Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Good Money down a rat hole

If the Times is relying on its social media platform as its source of future profitability, it is unlikely that will happen.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.

This past week a group of investors some choosing to remain anonymous made a $12 Million “loan” to the Tampa Bay Times.

All It took was the word anonymous, and the conspiracy theorists came flying out of the windows. Much of the concern was over who these anonymous investors were and how much influence they would have over the Times reporting and editorial positions.

Later in the week, it was revealed that Tampa Developer Jeff Vinik was one of the Times angels. See Peter Schorsch saintpetersblog, 5 things I think I think about Jeff Vinik going into business with the Tampa Bay Times.

Maybe Mr. Vinik just made an early down payment on a piece of prime downtown St. Pete property.

In typical responses Paul Tash, Chairman and CEO of Times Publishing Company told us all not to worry, there would be no connection between all this money and how the newspaper operates.

As widely reported the Times had been teetering on the financial brink for some time, Tash went on to say the loan was to help with operating expenses until the newspaper could establish its social media operation.

That makes this a long-term loan. I doubt seriously, and I think there are many who share my opinion, that the Times with its current leadership will ever get social media figured out.

Tash and the other principals at the Times have long blamed social media for the decline of print journalism in general and the Times, specifically.

The Times has made a number of unproductive decisions in the last few years. First the decision to Leave its home town, St. Petersburg, and essentially broaden its print media reach to include all the bay area was a suspect decision.

Next came the decision to dump a ton of money into the naming rights for Amalie arena to bolster the decision to go regional and become the Tampa Bay Times.

Obviously, our group of mysterious and announced investors have a great deal of money to toss around, because the probability of a turnaround at the Times is highly unlikely. And, if the Times is relying on its social media platform as its source of future profitability, it is unlikely that will happen.

The primary reason is it is difficult to be successful in a medium you don’t respect.

No one yet has simply loaded an existing newspaper on to the Internet and been successful. The Times flashing banners, auto start commercials, blinking ads are more annoying than informative.

Finally, there is content. Social media is mostly local. I know I don’t really care what the Times editorial board or their staff writers thinks about Trump, the Russian meddling in the election or what some Senator from Texas said about health care.
Until the Times changes its basic philosophy, it will remain just another old newspaper trying to move to social media.

As for all that money, the “philanthropists” ponied up – it seems to me if these folks would have looked around the bay area, they would have seen innumerable places this kind of money could be invested that would produce tangible results and measurable returns for this community.

The Pinellas County School district comes to mind.

Saving the newspaper may be a laudable objective, but giving the people who currently run the Times more money to keep doing what they are doing seems to me to fit Einstein’s definition of insanity.

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Disclosures: Contributor to Rick Baker for Mayor Campaign 

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