Feature: Greg Osberg: Savior?

The genial but bold-thinking new CEO of the Inquirer and Daily News represents the papers’ last best hope to survive in the age of digital news. At stake is nothing less than how Philadelphia knows what it knows

 

>  He demoted Inquirer editor Bill Marimow, a decision both shocking and necessary, replacing him with former deputy managing editor Stan Wisch-nowski.

>  He also made a change at the top of the Daily News masthead, sending Michael Days to be managing editor of the Inquirer and hiring former Philadelphia magazine editor Larry Platt as the new editor of the tabloid.

>  He announced an incubator program in the company’s 40-percent-
unoccupied office building. By bringing in start-up tech companies, Osberg will place bets on the future and receive equity stakes in turn.

>  He united the online and print sales staffs, putting the most successful managers in charge, whether they specialized in digital or dead-tree ads.

>  He jacked up the newsstand price of each paper by 25 cents (except for Sunday’s Inquirer), and announced that e-reader versions of the papers are in development, for which readers would have to pay if they want to have a “newspaper-design experience” in a digital edition.

>  Perhaps most importantly, he began reshaping a dysfunctional company culture. Rather than operating as three separate businesses with three different bureaucracies, the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com are going to start collaborating on a previously unthinkable level.

Long-term, readers should also expect visible changes both in print and online. Osberg says Philadelphia Media Network will create a flotilla of “content partnerships” — striking deals with various blogs and news and information oriented websites around the region to put their stuff on Philly.com. The idea is to make the website the region’s Yahoo — a portal to all things Philly, from electronic coupons and suburban high-school football stats to the latest city murder scene. As for the papers, he seems downright eager to influence the general editorial personae of both of them.

In his vision, the DN will continue to emphasize local politics, gossip, quality of life and sports, but stop “narrow casting” to the city’s rowhomes. The Inquirer will start packing its A section with a lot more original local content and bolster its health and business coverage. The idea, says Osberg, is to create a newspaper dynamic like New York’s, where many thousands of readers pick up a Times or Wall Street Journal in the morning and a tabloid like the New York Post in the afternoon. “I want to generate cross-readership,” he says, “a climate in which people want both papers.”

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