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A wine trip back east, to the D.C. metro area

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If you’ve been reading me for years, you know that I was arguing in 2009, 2010, 2011 that (a) print newspapers and magazines are NOT dead (as so many bloggers were predicting and hoping) and (b) social media was NOT the be-all and end all for wineries. Well, I was right on both scores! USA Today has an article out, “Why People and Companies Are Lining Up to Buy Newspapers” that explains how newspapers are hot-hot-hot, which is why the paper’s owner, Gannett, has offered to buy Tribune Publishing.

I’ve always subscribed to newspapers. I’m going on 30 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, and I’ll frequently pick up an Oakland paper and the New York Times as well. Yes, I’m a Boomer, and old habits die hard; everyone my age says they like to wake up in the morning and have their coffee and breakfast while reading the paper. But all those years when the bloggers were guaranteeing that “print journalism is dead, it’s all online now,” I was saying, Not so fast.

As for social media, I always had my doubts, especially about Twitter, which never appealed to me (although Lord knows I tried). I’m a huge Facebook fan, but Twitter’s abbreviated limits just didn’t allow me enough space to express what I want to say. Well, now we see the trouble Twitter’s in—and how fantastically well Facebook is doing. The same issue of USA Today has another article headlined “Facebook defies tech earnings gloom.”

Anyhow, I’m on an extended trip back east on behalf of Jackson Family Wines, and loving it. Washington D.C. is really one of the most beautiful cities in America, and yesterday I got an up-close-and-personal experience of Baltimore, a city I’d never been to but have read much about, particularly their downtown revitalization, and what a great sports town it is. Fantastic architecture: some of those buildings are showstoppers. We’ve been going to some great restaurants, and yesterday went to the Maryland Club, the kind of place that barely exists anymore: a private club for locals, where you have to be vetted to be admitted. There were some gray-hairs (like me) but also some Millennials, so the blood is being refreshed at this 1857-founded social institution. They are very serious about their wine, and we had a great seminar and tasting. I also have been meeting some of the most interesting people, including the leaders of the soon-to-be-opened Trump International Hotel, here in D.C., and a young guy, Jason Larkin, who is the wine expert for Secretary of State John Kerry, over at the Department of State. I hope to arrange a Q&A with Jason here on the blog, and to learn more about his fascinating job.

I am fascinated by Washington culture. I know little about it, except through movies and House of Cards and political thrillers. Coming from a very distinct culture myself (San Francisco and the Bay Area), I understand how easy it is for outsiders to have stereotyped views. As we walk and drive the streets of the District I look at all those other people and wonder what branch of government they work in and what secrets they hold. Probably they’re just normal people like everybody else. Someday, on my bucket list is to spend a week here in the nation’s capital and do all the usual sightseeing. Maybe next Spring.

Lots of rain today in D.C. but it isn’t dampening anyone’s spirits, especially mine. We have another big day and night planned. More tomorrow.

  1. Did you read Rieder’s article? Did you just miss these lines??

    “One of the factors is cost. Prices have dropped dramatically as the newspaper business has struggled.”

    “It’s also important to remember that “newspaper” is somewhat of a misnomer these days. After a slow start, many newspapers have worked hard on their transition to the digital world. And while the eye-popping profit margins of the past are long gone, and the business model of the future remains elusive, there remains the sense that these can be viable businesses as they transition to the future.”

    “Overall, the newspaper’s state is still deteriorating.”

    Doesn’t sound hot, hot, hot to me…

    Also, I’m still confused about the identity of those mystery people that said Social Media was “the be-all and end all for wineries.” Just who claimed that?

  2. Bob Henry says:

    On Warren Buffett buying newspapers (as reported by USA TODAY, whose parent company Gannet is seeking to acquire Tribune Publishing):

    “Buffett Weighs in on Wisdom of Owning Media”

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/04/warren-buffett-weighs-in-on-wisdom-of-newspaper-stocks/4306949/

    Excerpt:

    “… If Buffett’s thinking on the industry is accurate — that newspapers ‘face the potential of unending losses’ — then making the investment violates one of his own principles: do not operate any business doomed to unending losses. It’s just bad news all around.

    “But Buffett explained his thinking and justified his position in a 2012 letter to shareholders. When he wrote the letter, Berkshire Hathaway had acquired 28 daily newspapers in the last 15 months alone. Berkshire Hathaway now owns a veritable army of local reporters and editors.

    “Buffett argued in the letter that although the outlook for the newspaper industry in general is bleak, there is one area where publications can shine: ‘in the delivery of local news.’

    “Buffett explained, ‘If you want to know what’s going on in your town — whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football — there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.’

    “So there it is. Local papers hold a monopoly over the beating hearts of communities. From this perspective, the purchases look much more compelling, and Buffett argues that with the right management and strategy, the papers can either become outright profitable or be sold for a gain.

    ” ‘Charlie and I believe that papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly-bound communities and having a sensible Internet strategy will remain viable for a long time,’ Buffett wrote.”

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