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Primary website:
medianewsgroup.com

MediaNews Group was an American newspaper chain based in Denver that merged in 2013 with the Journal Register Co. as Digital First Media.

The company published 57 daily newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Detroit News, and the Salt Lake Tribune. Its flagship paper was the Denver Post. It also owned a handful of radio and television stations.

MediaNews was founded by Dean Singleton and Richard Scudder in 1983 and became one of the largest U.S. newspaper publishers through a series of acquisitions. The company’s most recent purchase was in January 2011, when it acquired three newspapers in Colorado for an undisclosed sum. In 2006, MediaNews bought four former Knight Ridder papers, including the Mercury News and Pioneer Press.

Beginning in 2011, MediaNews was managed together with the Journal Register Co. by John Paton of the newly created Digital First Media. Alden Global Capital, which was a major investor in MediaNews, also owned the Journal Register.

Singleton and MediaNews long had a reputation for making profits off of struggling papers by cutting costs. Singleton advocated outsourcing both newsgathering and editing functions as a way to save money.

Facing $930 million in debt (though as few as one newspaper may have been losing money), MediaNews’ holding company, Affiliated Media, filed for bankruptcy in January 2010. It exited bankruptcy two months later, having cut its debt to $165 million in exchange for giving up majority ownership to its lenders. In January 2011, as part of a broad executive shakeup, Singleton was ousted as CEO and reassigned to executive chairman; MediaNews President Joseph Lodovic was fired. Singleton retired from the company in 2013.

Singleton advocated charging for content online as a way to drive readers to papers’ print product. He has said: “Print is still the meat. Online’s the salt and pepper.”

MediaNews moved into paywalls by signing onto Press+’s system for paid content online. The company initially launched paid-content plans based on the Financial Times’ metered model at 26 of its small- and medium-sized papers. In 2011, three of those papers dropped Monday print editions, making web access free on those days. MediaNews dropped its initial paywalls in 2012 because of poor revenue, then relaunched them later that year before spreading them across all of Digital First’s papers in 2013.

MediaNews also tested a customized newspaper that readers can print at home.

In 2011, the company launched TapIn, a location-based mobile news app designed specifically for tablets. It also partnered with ProPublica on its news apps.

Digital First has a partnership with GlobalPost for foreign content and with NewsCred for syndication services.

Peers, allies, & competitors:
Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
Sept. 25, 2014 / Ken Doctor
The newsonomics of auctioning off Digital First’s newspapers (and California schemin’) — Could the sale of the Digital First Media properties lead to the U.S.’s first quasi-national newspaper company? That’s the hope of DFM’s current owners, and the shiniest lure tossed out into the newspap...
Nov. 27, 2013 / Ken Doctor
The newsonomics of the November shuffle, from Forbes to Freedom and Couric to Stelter — Ah, the pre-Thanksgiving bounty. Those of us who try to chronicle the business end of the news business have seen our plates overflowing lately. Not since the Bezos blitz of August have we seen so many announcements, shu...
June 27, 2013 / Ken Doctor
The newsonomics of Advance’s advancing strategy and its Achilles’ heel — Another city. Another melange of limited information, confused storytelling, and an unsuccessful attempt to put on a happy face to mask a huge change in newspapering and civic life. Last week, Oregon’s dominant pap...
Feb. 13, 2013 / Joshua Benton
Press Publish 6: Rick Edmonds of Poynter on paywalls, print days, and the economics of newspapers — The newspaper business analyst talks about what revenue strategies are showing signs of life and whether the paywall model works for everyone....
Sept. 7, 2012 / Adrienne LaFrance
Why does Project Thunderdome have to be in New York City? — One of the newspaper companies that Digital First manages is bankrupt, but editor Jim Brady says it still makes sense to expand staff in Manhattan....

Recently around the web, from Mediagazer:

Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: January 4, 2014.
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