What are they thinking? Larry Kramer and the reshaping of Gannett

By Ken Doctor, June 4, 2015 for his blog: Newsonomics

Will the new Gannett be like the old Gannett?

Ken Doctor

Ken Doctor

The company is completing its split-up process. The goal: by July 1, the broadcast and digital assets investors covet will spin into TEGNA. That division follows in the broadcast/print separation footsteps of News Corp, Tribune, Media General, Belo and Scripps before it. “Gannett” returns to its roots, a newspaper-centered company, now hurtling into the digital age. Gannett now owns USA Today, its flagship ,and 92 dailies, as it completed its acquisition of eleven smaller dailies in New Mexico, Texas and Pennsylvania on Monday, which I had earlier reported was in the works.

What may emerge out of this particular split may be surprising—and set a possible new precedent in the management of the regional and news chains that stretch from coast to coast. The new Gannett is edging closer to singular editorial direction, as it begins to reveal its new organization post-split.

In that reorganization, USA Today Publisher Larry Kramer has already been named chief content officer of the company, while retaining his USA Today responsibilities. In an announcement, Bob Dickey, who soon will assume the title of C.E.O. of the standalone Gannett, said the he would be “uniting our different news businesses into a single, nationwide news powerhouse.”

What does “single’ mean? The company shouldn’t, can’t and won’t connect the dots for us at this point, given legal strictures related to the split.

We can, though, connect most of the dots ourselves.

Under Larry Kramer’s strategy and management, Gannett has acted as a more singular editorial company than ever. In two phases underway, USA Today editor in chief Dave Callaway, Kramer’s unconventional, digitally savvy pick for the job in 2012, has begun to remake the national-local news relationship. Now, with Kramer assuming the chief content officer title, Dickey talking unification and the requirements for editorial efficiency never greater, Gannett may on the brink of singularity itself.

As Larry Kramer becomes chief content officer, will that mean that Gannett’s editors will report to him, at least jointly? Those editors now report solely, within a traditional newspaper structure, to their paper’s publishers. Gannett senior vice president for news Kate Marymont (“My job is to elevate the journalism across Gannett’s local media sites,” says her LinkedIn job description.) leads editorial planning and strategy. Like her peers in similar positions at newspaper companies, she may act as an editorial advocate, but doesn’t have line authority.

We can look at what may be in the offing, but first let’s run some big numbers. If Gannett’s journalists were to be centrally directed, they would comprise 2,700 journalists, the largest single journalistic workforce globally. To be clear, that number doesn’t include another 2,200 content producers who will be employed by the new TEGNA. (Though, let’s note, for now, that while the two journalistic workforces will be split by the new ownership division, expect a mutual content sharing pact to be signed and operational as the companies become legally independent of each other.)

Twenty-seven hundred does top the charts in 2015. The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters each topped out somewhere under 3,000, and have pruned. Now, after trims here and there, restructuring, reassignment and skill-set hires, Reuters stands at 2,500, Bloomberg at 2,400 and AP at 2,300. We can also place the worldwide circulation leader, Japanese daily Yomiuri (circ: 10 million) in that category with about 2,500.

So there it is. Larry Kramer—who built and sold business news site Marketwatch for $519 million in 2005 to Dow Jones—could become the head of the largest newsgathering complement in the world. What might this mean for Gannett, often characterized, fairly and unfairly, as a journalistic also-ran for its middling, middle of the road, middle-rank journalism?

It’s not a hypothetical question.

Kramer and Callaway have been reshaping Gannett journalism for three years.

First, they raised and released the butterfly. Gannett’s butterfly program (“USA Today’s two-year strategic overhaul gains traction”) is well described by Poynter’s Rick Edmonds. The big idea: Create a separate national news section centrally, out of USA Today, and have Gannett’s bigger dailies (those with enough space devoted to national news) run it daily. The program cuts local copy-handling costs, and takes advantage of that singular approach, aiming at both standardization and higher-quality national news selection and presentation. Today, 35 Gannett dailies run the product, and the company has begun syndicating it to other chains, including Schurz. The company says the project has increased profit overall—largely through circulation subscription retention—by more than $25 million.

