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For sale: Boston newspaper with great history

Eve Troeh Feb 21, 2013
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The New York Times Company owns the Boston Globe. It has for 20 years. Now, it wants to sell The Globe. And that got Marketplace thinking: What would it take to expand our media empire, starting with the Boston Globe? Now, we’re not going to do a public radio pledge drive to raise money to buy the paper. But if we could? I asked media analyst Ken Doctor, who writes the blog Newsonomics, if we should try.

“This is a great buy,” Doctor says, without hesitation. He points out that the Globe’s newsroom hasn’t been gutted, like other papers. It’s 365 staff members strong. Plus, adding The Globe would let Marketplace try for the golden fleece of media: convergence. We could be pioneers who bring words, audio, video and digital everything together in one company. In addition, the paper still makes money — about $20 million a year. So, what should we pay?

“A hundred million would be about four to five times that annual profit, and that is what these newspapers are going for these days,” Doctor says.

So I had Kai Ryssdal call our company’s chief operating officer in Minnesota, Dave Kansas.

He said no.

“A hundred million is a steal? For dead trees?” he said.

No way.

Maybe just as well, since journalism professor Jeff Jarvis at City University of New York says the Globe, while a great brand, also has major downsides. Debt, pension, big, old facilities, unions and “other difficulties of life” being just a few on his list. Jarvis says we’d have to be prepared to be the bad guys.

“Could you go through the painful process of reducing the Boston Globe to boston.com?”

Massive layoffs and axing the printed paper edition are inevitable, he says, as the Globe undergoes the same digital march so many other papers have taken. Besides, we don’t have that $100 million to invest anyway. Let’s just ensure our own survival first.