It would have been virtually impossible to predict just a few decades ago and even more difficult to believe. The bustling, sometimes even iconic buildings where news has hit the page for so many years are being sold off as nothing more than assets to liquidate.
In fact, for some papers, the buildings are more valuable than the once-thriving businesses that occupied them. Real estate has a tangible worth, which is something that has eluded the newspaper industry for quite some time. News giants of the past would barely recognize their industry’s place in the world now.
Revenue Overrides Sentimentality
Selling off a newspaper’s homestead seems like an extreme way to fill the company coffers and stay afloat. But it’s a more reliable method than advertising, for sure. Instead of a trickle of revenue, it brings a healthy chunk at once. And the paper can then relocate to someplace more affordable. It feels like a startup business plan in reverse.
Every newspaper has felt the chilly hand of grave illness, if not total death, creeping up behind in recent years. Those with a longstanding reputation, keen business smarts and a bit of luck have bobbed, weaved and cheated demise. Smaller papers haven’t fared as well. But all that remain have at least one thing in common: revenue is elusive and shifts like a Carolina sand dune. And although real estate has seen its own fair share of upheaval, it’s more perennially valuable than the news.
The new newsroom might look nothing like its ancestor.
The Selling Trend Grows but it’s Nothing New
In 2010, the Portland Press Herald building was purchased by developer John Cacoulidis. The building, now known as the Press Hotel, is a trendy homage to its former self. The paper now occupies the 5th floor of the One City Center building in Portland.
Bigger buildings in a good location are obviously the best candidates for sale. Numerous small newspaper buildings have also been sold, but some were simply vacated once the cost of occupancy outweighed profits. Notable sales in the past decade have been:
- Seattle Times
- Des Moines Register
- Orlando Sentinel
- Athens Banner-Herald
- Miami Herald
- Fort Worth Star Telegram
The glory days are gone. They might come around again one day, but probably not the same as they were before. Revered newsrooms and printing presses cranking out the evening edition are more Americana than modern American life. But that doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. It’s a new era for many businesses, not just the news. And those that can adapt could find themselves thriving once again, just in a different way.
People still need the news. It’s the model that’s changing, not the desire to know what’s happening in the community and around the world. For many papers, that means a smaller staff, more efficient processes and markedly smaller digs. Additionally, new technology has made a lot of the tools and processes of generations ago archaic. Papers are looking to technology for new ways to drive revenue and making sure that they can costs if there are more efficient processes available. Boston Globe editor calls it a “reinvention,” according to Poynter. Selling the old homestead might very well help the business survive while the plan gets sorted.
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