Former newspaper mogul Conrad Black, who was convicted of fraud in 2007 and did prison time, chatted with Bloomberg TV hosts today about Warren Buffett’s newspaper purchases, the future of print, newspaper advertising and other media topics.
Some quotes from a Bloomberg-provided transcript:
* “We have to make the Internet transition and have a printed product for those who want it. But the burden of printing is going to have to be carried in the homes of the subscribers if they want it printed, it will be printed in a home printer rather than a big printer on a colossal press.”
* “A great, respected newspaper name, even if the medium itself is becoming obsolete, it’s a powerful draw and worth a lot.”
* “Editors are more important than ever and to digest of these things important [sic]. I think there’s a place for raising the cover price for producing a better product and even a designer product for certain types of subscribers.”
The transcript is after the jump.
TRANSCRIPT – WITH SOME AWKWARD PHRASES – IS PROVIDED BY BLOOMBERG TV
On buying one of the big newspapers currently being mentioned as up-for-sale:
“Yes. I could see a possibility where it would be a buyer’s market. The fact is there’s a huge amount of goodwill in those great newspaper titles and the goodwill can be exploited if it is approached in a different way. We can’t go on just converting trees to newsprint, printing them on huge presses and delivering them at enormous expense all around the great cities of the world. We have to make the internet transition and have a printed product for those who want it. But the burden of printing is going to have to be carried in the homes of the subscribers if they want it printed, it will be printed in a home printer rather than a big printer on a colossal press.
On possible titles he is interested in:
If you are asking me what I’m going to do, as a result of the persecution I endured at the hands of the justice department, I learned the lesson that I won’t deal in public companies and I don’t have to say anything to the public about what I’m doing. I can’t comment on that. You mentioned various titles, I’m not sure about the “New York Times” but some of the others are in play now and others will become so. Whether I’m the person or somebody else is, there should be buyers for great trademarks like that. In a market of infinite choices, a great, respected newspaper name, even if the medium itself is becoming obsolete, it’s a powerful draw and worth a lot.
On Warren Buffett’s purchasing newspapers strategy:
I would never criticize Warren’s strategy as a buyer. His track record speaks for itself. I think he is basically right. He’s buying in areas where the vulnerability to internet titration is not as severe as it is in the largest markets. He’s buying it a very low multiples of cash flow and I think he’s saying these things could probably be adopted as needed and even if they can’t, they could be stripped for profit, so there’s no way he’s going to lose. I’m sure that is a correct analysis.
On Rupert Murdoch spinning off publishing aspects from cable:
I would be very reluctant to criticize him on a thing like that. He’s build that up from a little provincial newspaper when he was in his early 20s to this colossal media giant. I don’t think I have any standing to take a potshot at individuals… He knows much better than I do the pressure he gets from shareholders and my impression was they were much more enthused about the other assets than the print ones and were regularly implying that for sentimental and nostalgic reasons which are incidentally and are not the characteristics of Rupert I best recognize having him for 35 years. But for those reasons he was hanging onto the newspaper business, I think he was probably a very efficient and fair way of getting investors their choice. Those who wanted in that company are not satisfied.
On whether advertising will ever meaningfully come back to the newspaper industry:
Not exactly a comeback, but I think what you can do is bank on this, especially in North America, anyone who buys newspapers, it’s a high income, higher education reader. That’s somebody they want. Secondly, people do relatively speaking read the ads in newspapers. Third, there will always be some people who want print and fourth, you can always tie it into other forms of advertising because the editorial function is going to become so tremendously emphasized, even those of us who has nothing else do but watch all day as vigilantly and voraciously as possible to see the news would not get everything we wanted. Editors are more important than ever and to digest of these things important. I think there’s a place for raising the cover price for producing a better product and even a designer product for certain types of subscribers. I think there is a role for it. It’s a niche of the market and a market that was once entirely the newspaper market. It is still a profitable business.