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Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

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:
Aug. 22, 2019 / Christine Schmidt
Three years into nonprofit ownership, The Philadelphia Inquirer is still trying to chart its future — The Philadelphia Inquirer is trying to both build and be the local newsroom of the future — at the same time. The Inquirer was once arguably the nation’s premier metro daily, with a 700-strong newsroom, bureaus a...
Feb. 27, 2018 / Christine Schmidt
Facebook’s support for local news subscriptions is one move in the larger dance between publishers and platforms — After testing subscriptions in Instant Articles and prioritizing local content in the News Feed, Facebook will now be coaching local news publishers on “unlock[ing] strategies that help…build digital customer...
Feb. 2, 2018 / Shan Wang
Here’s how Arc’s cautious quest to become the go-to publishing system for news organizations is going — Arc, The Washington Post’s publishing software, continues its slow march towards becoming the go-to content management system for news organizations, from modest alt-weeklies to multi-paper chains. This week, the P...
May 3, 2017 / Joseph Lichterman
Philly’s Lenfest Institute has raised $26.5 million and could get another $40 million from its namesake — In January 2016, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest created the nonprofit that now owns the Philadelphia newspapers, funding it with a $20 million donation. Since then, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, as it is now kn...
April 18, 2017 / Joseph Lichterman
A Boston Globe memo puts the spotlight on an emerging consensus on how to transform metro papers — The Boston Globe on Monday published a memo from editor Brian McGrory outlining the latest steps the paper is taking to restructure its newsroom as it adjusts to the evolving journalistic landscape. The Globe plan focuse...

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