Cross-media ownership creates no synergies in markets where it exists

Cross-media advertising hasn’t been a big success in the markets where it has been tried already. There are a few markets where TV stations and newspapers are owned by the same company, but this doesn’t confer much advantage in selling advertising, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Tribune has been a firm believer in owning and integrating media properties in the same market. The call sign WGN is a nod to the days when Tribune’s Chicago paper billed itself as the “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” Aside from its Chicago and New York interests, Tribune owns newspapers or stations in Los Angeles, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Hartford, Conn.

After acquiring Times Mirror Co. in 2000, Tribune set up a special division, Tribune Media Net, to sell ad packages for its stations and publications. At Tribune’s annual meeting in Chicago last week, Chief Executive Dennis FitzSimons gave a progress report for the cross-media division. Its grand total of revenue for 2002: more than $60 million. While that was about double the division’s revenue for the year before, it is still a tiny sum compared with Tribune’s overall revenue for 2002 of $5.4 billion.

The punch line? It turns out that if you want to reach an audience with multiple media, it makes a lot more sense just to buy advertising from more than one company. D’oh!

Or maybe the real advantage is that it will allow you to cut the size of your newsroom. The story concludes with an ominous quote from cheapskate Dean Singleton: “It is a big plus. It gives a newspaper company, which has a very high cost of gathering news, another platform to distribute news and information.”

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