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The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News are jointly owned daily newspapers in Philadelphia and the city’s two primary print media outlets.

The two newspapers are owned by H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who bought the paper in 2014 from Interstate General Media, a holding company owned by a group of local investors of which they had been a part. They share a free website, Philly.com, and also have separate websites launched in 2013, Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com, which both have hard paywalls.

The Inquirer, a broadsheet, is the larger and older of the two newspapers. It reached national prominence during the 1970s and ’80s under the leadership of Gene Roberts, winning 17 Pulitzer Prizes between 1975 and 1990. The Daily News, a tabloid, was founded in 1925 and became an edition of the Inquirer in 2009.

The two papers were brought under the same ownership in 1957, when the Inquirer’s owner, Moses Annenberg, bought the Daily News. Annenberg sold the papers to the Knight Ridder newspaper chain in 1969. In 2006, when Knight Ridder was bought by the McClatchy Co., the two papers were sold to a group of local investors led by former PR executive Brian Tierney, who became the Inquirer’s publisher later that year.

The papers operated at a profit during Tierney’s tenure, though those calculations didn’t include their debt obligations, which drove Philadelphia Newspapers to file for bankruptcy protection in 2009. In April 2010, the papers were sold to a group of Philadelphia Newspapers’ creditors for $139 million, about a quarter of what Tierney had bought it for four years earlier.

During Tierney’s tenure, both newspapers’ circulation continued a sharp drop, and both newsrooms’ staffs were cut dramatically. The papers’ coverage of local issues decreased substantially and the Inquirer went on a Pulitzer drought, not winning one until 2012. The Daily News earned a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for stories on a rogue police narcotics squad.

The company was put on the block again in early 2012, eventually being sold to a group of local investors for $55 million, barely one-tenth of its sale price in 2006 and equal to its sale price in 1969. Then-publisher Greg Osberg was reported to have meddled with the papers’ coverage of the sale process.

The papers’ new owners rehired former Inquirer editor Bill Marimow to the same position in 2012, though he was fired in 2013 as part of an intra-owner struggle that led two owners to sue the company over Marimow’s firing. (He was later reinstated by a judge.) Several of the papers’ owners accused each other of meddling, and the conflict between owners led the paper to be put up for sale again in 2014, with Lenfest and Lewis Katz — who had been the minority owners — buying the paper outright. Katz died in a plane crash later that week, and Lenfest bought out Katz’s share from his son.

The papers introduced a paywall in April 2013 that limited access to print or digital subscribers, with no free access for other users. The papers had long talked publicly about paid content plans. Tierney said repeatedly he planned to charge for access to Philly.com, once saying he planned to institute a paywall by the end of 2009. Osberg said in June 2010 he didn’t plan to put the site behind a paywall but might pursue other forms of paid content, particularly in mobile media.

The Inquirer was among the first newspapers to use crowdsourcing techniques during the mid-1990s, when it published a police database online and asked readers to find misclassified crimes. In 2011, a Philadelphia Media Network hyperlocal news site began listing stories that reporters were working on.

In 2008, an Inquirer editor sent an internal memo informing the newsroom that the paper would no longer post investigative reporting, features, or reviews online before they appeared in print. After the policy was met with harsh criticism, editors sent another memo explaining when to post stories online and when to hold them for print.

In 2010, the newspapers continued to experiment with online tactics, devising a formula to measure audience engagement and trying a badge-based system for top users.

In 2011, the papers announced they would begin selling discounted Android tablets with their content built in, and launched an incubator for locally oriented tech startups, initially housing three such businesses with mixed results. The program received $345,000 from the Knight Foundation to expand in 2013.

Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
Feb. 3, 2016 / Sydney Finkelstein
Need to find, keep, and maximize talent today? Look to an old-school example, Gene Roberts — “If you were a reporter and you didn’t love working for Gene Roberts, there was something wrong with you.” —Don Barlett When Gene Roberts joined The Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper didn’t have ...
Jan. 22, 2016 / Shan Wang
Can Philly’s new Institute for Journalism in New Media live up to the enormous hopes pinned on it? — When H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest announced he was donating $20 million of his own fortune as well as The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com to a newly created nonprofit called the Institute for Jo...
Oct. 9, 2015 / Joseph Lichterman
If the Philadelphia newspapers wanted to convert to nonprofits, what would stand in their way? — If newspapers are having trouble turning a profit without deep annual cuts, how about becoming a nonprofit? That question’s been asked a lot over the last decade of print decline — even though it glides past the ...
Aug. 12, 2014 / Joshua Benton
It turns out the 2000s were not a good decade for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News — We don’t spend a lot of time focusing on what happened to the American newspaper industry in the first decade-plus of this century — what’s past is past! — but this piece by Joel Mathis in Philadelphia ma...
Oct. 11, 2013 / Mark Coddington
This Week in Review: Twitter’s TV ramp-up, and a clash over press regulation in the UK — Twitter, TV, and potential pitfalls: A week after Twitter made its IPO filing document public, the company continued to pull in deals tied to the TV industry — this time a partnership with Comcast (which owns NBC Uni...

Recently around the web, from Mediagazer:

Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: July 3, 2014.
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