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Jim Hopkins signs off from the Gannett Blog

Jim Hopkins, a former Gannett employee and author of the Gannett Blog, announced this week that he was retiring his blog, where he has observed and written about Gannett for more than six years. In his note to readers, he noted that although his site still averages more than 15,000 unique monthly visitors, Gannett’s decision to branch out more fully into broadcast makes its newspaper division merely a “side interest.” Gannett acquired the Belo Corporation in December and recently announced plans to spin off its publishing division from the TV division.

Hopkins will sign off today for the last time, but he was willing to speak with inVocus about his observations of Gannett over the years, including the company’s strengths and weaknesses.

Q: When did you first start the Gannett blog, and why did you decide to become the watchdog of Gannett?

Jim Hopkins (JH): I started publishing my blog in September 2007. Gannett was one of the world’s biggest media companies and it was about to go through significant turbulence. I thought employees and other small shareholders would like a place where they could share information about their future.

Q: What has the experience been like these last six or so years since you left Gannett and started watching and writing about them?

JH: Publishing the Gannett Blog is one of my career highlights. It has been journalism in its purest form: holding powerful interests accountable.

 Q: How have you seen Gannett evolve? Do you think they’re moving into the digital era well?

JH: Gannett has made significant strides toward being a less print-focused company. But their digital efforts, which began in earnest nearly eight years ago, have recently shown signs of faltering.

 Q: Where do you find they still fall short?

JH: Gannett is much too slow to innovate. For example, the company announced plans to redesign all 100-plus U.S. news sites—both newspapers and TV stations—as early as February 2013. Then it said it would launch the new sites in the company’s top-35 markets. But the last time I checked, the company was way too far behind. In an industry now crowded with competitors that move more quickly, the pace of change across Gannett is a significant problem.

Q: What do you think Gannett’s decision to move further into television means for them?

JH: Expanding further into TV gives the company some additional time. But TV is not far behind newspapers in losing advertising and viewers to online startups, so Gannett will have to continue looking for other ways to boost revenue.

Q: Do you have any general predictions for Gannett’s future?

JH: It will continue to shrink as the company’s biggest division, newspaper publishing, loses advertising revenue. I have no idea where it will bottom out, however.

Q: Finally, what are your next steps?

JH: Taking a long vacation.


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