Implications, Random Thoughts on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephens Media Joint Venture

Warren Stephens, left, co-owner of Stephens Meda, and Walter Hussman, owner of the Democrat-Gazette.

Warren Stephens, left, co-owner of Stephens Media, and Walter Hussman, owner of the Democrat-Gazette.

The plan for a joint venture announced today between the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media in northwest Arkansas raises all kinds of questions, many of which we hope to answer in our continuing coverage this afternoon on ArkansasBusiness.com.

Among the many points to ponder should the joint venture deal go through:

Staffing: What does this portend for employees of both companies in northwest Arkansas? While no one’s said it, there will almost certainly be job losses, as the new LLC eliminates redundancies on its editorial, business and printing staffs. How will newspaper staffs change?

Labor Market: The upheaval will only add to the media talent on the job market in Arkansas. Assuming they’re adequately positioned, how will other media companies — including online ventures like the Fayetteville Flyer, Michael Tilley’s City Wire, Ozarks Unbound and others — capitalize?

Online News: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman famously advocates locking down content from his daily newspapers online. Stephens Media will begin testing a locked down model in Pine Bluff. What happens with the LLC’s online news sites in northwest Arkansas? Competing online news providers who offer free online content in the region will be intensely interested in those plans.

The Individual Newspapers: Hussman says all the newspapers in the area will remain separate entities, with the Democrat-Gazette included in editions of The Morning News. That style of “wrapped” editions comes from the Democrat-Gazette’s previous partnership in the region with Walton-owned Community Publishers Inc. (which eventually led to Hussman’s company buying several CPI papers in the region and leaving Stephens as its only other major regional competition).

How long will the LLC maintain those separate titles? No doubt brands like The Morning News, the Northwest Arkansas Times and the Daily Record are important to readers and advertisers, but in this media environment, why bear the additional expense of maintaining them?

Finally: What do you think of the deal? Any perspective from northwest Arkansas readers, advertisers and media folk would be much appreciated. Share your thoughts and commentary in comments.

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3 Responses

  1. […] Media End Northwest Arkansas Newspaper WarThe Morning After: Merry Christmas, Newspaper War Is OverImplications, Random Thoughts on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephens Media Joint VentureArkansas Twitter GuideReports: Rupert Murdoch to Charge for All Online […]

  2. This is an attempt to add more brick and mortar for the plutocracy which means it is going to be that much harder to break out of 49th in everything except super rich people.

    Not surprising that someone munching on the teat of those plutocrats makes no mention of how this solidifies the imbalance of power in this state.

    The bright side is that they’re dumping resources on to a sinking ship and that more progressive, socially conscious thinkers are not on it.

    What’s your deal? Are you just a bystander? Trying to remain objective amongst a primitive tribe? “It’s hard not to interfere when you see a few powerful people torturing the commoners (maybe because the wet bar on their alotian golf cart is out of ice?) and not giving anything substantive back. But that’s their culture and ours is not to interfere. We’re just observers.” Is that it?

    Seriously, it would be interesting to read about your thoughts on what it means to you to have the richest people in the state controlling more and more of the media and what your role in this is.

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