Monday, November 8, 2010

Greg Osberg: "It's Going to Take a Couple of Years to Achieve This Miracle."

Greg Osberg, the new CEO and publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and, is a local guy from Paoli.

That, he said, was overshadowed during the recent bankruptcy hearings in which a team of local owners lost control of the media company.

Osberg was hired by the new ownership group, Credit Suisse and Angelo Gordon. He has big plans for the company, including:

• Launching a media incubator inside the Inquirer building, where small media companies can exist rent-free.
• Forming content partnerships with universities and niche websites.
• Restructuring the advertising sales teams so that ad reps sell print, online and apps at the same time.
• He already moved into the building, meaning that staffers are now unionized (they previously were not, and they were housed several blocks away).
• Every editorial staffer has to think multimedia, all the time, he said.
• He wants reporters acting as pundits on TV, thus promoting the brand.
• He wants to financially reward anyone on staff who develops innovative efficiencies.

It will be a difficult transition. He said that the papers had lost 25 percent of their readership over the past five years, and 50 percent of the advertising dollars has disappeared as well.

"That's a significant percentage of your business going away," he said last week while visiting Temple University for a Philadelphia Initiative for Journalistic Innovation event.

Rather than use wire coverage or focus heavily on national or international news, the papers and website will concentrate on information not found anywhere else, Osberg said. And there will likely be a paywall established next year.

"We need to figure how to bring commerce back to our brands," he said.

He doesn't have a business model yet, he admitted. He said that building audience should build value, bringing profitability.

"It's going to take a couple of years to achieve this miracle," he said.

He later confessed, "I have no idea if it's going to work or not."

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