Tribune Publishing changed its name yesterday. The company now wishes to be known as tronc.


Tribune is the third largest newspaper publisher in the United States. But it doesn’t want us to think of it as newspaper publishing company anymore.

Tribune wants us to know it instead as a “content curation and monetization company.”

tronc will create and distribute “premium, verified content across all channels.” This is what we call news and information in the digital age.

Tribune Publishing issued a press release that outlines the company’s plans. It oozes with a heady mixture of irony and keywords. You can read it here.

We learn the newspaper publishing company will rebrand with a “content curation and visualization focus.” It’s for the benefit of their 60 million digital users.

If this is the new direction, why did tronc put out an old-school press release?

The corporate jargon reads like it was written for keyword placement. At least tronc got the SEO part right. The press release even manages to work in AI, the biggest buzzword bandied about right now.

There’s a “content curation and monetization engine” called troncX. It “combines existing assets with a new artificial intelligence technology to accelerate digital growth.”

Tribune says it tested troncX in a monthlong pilot on 1% of its traffic. It delivered “a 400% increase in the yield on programmatic revenue.” This is what we call money made from selling advertising in the digital age.

The New York Times features an article about Tribune’s new chairman, Michael W. Ferro Jr. It reports that besides the tronc-ification of Tribune, Ferro also installed close associates on the company’s board. tronc’s stock listing will move to the Nasdaq.

It adds fuel to the speculation that tronc is a poison pill to end Gannett’s hostile takeover bid.

Not so, says Mr. Ferro. “We have a tremendous opportunity at Tribune as we move aggressively to implement the changes necessary to succeed in the current environment,” he said in a statement. Ferro added that tronc and the board shuffle creates “exceptional value for all stakeholders.”

Some of those stakeholders don’t think so. A shareholder has already filed a lawsuit against Ferro and the board. It claims they are breaching their fiduciary duties by potentially blocking the Gannett takeover.

We’ve already been told tronc’s new direction benefits 60 million monthly users. But what about the newspaper readers? NiemanLab places the circulation of Tribune’s 19 newspapers at 17,362,488.

There’s no mention of newspapers in the tronc press release.

The closest we get to an acknowledgement that newspapers still have value is a quote in the press release by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. tronc, he says, will “bring the legacy publishing business into the modern era.” This is what we call newspapers in the digital age.

I said it before in an earlier post. A thing becomes the word we ascribe to it.

Newspaper publishing companies do have to find ways to be relevant. Printed versions might not be the way to go. I applaud Tribune Publishing’s search for meaning. Only time will tell if tronc trumps Trib.

The New York Times motto of “All the News That’s Fit to Print” gave way to Gannett’s business philosophy of “All the News that Fits Between the Advertising.”

Now we’ll have tronc’s vision. “All the programmatic revenue that fits between the content artificial intelligence picks for you.”

So sayeth the StickMonkey.

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