“We see that readers are seeing and accepting both brands—the local newspaper and USA Today—in their paper,” Kramer told a World Association of Newspapers audience Monday in Washington, D.C. “It’s the combined value that works.”

USA Today led about a dozen investigative projects last year, fueling Phase 2 of the networking. Do police departments really need military equipment? USA Today led the data-rich reporting and then local papers (and broadcasters) did the localization, as here in Cincinnati. “Inside America’s secret biolabs” followed the same path. Two weeks, ago a binge drinking project amassed both national data on the trend and tailored it for local markets. A new project, partnered with ProPublica, is in the works.

These projects have grown more numerous, and according to Gannett editors, better executed. Such national–local collaborations are nothing new, and their execution requires a high level of nuance and organization. Over the years, chain-led national projects—no matter how well done—often haven’t given local editors enough time to prepare their own work; Gannett’s editors see progress on that score. The company has just launched an internal Facebook page to improve such communications.

Yet, all of that is likely prologue.

The next big idea, or Phase 3 of the networking: An everyday alignment of national and local resources. That’s a Rubik’s cube with changing colors thrown in, given the complexities and pace of daily journalism—and it’s a goal no big chain has before set.

Technology must serve as a linchpin to any such plan. Presto, Gannett believes, is the answer. That’s its new content management system, which has within recent months rolled out across all its newspapers. Such a C.M.S. is a gating factor, and that gate has been opened.

USA Today, post split, will employ about 350 journalists, after the now-common rounds of buyouts, layoffs and re-skilling. That newsroom now serves as much as a national bureau and a wire service as a group producing a single title. Within a grander vision of networked, through-the-day cooperation, we can begin to see how—on paper—a new system may work.

Take election coverage. Now that you have take your socks off to count all the Republicans running for President, Gannett will want to make holistic use of its far-flung journalists. USA Today could direct coverage. The Des Moines Register again finds itself in the thick of the Iowa caucuses. Tallahassee and Fort Myers have been tracking Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for years, and the Louisville Press Courier knows a thing or two about Rand Paul.

On immigration, Gannett’s Arizona Republic knows the regional issues. In automotive, there’s the Detroit Free Press.

Editors have been melding national and local journalism, as they can, for a long time, of course. The difference here may be twofold.

Increasingly, the main news output skews digital, and in digital publishing the mixing and matching of stories, infographics, videos, photos and more is far more flexible than in print.

Secondly, Gannett, like many newspaper companies, has already been through the hell of cutback. Whether we can say that local operations would simply be more receptive, or have been beaten down, the ability to force a more singular approach to news looms easier in 2015 than it would have been in 2005. Theoretically, the national-local network produces more efficiency—and more usable content from the same resources. That would, once again hypothetically, free up diminished local reporting resources to do local reporting.

Anyone who’s led or worked in a newsroom can be properly skeptical about this would-be singular approach. Will it really allow the local papers to do more local reporting, which is what their communities most need? The plan could also be dismissed as just one more in a line of Gannett “newsroom of the future” would-be pronouncements.

If, and as, it does come to pass, let’s remember a couple of things.

First, technology and the economics of the business inevitably push change in this direction. Second, Larry Kramer and Dave Callaway can’t be dismissed as the usual Gannett change agents. Both are well respected, seasoned journalists, steeped in digital change. Further, Kramer brings both a journalistic and consumer orientation to his post. He’s an editor who mastered the internet business and then took a job he didn’t need, as I noted (“Newsonomics: 10 Top Snapshots on Larry Kramer’s USA Today”) when he was appointed. That’s a rare, maybe unique combination of experience and skills for someone heading a large journalistic workforce.

Should Kramer be given direct authority for Gannett’s 2,700 journalists, the act would be precedent-setting. Even short of that, though, the new company—still the largest newspaper company in the U.S. by revenue—will see unprecedented efforts to re-weave national and local news together.


Ignition2012Larry Kramer speaking about MarketWatch’s success at the Ignition 2012 Conference in New York in November, 2012. He talks about how MarketWatch made a scary bet on developing one tech product that helped define the company

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My Favorite IPhone Apps:

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The founder and former CEO of CBS MarketWatch is a digital pathfinder

An Interview with Larry Kramer
in Marin Magazine, July 2011.

