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Greg Osberg: one year since takeover, Philadelphia newspapers are stronger, technology initiatives succeeding

Thirteen months since being named publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Media Network, Greg Osberg addressed the local Online News Association chapter Wednesday, updating the industry on the company’s direction. The first half of that year was focused on stabilizing the core print products — the Inquirer and the Daily News — and the second […]


Thirteen months since being named publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Media Network, Greg Osberg addressed the local Online News Association chapter Wednesday, updating the industry on the company’s direction.
The first half of that year was focused on stabilizing the core print products — the Inquirer and the Daily News — and the second half featured a flurry of technology-infused initiatives meant to begin reshaping the legacy news operation. Those latter initiatives largely fit under the Project Liberty umbrella, which include the much hyped Android tablet project and the incubation program.
The event, which was part of the local ONA’s monthly meetups and was held at the Inquirer building, featured a short speech and Q&A session with Osberg. [Full disclosure: This reporter is involved in the local ONA group.]

Some highlights from Osberg:

  • Recent reports on the company’s tablet initiative have pointed to sales slower than Osberg’s original pledge that they would sell out “in the first week.” But Osberg says that comment was just a failed marketing ploy: “I was trying to create a scarcity in the market,” he said, adding that the company is “truly” pleased having sold half of the original 5,000. The company will have a Black Friday strategy for moving a good portion of the second half, he said.
  • In an update of the incubation program, 35 companies applied and 10 are interviewing next week for a position,  he said. [Full disclosure: another Technically Philly staff member submitted a proposal that was not accepted.]
  • Philly.com continues to see satisfactory traffic growth and the plan is to continue that, Osberg said, though metered reading and pay-walled content channels are still possibilities.
  • “How long will newspapers be around? I hope I don’t offend any one here, but I say I don’t care. I care how long people will pay us to create content,” he said.
  • Ten to 15 percent of Philly.com’s traffic comes from mobile devices. The company has three iPad apps and may continue to expand that.
  • In stabilizing the print product, Inquirer daily subscriptions have stopped declining and there has been a slight uptick in Sunday subscribers in the year, Osberg said. The Daily News decline has also lessened, he added.
  • Roughly 85 percent of the Inquirer was made of wire copy a year ago, Osberg said, noting that now at least four of five local section stories are staff written.

More photos of the event on Facebook here.

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