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Venerable Tribune Publishing, now “tronc,” spews techno-drivel

Image: Young Frankenstein

Yesterday, Tribune Publishing, purveyor of news since 1847, changed its name to “tronc” (short for “Tribune Online Content.”) It’s now a “content curation and monetization company” — a company that makes money from content, what we used to call a media company. Today, I deconstruct the rest of its attempt to use techno-drivel to misdirect our attention from its problems.

Crisis-tossed Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and dozens of other papers, has suffered through a sale to a billionaire, a bankruptcy, a corporate split, newsroom turmoil, massive layoffs, and an unsolicited takeover offer. Now, as “tronc,” the company wants to be considered alongside Silicon Valley startups. (If this trend catches on, will the Boston Globe company become “hubstuff” and the New York Times “gray_lady”?)

The tronc press release is a classic, because it reveals that when a media company wants to reinvent itself as a technology company, it drapes its press release in the same techno-drivel that tech companies use. Instead of meaningless media and corporate bullshit, we get meaningless, shiny Silicon Valley bullshit. It’s a transformation (you can tell because the release mentions “transform” or “transformation” six times).

In the commentary below, I’ve added bold to indicate passives, meaningless superlatives, and especially, new-age jargon. I add commentary in brackets and commonsense translations below each section.

Jun 02, 2016
Rebranding with Content Curation and Visualization Focus to Benefit 60 Million Digital Users, tronc to Begin Trading on Nasdaq on June 20

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Tribune Publishing Co. (NYSE:TPUB) today announced that the Company will change its name to tronc, Inc., a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels. tronc, or tribune online content, captures the essence of the Company’s mission. tronc pools the Company’s leading media brands and leverages innovative technology to deliver personalized and interactive experiences to its 60 million monthly users. The name change will become effective on June 20, 2016.

Translation: We’re still a media company with big newspaper brands, but please pay more attention to the technology part of how we deliver that.

The Company also announced that it will be transferring its stock exchange listing from the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) to The Nasdaq Global Select Market (“Nasdaq”). tronc expects its common stock to begin trading as a Nasdaq-listed security under the new ticker symbol “TRNC” onJune 20.

Translation: Technology companies list on NASDAQ. Think of tronc as like tumblr.

Chairman Michael Ferro said, “Our industry requires an innovative approach and a fundamentally different way of operating. Our transformation strategy – which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital – is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders. Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.” [“Leverage” and “stakeholders” are two sure signifiers of baloney. And in case you weren’t counting, that’s a 52-word sentence in the middle of that quote, in which the word “content” appears twice.]

Translation: We’re using algorithms to deliver news. This is expensive and we’re running low on cash, so we convinced some people to invest $114 million in our experiment.

Earlier this year, the Company announced a plan to transform its business. Since then, the Company has made important progress, including:

  • Reorganizing the business into new operating and reporting units to increase transparency and drive corporate focus.
  • Launching troncX, our content curation and monetization engine, to combine existing assets with new artificial intelligence (“AI”) technology to accelerate digital growth. The Company conducted a 30-day pilot of its AI efforts involving 1% of its traffic, delivering a 400% increase in the yield on programmatic revenue.

Translation. Our management is “driving focus” to make sure nobody working here still believes we’re newspaper people.

  • Partnering with Nant Capital and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong to accelerate the transformation from a legacy news company to a technology and content company, including gaining access to over 100 machine vision and artificial intelligence technology patents for news media applications.

As previously announced, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong also joined the Company’s Board of Directors today as Vice-Chairman.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong – a highly-regarded visionary and innovator – to our Board of Directors,” said Ferro. “We will benefit from Dr. Soon-Shiong’s entrepreneurial spirit and strong technology expertise as we aggressively implement the changes necessary to transform the Company and create superior value.”

Translation: We’ve joined forces with a brilliant Asian-African billionaire surgeon who will now replace our existing operating models with a completely high-tech heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and gonads.

“I am excited to join the Company as Vice-Chairman during this pivotal moment of transformation and revitalization,” said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. “Today’s announcement underscores the Board’s commitment to completely transform the Company and the industry to protect the vital role that free speech plays in our communities. In the wake of significant disruption, it is time to bring the legacy publishing business into the modern era and leverage innovative technology – from machine learning to artificial intelligence – to create long-term sustainability and vitality.”

Translation: Life! Do you hear me? Give my creation . . . life!

The rest of the release talks about the NASDAQ listing. I think we’ve had enough for one day.

Disclaimer: As an analyst, I worked with Tribune executives including former CEO Dennis J. FitzSimons and many fine reporters for the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and other Tribune papers. May God have mercy on their souls.


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    1. Our transformation strategy – which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital – is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders

      This should result in a two-minute penalty.