He founded a TV program and website that monitors the stock market. No, not the manic, shirtsleeves-rolled-up Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money. And no, not Larry Kramer the aging playwright and AIDS activist. This Larry Kramer is the founder and former CEO of CBS MarketWatch and CBS Digital. He lives in Tiburon and New York City and is the author of the current best seller C-Scape — Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today.

“The scale of change that businesses face today is enormous,” Kramer states in the introduction to his book, “and the wreckage of companies that have failed to adjust is all around us.”


Are digital paywalls standing in the way of making online newspapers profitable? Canadian Business Television Network BNN speaks to John Ridding, CEO, Financial Times; Larry Kramer, founder,; Porter Bibb, managing partner, MediaTech Capital Partners.
See the interview: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.


The four C’s Disrupting Business Today, an Interview on

Vator CEO Bambi Francisco interviews Larry Kramer on Vator-tv.


This commentary originally appeared on It’s a story about HitViews, a company born out of the YouTube Generation that matches new media “talent” with traditional companies looking for help projecting their brands into the new social networks.


Business Insider links to C-Scape:


Investors Business Daily Cites C-Scape.
Prominant business daily newspaper says the new business landscape is already here. Read about C-Scape and two other books helping to explain that the future is bringing to business.


Larry is Interviewed by Scott Cluthe on his Positively Incorrect show on


–Larry appears (right) on Countdown to the Closing Bell on Fox Business Channel with Liz Claman to talk about C-Scape. The interview touches on the 4 C’s and how every business needs to learn them.


–Audio interview with The Wall Street Shuffle on CNN radio Nov 22, 2010


–From the Drucker Business Forum in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2010: Three Questions For Larry Kramer

Charles Crumpley and Larry Kramer

–The Drucker Discussion: This video (right) is from a Drucker Business Forum event held November 17th at the Crawford Family Forum at KPCC in Pasadena. The Drucker Business Forum is produced by the Drucker School of Management.

–Also from Drucker: Marketing, Media, and the Internet Revolution:
Godin and Kramer at Latest Drucker Business Forums


–Kramer on Marketwatch: (Nov. 16) Commentary: Why curation is important. A column describing the maturing process of several new media news web sites and the increase emphasis on curation.

–Video Interview on Washington Kramer Says Companies Would Pay More for Targeted TV Ads

–Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) — Larry Kramer, former president of CBS Digital, talks about advertisement strategy in a digital market and the industry outlook. Kramer, speaking with Deirdre Bolton and Erik Schatzker on Bloomberg Television’s “InsideTrack,” also discusses late night TV wars with the return of Conan O’Brian to TV tonight.


–American Journalism Review Excerpt Adapted from the Book: A newspaper guy turned successful new-media entrepreneur says it’s unlikely that one overarching new business model will emerge for journalism in the digital age. Instead, look for a collection of improvised arrangements based on the lucky alignment of buyers’ and sellers’ needs. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Posted: Tue, Nov. 1 2010


–Podcast from Harvard Business Review: Why Businesses Need to Think Like The Media. Featured Guest: Larry Kramer, founder and former chairman and CEO of MarketWatch, Inc., and author of C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today.


How French Innovators Are Putting the “Social” Back in Social Networking-Harvard Business Review, October 2010


Social Media is the New Local: Beet.TV segment on AOL Video.


–Kramer on when Online Video is better for telling the story.


–I-Magid Newsletter: “C-Scape” Explores Strategies For Thriving In A Transformed Media Environment

—————————————- November’s “Books-to-Watch” list!


Several Pieces for The Daily Beast


–From Page Six of the New York Post: Coverage of the Book PartyJonathan Wald says he’d have Larry King on Piers Morgan’s show!


–From Business Insider: How To Conquer A Brave New World Controlled By Consumers The founder of shares an excerpt from C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today, out this week. Read more:


CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Larry Kramer at Lubin House

Syracuse University’s Newhouse School honored Larry Kramer with an event at the Lubin House in NYC on Dec. 9, 2011. He was interviewed by CNN Money Correspondent Poppy Harlow (photo at right).


