Knight Ridder Goes to McClatchy

After much handwringing and anticipation, The N.Y. Times (reg. req’d) is reporting that "Knight Ridder, the second-largest newspaper company in the United States, agreed Sunday night to sell itself for about $4.5 billion in cash and stock to the McClatchy Company … Under the terms of the deal, McClatchy agreed to pay about $67 a share in cash and stock for Knight Ridder, these people said. About 60 percent of the payment will be in cash, while the rest will be in McClatchy shares."

A much smaller entity, McClatchy gets some new Internet assets (i.e., Topix.net and ShopLocal) — both McClatchy and Knight Riddder are part of Classified Ventures — and Knight Ridder stays with newspaper owners. Had private equity bought it I shudder to think what might have happened — slash and burn. (I may have spoken too soon as McClatchy plans to sell the Knight Ridder "flagships.")

McClatchy’s Sacramento Bee (its flagship) has been experimenting with a directory collaboration at Sacramento.com (powered by PremierGuide). While newspaper-directory alliances aren’t really viable except in isolated pockets, and Sacramento.com isn’t perfect (and it’s not the SacBee site), it’s much closer to what I believe the newspapers should be doing to compete in local search than what most of them currently are.

It will be interesting to watch the Internet strategy evolve as McClatchy takes the helm of Knight Ridder. (The San Jose Mercury News folks clearly are diappointed by the plans to sell it and other CA newspapers.)

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Related: The Newspaper Assn. America reported that Q4 print ad spending was flat, while online ad spending at newspaper sites was strong. According to the NAA, "spending for print ads in newspapers totaled $13.7 billion, up 0.4 percent versus the same period a year earlier, while ad spending online continued its double-digit growth in the fourth quarter, increasing by 32.5 percent from the same period a year ago to $552 million."

Here’s the release, which breaks out spending by category.

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