Today's release illustrates that JRC hasn't yet found the magic formula.
But could Paton's plan be a model for the local and regional newspaper industry as a whole, as some have dearly hoped?
Paton now will have his chance to prove it. In around 90 days, he'll have had his chance to shed the costs he wants to shed. No longer will "we were built for print" be a good excuse; if two bankruptcies can't clear out all those cobwebs, I'm not sure what could. "Digital first" will move from a slogan to a corporate name to a foundation of the company's business structure.

The underlying problem here -- as it is for most traditional media organizations -- is that the revenue generated from digital is nowhere to close what they'd been raking in from print/TV/old-school format. It's like trading dollars for dimes. And on top of that, there's new competition, not only from web-only upstarts -- one called Saratoga Wire is launching to take on the Saratogian -- but also from Google and Facebook and everything else online.

This is an extraordinarily interesting time for media. Unfortunately, it's the holy-crap-will-I-have-a-job-tomorrow/will-this-paper-exist-next-year kind of interesting.

Earlier:
+ The Syracuse Post-Standard cutting back publishing to three days a week
+ Post-Star is starting a paywall

image: Troy Record

Comments

Apparently, the underfunded employee defined-benefit pension plan is one of the "legacy obligations" that bankruptcy will affect. If so, then it's not only "holy-crap-will-I-have-a-job-tomorrow/will-this-paper-exist-next-year," but also "holy-crap-will-I-ever-be-able-to-retire," at least for the long-term employees.

What a way to treat your best asset.

If that JRC reporter didn't have a clue that JRC has financial problems, he's been doing a great job of burying his head in the sand -- JRC has been circling the drain for years. And it's not even that "print is dead," or whatever -- it's that they've been milking the print product dry for years, skimping on content (and paying their newsroom staff peanuts, which is hardly the way to retain talent) in favor of advertising, which only works until the advertisers realize that circulation is plunging, 'cause nobody wants to buy the paper if the content is lacking. While print media isn't the most booming business out there, plenty of papers are still making a fairly good go of it -- with the glaring exception of ones run by JRC.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Where the wild things aren't... yet

The reported mountain lion sightings near Cambridge in Washington County recently is a familiar story. [Post-Star] Mountain lions? Here? In 2011 The US Fish and... (more)

Figuring Sh!t Out with Amy Biancolli

Amy Biancolli is a self-described mom, ink-stained wretch, and survivor of suicides. We would describe her as a gifted and thoughtful writer with an ability... (more)

In a brewery (not so) far, far away

Lucasfilm -- you know, the production company behind Star Wars -- is challenging a trademark application from Syracuse's Empire Brewing Co. over a beer called... (more)

What's up in the Neighborhood

Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: Ladder No. 1, a different ridge, Chatham, the Walkway over the... (more)

Talking about talking about movies

One of the events at the currently-in-progress Film Columbia that caught our eye is this panel on Saturday about film criticism -- and its lineup:... (more)

Recent Comments

... Let's also lower the city speed limit to 25 while we're at it. Maybe then these morons will not go 45 miles an hour down Washington Avenue. Why should cities surrender themselves to the automobile and automobile drivers? - the very forces that killed cities to begin with. ...

Drawing: Postmodern Jukebox at Troy Music Hall

...has 58 comments, most recently from Ro

Where to sell old gold and silver?

...has 8 comments, most recently from SteveO

Albany Common Council passes red light camera ordinance: comments, votes, thoughts

...has 29 comments, most recently from Joe A

Help fixing wedding photos?

...has 11 comments, most recently from SB

St. Vincent at Upstate Concert Hall

...has 8 comments, most recently from KatherineSass