At Northwestern University. From the Daily Northwestern: Four current media trends are affecting the way businesses operate, said Larry Kramer, former CEO and founder of CBS MarketWatch, in a speech at the Donald P. Jacobs Center. These themes — the four C’s — are the basis for Kramer’s new book “C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today,” which he discussed in a speech to the Northwestern community. The Kellogg Media and Entertainment Club and the Medill School of Journalism cosponsored the event on Jan 18, 2011.


A review of Larry Kramer’s talk at the Famous Entrepreneurs Speech in Syracuse on March 30, 2011:

The “S” Word
April 2nd, 2011

I recently heard Larry Kramer speak. He’s the founder of MarketWatch and the kind of person that we entrepreneurs truly admire. He had great anecdotes for how using common sense and looking at situations from a fresh perspective led to his many successes in the business world. Successes on the scale that few of us will reach but many dream of. Yet many of us do not.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, we can all take his example and advice and adapt it to our own corner of the business world, our own goals and our own personalities. And our own definition of success.
My definition revolves around my personal life. I’m a mom, wife and animal freak. And while most of my colleagues may not believe this, I am more of an introvert than they would ever guess.
My social side does not come easily. I really like sticking close to home with my family and at my second home at the barn where my horse resides.
I LOVE my job, work hard and wear my entrepreneurial hat proudly. Yet my business model is built around those personal priorities.
What I loved about Larry’s talk which was different from those I usually hear from educators and entrepreneurs who have hit the big-time is that he did not presume to define what success means to any one businessperson.
He instead talked about the thrill of the chase, taking risks, avoiding the same ol same ol, identifying what the customer wants and then providing it – instead of the other way around – and so much more. Not once did he say grow-grow-grow. Which made his message more meaningful and universal.
I highly recommend his book, “C-Scape”, which discusses navigating the changing business landscape. It’s thought-provoking, inspiring and just makes sense. And best of all, it does not try to define the “S” word. He leaves that part to each of us.

Posted by Kathy Dwyer, Co-Founder and President, The TAG Group


Coverage of Speech to the INMA World Congress in New York City:

Larry Kramer, author and founder of The C-Scape has emerged
16 May 2011

Five years ago, founder Larry Kramer was in his first year working at the CBS TV network. As he sat in on a show screening, he received a breaking RSS news alert on his BlackBerry. In the next 15 minutes, he was able to read about the story in three different places, watch video and share the story with others – all without paying.

Right there, he had an epiphany: something big is happening.

The incident inspired Kramer to write the book “C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today.” It outlines how business models are changing, and how companies can adapt.

With 20 years of experience in the newspaper business, Kramer has witnessed a world of change in the industry. Monopolies held by news companies, such as classified and display advertisements, died with the rise of search engines, Craigslist and the Internet. Those days are over, he said, and companies should start building new business models now.

“If you wait any longer, you’re screwed,” Kramer said.

He said new business models should be built around the four C’s that are covered in his book: Consumer, Content, Curation and Convergence. Consumers lead the discussion, he said, because they make companies relevant. Listening and responding to your customers in real time is essential.

“The consumer is in control of everything now,” Kramer said.

This shift in power was gradual at first, he said, but now is accelerating rapidly. Consumers are in control of when, where, and how they consume the information they seek, and companies must stay current with the trends.

“You can’t just check in on these changes,” Kramer said. “You have to watch them continually.”

Content ranks next in importance, Kramer said. In fact, “content is king,” he said, especially if you expect consumers to pay. The audience should be educated about what a company provides and feel confident that they will get what they pay for.

“If you can convince them that they’ll get more from you than someone else, you’ll become a valuable source for them,” Kramer said. “In the end, everything is content, and you need to focus on being the best.”

Kramer said that in the future, newsrooms will be built around what you’re covering, and it will be necessary to control delivery of content to all possible outlets. This is where curation and convergence come in.

Curation, a new buzzword used around the industry, refers to the process of helping the audience sift through the information overload and decide what is relevant and worth their time. Consumers are getting confused amongst the clutter, and Kramer said it is up to journalists to point out where the value lies.

“It is a new art form we all have to learn and practice,” he said.

The convergence of media across various platforms allows businesses to create unique, quality content that separates them from this clutter. Every story can use words, pictures, audio and interactivity to deliver content all in one place that is easy for today’s on-the-go society.

“We’re in a Gutenberg moment,” Kramer said. “We have the golden opportunity to combine all of our storytelling techniques into one, and we need to know when to use each of those things.”

