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Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune (aka “The Troika”) have now weighed in on the controversy generated by the revelation that they are working on a national ad network that will compete with a national ad network being created by Yahoo! and 240-plus allied newspapers. The fallout of GMT’s announcement is the sense it is deliberately splitting the industry.

Not so, wrote Tribune Interactive President Tim Landon in a post to the NAA’s New Media Federation (Landon gave me permission to reprint highlights of his note). Landon notes that GMT is merely weighing its options, including talking with other major online players. It simply doesn’t want the industry to be locked in with Yahoo!.

“It makes tremendous sense for the newspaper online industry to come together and participate in one consolidated, integrated and uniform ad network with equal footing for all,” he says. Indeed, the concept of a universal “Open Network” was actually hatched a couple of years ago  by Landon and Hilary Schneider, who was then running Knight Ridder Digital, but is now playing a major role incubating the competing Yahoo! network.

Landon notes that Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune have been moving in the same direction ever since  Yahoo! or no Yahoo!. “Simply put, we believe that there should be a standard set of business rules and that everyone should be able to participate in the ad network on an equal footing. To be clear and use an example, the Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald should participate on the same economic terms as the Chicago Tribune in this ad network. There will be no exclusive territories or affiliations. We would welcome and encourage all to participate.”

Bu GMT also believes that “we are at an inflection point.  The current rivalry and instability among Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and, to a lesser extent, AOL and others, may be an opportunity to weigh multiple strategic alternatives and craft an approach that builds long-term strategic and economic value”

He notes that GMT is “quite open to working with Yahoo!, [has] had very constructive discussions with them and will continue in this dialogue. It may turn out that Yahoo! is indeed the best partner.  However, as is often the best course in any major strategic decision  we are also engaged in significant, quite interesting and constructive discussions with other major online players.

“In different ways, each of the major online players is quite interested in working with the newspaper industry and is well worth evaluating as long-term strategic partners. We would be advocates of being in a position to weigh a variety of potential strategic partners and paths.”

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