Tribune Publishing to investors: 'We are not simply a newspaper company'

Tribune Publishing is positioning itself to investors as a diversified media company after completing its spinoff from parent Tribune Media.

CHICAGO: Tribune Publishing is positioning itself to investors as a diversified media company after completing its spinoff from parent Tribune Media earlier this week.

Tribune Publishing, which began trading on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday morning, includes daily newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and Orlando Sentinel, as well as more than 150 digital properties.

While Tribune Publishing does not have an official relationship with a PR firm, it has received counsel from Edelman Chicago, said Matthew Hutchison, who stepped into the role of corporate communications SVP at Tribune last month. The new company is also working with Los Angeles-based startup ITK Information Services to expand its understanding of developments in the media and tech industries, Hutchison said.

"We are a diversified media company, with newspapers at the heart of our organization," he said.

Tribune Publishing’s digital strategy, recently introduced at The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, has resonated with members of the financial community as the company migrates away from reliance on print advertising, Hutchison said.

"That strategy is a mobile-first strategy, recognizing that many of our readers are accessing our content on their tablets and smartphones," he explained.

Hutchison’s team is trying to communicate that Tribune Publishing’s brands have strong relationships with readers at the local level and with advertisers who want to reach them, which sets the company apart from competitors, he noted.

"That creative heritage, along with our deep connection to readers and advertisers in local markets and our extensive array of print properties, puts us in a unique position to create engaging branded entertainment and native advertising programs for marketers," Hutchison said. He added that the company has a "lean" comms team, which Dana Meyer joined in June from Discovery Communications.

Tribune Publishing’s PR team is reaching out to media, financial analysts, and employees to promote the new company.

"[Staffers] are the lifeblood of the organization," Hutchison added. "We are committed to investing in staff and capabilities that will help us continue to extend the influence of our brands and deepen our connections to the communities we serve."

Tribune Publishing’s executive leadership conducted meetings across the country with members of the financial community in advance of the spinoff. CEO Jack Griffin will also spend August on the road meeting with employees in each of the company’s markets.

Griffin is aiming to grow Tribune Publishing revenues through digital initiatives, diversified revenue streams, and acquisitions, according to media reports.

While Tribune Publishing is an independent company, it will continue to have commercial and operational arrangements with Tribune Media for an interim period of up to two years, according to a company statement. Tribune Media will continue to hold a 1.5% equity stake in Tribune Publishing.

Tribune Publishing is starting off with $350 million in debt. In comparison, Time Inc. had $1.3 billion in debt when it was spun off in June.

The parent company, which was renamed Tribune Media, has retained the TV properties after the split, including WGN America.

On Tuesday, USA Today owner Gannett said it would also spin off its publishing unit and create two separate publicly traded companies. The publishing business will retain the name Gannett, and Robert Dickey, president of Gannett’s US community publishing division, will become CEO of the new company.

The second company, yet to be named, will focus on Gannett’s broadcasting and digital businesses. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore will become chief executive of the new broadcasting and digital firm.

A representative from Gannett was not immediately available for comment.

These developments in the publishing industry follow Time Warner’s spin off of subsidiary Time Inc. and News Corp’s split last year into two separate companies.

This story was updated on August 6 with more information about Tribune's internal comms team.

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