The implementation of the four C’s requires an entrepreneurial spirit, Kramer said. During the Q&A session, one delegate said that companies may not like change, but they like irrelevance less. Kramer replied by encouraging World Congress attendees to take chances and prepare for failures, because that’s the route to success.

“I think the good news is there is a future for news,” he said, “but we have to start moving quickly to do things the way people want it.”

Read more:


A video interview with Larry Kramer before his appearance at the INMA conference.

Not so long ago, the business landscape was easier to chart. The routes connecting customers, companies, products and services were predictable, reliable, and understood. Today, that landscape has been upended, and in its place a “C-Scape” has emerged — a world where consumers, not producers and marketers, make the choices; where content, not distribution, is king; where curation becomes a primary currency of value; and where convergence continues to revolutionize every part of every business — especially news companies. Author Larry Kramer talked about his presentation to the 81st INMA World Congress based on his book “C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today,” which shows the challenges are daunting and the opportunities are huge for publishers with vision.


Writer and entrepreneur Rick Spence, writing in The Financial Post of Canada, cites “C-Scape” in its discussion of why and how the Internet is changing business, and setting up an upcoming conference of entrepreneurs in Vancouver.

“In his recent book, C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today,” Spence writes, “ founder Larry Kramer writes about how the Internet has changed everything about business. Visa evolved from payment solutions to providing “how-to” content for its small business customers; JetBlue took flight by focusing on Web-enabled customer service not just for reservations, but to solve customer headaches such as refunds and loyalty points; Harvard Business School Press tripled sales by coming up with handy, compact e-books on specialized topics for instant delivery via mobile phones.”


Multiple media-based newsrooms in a decade: Larry Kramer

(Sept. 7, 2011) Ten years from today, there will not be a single newsroom based on one medium, but multiple media run within the same unit, Larry Kramer, founder, CBS, U.S., has predicted.

Speaking on the subject ‘Future of News — The Changing Face of News Publishing Today and How Can Newsrooms Cope with it’ at WAN-IFRA 2011 on Tuesday, Mr. Kramer said coordination of content would be across various media streams — TV, radio, digital (Internet and mobile), and print. He acknowledged that this transition from print to digital was worrying many. However, every company had multiple constituencies, and a changing customer base that is changing its habits constantly, and the way forward was to evolve into a media company.

New story-telling would also mean words, pictures, video, audio and interactivity (with consumers) on a single platform. Increasingly, consumers would converge with producers, being invited to create content for commercials and news, and even create products.

The four themes driving change were customer, content, curation, and convergence, Mr. Kramer said. “The consumer is now much more in control of where he buys content from, when, and how he consumes content. While this shift of power was gradual in the beginning, it is now accelerating,” he explained.

“The ubiquitous connectivity available today has created a generation of consumers that demand access to any content at any time. It is important to create what people want, and ensure that it is different from the other stuff out there. The best content will win in the end, and it is important to refine content based on changing consumer practices. Know your customers and follow them closely,” Mr. Kramer, author of C-Scape, advised.

In the process, it was also possible to educate the customer that paying for content means better content. Content-based consumption and monetisation of such content would be part of the new business model of media houses. Advertising too would pay for targeted, engaged audiences. “The key is to find audiences and reach them, learn about different segments and attack them separately,” he added.

Media profiles on Larry Kramer:

USA Today story:  Feb 23, 2016  Former USA TODAY publisher named TheStreet’s interim CEO

NYT story:  Jan, 1999: MEDIA TALK; From Ink Stains to

NYT story:  July 13, 2014  USA Today Goes Viral

NYT story:  Sept 13, 2012  Taking Pointers From Web Sites, USA Today Modernizes Its Look

NatGeo Video:   The ’80s: USA Today revolutionizes storytelling

USA Today story:  May 14, 2012  Larry Kramer named USA TODAY president, publisher

Washington Post:  May 15, 2012  At USA Today, Larry Kramer jumps back into fray of digital journalism

The Wrap:  Feb. 12, 2014  How Larry Kramer Will More Than Double USA Today’s Circulation This Year

Wall Street Journal:  Feb.11, 2014  Pages From USA Today to Appear in Other Papers

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