Daily News Still Looking for a Business Model, Says Memo

After a week of attrition and turmoil at the Daily News, CEO Bill Holiber dropped by the newsroom last Wednesday to deliver a pep talk.  At the same time, he sent all staff a rallying memo that invoked the paper’s stance as the populist anti-New York Post.

“Since 1919,” he wrote, “the Daily News has served working-class families throughout all the communities of New York. For more than 90 years, we have been the voice of the people – celebrating our readers’ diversity, defending their interests, and protecting them from exploitation as we have worked to help them achieve the best-possible quality of life in New York.”

According to the Post’s Keith Kelly, that struck some reporters as hypocrisy. Mr. Holiber had just laid off 20 working-class-ish reporters and photographers, including those whose work held the government accountable to the working class, like a police bureau chief, a federal courts reporter and a city hall reporter. The overhaul coincided with the rollout of the paper’s new website, with which News brass hoped to create a leaner, digital-first news operation.

Without mentioning the layoffs explicitly, Mr. Holiber paid lip service to the paper’s rocky transition from print tabloid to “platform agnostic” news source. The memo likened the News to a wayward twenty-something, still figuring out what it will be when it gets around to maturing.

“We are still in the early stages of our transformation,” he wrote, “but we are making excellent progress towards finding the business model that best suits us.”

He was adamant, however, that the business model will involve print, despite the increasingly digital newsroom. In light of reports that Mort Zuckerman’s $150 million investment in a top of the line printing press on the eve of the recession was a mistake that the News is now paying for in jobs, Mr. Holiber mentioned a few of the business opportunities the top of the line four-color presses have provided.

According to the memo, the company has launched a “commercial services” division, which has yielded a new “Sunday Values” opt-in circular, and business with the Long Island Press, Queens Courier, Tablet, The Forward, Amsterdam News and The Independent.

“This new business division has made a wonderful contribution to our business, he wrote. “We anticipate a lot of commercial-services growth over the next several years.”

Daily News Still Looking for a Business Model, Says Memo