Last week, I reported that the Orange County Register is in secret talks with Dean Singleton, owner of the Denver-based MediaNews Inc. and an all-around Darth Vader of daily news--he bought and all but killed the Long Beach Press Telegram, just as one example--to share content and lay off writers. I also wrote that Register publisher Terry Horne plans to give away free issues and depend on ad sales to save his failing paper.
Horne wouldn't comment for my story, but confirmed the details in a press-release. . . Oops, I meant to say "article" that ran in his own paper today. "Terry Horne . . . is betting on free community newspapers, expanded Web offerings and a smaller Register newspaper to help the company weather falling ad revenue and declining circulation," Mary Ann Milbourn reported. "The three-pronged approach is an acknowledgment that the old newspaper business model – based on a one-size fits all newspaper – is no longer viable, Horne said in his first interview since becoming publisher in September."
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You can read the rest of Milbourn's story--and get more details about those three prongs-- here.
Although Singleton isn't mentioned by name, Milbourn writes that among the changes on the horizon is "Joining a consortium with other companies, to be announced soon, that will share advertising and news content." Given that everyone at the Register already knows Horne is talking to Singleton, it's kind of weird that Milbourn's story is so vague on that point, but she did get the big scoop on Horne's bright idea for a website that will surely secure the paper's future as a premiere source of local news: www.orangecounty.com. The website, Horne says, will become a "destination portal" for folks all over the world who are interested in visiting Orange County or moving here.
So let's sum up. Since taking over the paper, Horne has laid off dozens of writers and editors, overseen the self-destruction of its ill-starred spin-offs, Squeeze OC and OC Post, and entered into a devilish deal with Dean Singleton that promises to allow even more layoffs and cost-cutting. But don't worry folks, he's got plans for a travel information website that will make everything okay.
According to Milbourn, Horne isn't worried. "The Register is incredibly well-positioned because we have more resources and people focused on Orange County than all the other newspaper organizations focused on Orange County combined," he told her. "We need to continue to be the expert on Orange County and find ways to leverage that competitive edge."