In the six weeks or so since I posted any news briefs, the news has just kept on a-comin’.
Among the highlights: The hedge-fund guys who bought and sold Chrysler, then bought (and re-merged) the two previously spun-apart regional halves of Albertsons, are now going to buy Safeway.
Both chains have been bought and sold in leveraged buyout schemes previously; both have barely recovered from those debacles. Both chains have also acquired other regional chains over the decades, and lost and re-gained some of the stores operating under their original “store banners.” Even the “core” Safeway-branded operation was originally a merger of several chains, arranged by Merrill Lynch in the 1920s.
It happens that Safeway and Albertsons both have roots in Idaho (the original Albertsons is still open in Boise!). Both circuits grew and thrived in the inland and coastal West, areas A&P (the grocery biz’s former 300-lb. gorilla) mostly never got around to entering. These are also territories that Walmart only got around to entering in the last decade or two. That makes them relatively stable fiscally, compared to southern and eastern grocery circuits operating in Walmart’s core regions.
Both chains, of course, control lots of real estate, which may be the real reason they’re attractive to the hedge-fund folks. Safeway in particular has actively co-developed multi-story, “mixed use” projects on many of its store sites, including several projects in Seattle and Bellevue.
The soon-to-be-combined chains’ management claims no stores will close as a result of the merger. But many could be sold off, especially in metro areas where both chains are strong. And some warehouses and front-office jobs could also go away.
One thing I predict won’t go away: the persistent, and false, urban legend that either or both chains are really “owned by the Mormons.” They never were.
NY10014 at flickr
A long-delayed batch of randomosity (the first in more than a month) begins with the discovery of the newest local “mainstream microbrew.” Underachiever Lager appears to have begun as a promo vehicle for Tacoma designer-casual-wear company Imperial Motion, but is now being rolled out as its own thang in select local bars.
He is angry because Salman Rushdie uses Twitter, and nowadays people can buy books on the Internet, and the Home Depot, and he had to go to Germany one time, and also some women exist who have not had sex with him.
charter construction via ronald holden, cornichon.org
Gosh, has it really been more than three weeks since I’ve done this? Time flies when you’re desperately looking for paying work (i.e., absolutely not “for the exposure”).
We have forgotten what this country once understood, that a society based on nothing but selfishness and greed is not a society at all, but a state of war of the strong against the weak.
pelican bay foundation via capitolhillseattle.com
First, another “sorry folks” for not getting something up to the site lately. I know some of you enjoy these li’l linx, even when I don’t have a major essay about something.
For now, back to Randomosity:
A big batch-O-randomness today, catching up after several days without it.
To start, there’s yet another indie “webisode” series made here in Seattle. It’s called The Coffee Table. It’s a simple scifi comedy, in which some dudes n’ dudettes are propelled into another dimension by the titular table, which turns out to be “an ancient alien artifact.”
Elsewhere in randomosity:
jordan stead, seattlepi.com
joshua trujillo, seattlepi.com
So it has come to this. The Seattle Times, unable (just as most all metro dailies are unable) to survive on shrinking print-ad volume and meager online-ad revenue, is resorting to the “paywall.”
Starting some time in mid-March, full access to the Times website will be restricted to paid subscribers.
Print subscribers will get full online access. Online-only subscriptions will be available at $3.99 per week (following an initial discount). That’s higher than the Sunday-only print subscription price, at least within King County. This is undoubtedly devised to prop up the paper’s print numbers, particularly on ad-flyer-heavy Sunday.
In announcing the paywall on Sunday, Times executive editor David Boardman wrote that the money’s needed “to support quality journalism.” The essay’s comment thread, natch, is full of wags snarking that “quality journalism” is worth paying for but the Seattle Times isn’t.
Even more than some metro dailies, the Seattle Times has painted itself into this corner, over many years.
It’s held to a bland, institutional ethic and aesthetic; even as its average reader became older, squarer, and whiter than the metro area’s overall demographic.
Its editorials hewed as close to a GOP party line as the Blethen family dared, in a solid-Blue city.
Faced with ever-declining revenues, it chose not to “reinvent” itself. Instead it became an ever-smaller version of its same-old same-old.
One issue this past month hit a new low of 22 pages (the bare minimum under its current design).
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my many years of studying the media, it’s that if you want to be “supported,” you’ve got to make people actively want to support you.
A thin assortment of lifeless stories about the ritual dances of politicians and corporate press releases ain’t gonna accomplish that.
(Meanwhile, one national commentator claims paywalls aren’t really working so well for non-national, non-business-centric papers.)
via jim linderman on tumblr