John Paton, a career newspaper executive who currently heads the Journal Register Co., was named today chief executive of MediaNews Group, replacing Dean Singleton, who will become chairman.
Paton will head both MNG — owner of 51 dailies including the Mercury News, Denver Post and St. Paul Pioneer Press — and Journal Register Co. (JRC), a chain of 18 newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. His Digital First Media Inc. will manage both chains.
Paton has a blog where he imparts his philosophy about the news business. Some bullet points from his blog:
- • “Digital dimes can replace Print dollars. And if our dailies continue on the trend they are on right now, by the end of the year they will have brought in more digital revenue than the costs of running their newsrooms.”
- • “All of us have one goal – to preserve quality journalism in the communities we serve.”
- • “In Q2 of this year, 10 of JRC’s 18 dailies are up year over year in advertising or within 2% of last year’s ad revenues because of digital advertising growth. JRC newspaper digital revenue grew more than 81% year over year in Q2. That’s against an industry average of less than 10%.”
Alden Global Capital is a major stockholder of both MNG and JRC, and it appears he was picked by Alden as the CEO. Singleton announced his intentions to step down after Alden put three of its representatives on the MNG board last year.
“Alden Global Capital is in the driver’s seat here,” media analyst Ken Doctor of Burlingame told the AP. “Potentially, with a big line under potentially, this could result in the first truly national newspaper company of local properties.”
Publishers are looking for efficiencies in printing, advertising sales and other costs, he said. “The new economy favors scale and efficiency. That’s the reason this deal came together,” Doctor said.
Paton said it’s too early to say what changes to expect at MediaNews, but Doctor predicted layoffs of some management and corporate staff.
MediaNews said in a news release the arrangement with Digital First provides immediate cost benefits and the ability to leverage the combined scale and expertise of MediaNews and Journal Register to benefit both companies.
PaidContent.org reports that Paton is an opponent of paywalls, a concept MNG is rolling out at more than 20 of its 51 papers. The paywalls will stay in the short term, he told PaidContent.
Paton also told PaidContent that he was not told in advance about MNG’s consolidation plans in the Bay Area, in which a dozen or so newspapers will shed their distinct identities and adopt one of two new brands, the East Bay Tribune and the Times. MNG also plans to lay off 120 employees, amounting to 8% of its Bay Area work force of 1,500.
“I was not made aware of the Bay Area consolidation prior to that initiative. Again, I have to come up to speed on the rationale before making a comment,” Paton told PaidContent.
• Paton will report to Alden Global Capital, which has acquired major stakes in several other newspaper companies.
• Alden is headed by Randall Smith, a Wall Street investment banker who keeps a low profile and hasn’t given an interview to a journalist since the 1980s, according to Poynter’s Rick Edmonds.