By Ken Doctor, Nieman Journalism Lab
Today, we’ll hear official word of the demise of Project Thunderdome, one of the news industry’s highest-profile experiments in centralized, digital-first, mobile-friendly, new-news-partner content creation. Digital First Media CEO John Paton first announced the creation of what became a 50-plus person, New York City-based operation three years ago.
In the closing, and in other cuts at Digital First Media, we see the impact of unending high-single-digit loss in print advertising. The ongoing devastation in print is overwhelming even DFM’s relatively faster pace of digital innovation.
The move also signals the fatigue of majority DFM owner Alden Global Capital— and that it is readying its newspaper properties for sale. They’re not yet on the market, but expect regional auctions of DFM properties (with clusters around the Los Angeles area, the Bay Area, New England, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania) — unless Alden can find a single buyer, which is unlikely.
Closing Thunderdome is just part of a major north-of-$100-million cost cutting initiative that is putting the best glow on some tough financials. The reason for the sale: Despite CEO John Paton’s aggressive remaking of the company, Alden’s investments in cheap newspaper company shares (“The Demise of Lean Dean Singleton’s Departure and the Rise of Private Equity”) haven’t worked out the way private equity bets are supposed to.