Philadelphia Media Network Publisher Osberg to announce "Project Lifeboat", Partnership with AOL Patch, on Tuesday

Tom Paine

After the expected announcement of the sale of Philadelphia Media Network to a new ownership group on Monday, PMN Publisher & CEO Greg Osberg will hold a press conference to make an important announcement about the future direction of the papers on Tuesday at the Academy of Natural Sciences, according to an internal company memorandum that somehow ended up being republished in the newspaper trade blog Poynter.

According to a source who spoke with Philly Tech News, Osberg will be announcing a new initiative, "Project Lifeboat", in which PMN will partner with AOL's Patch and incorporate Patch's Philly area journalists into its reporting. A key objective of this plan will be to phase out what the source referred to as "PMN's legacy journalists" over the next few years.

"These legacy journalists often make six-figure plus salaries, can't produce more than two stories a day because of their stubborn insistence on meticulous original reporting, and can't be trained in new technologies. In essence, they are dinosaurs", the source said. Furthermore, he commented, legacy journalists often go behind management's back by leaking embarrassing stories or memos that reflect poorly on management and ownership, sometimes going so far as to make up tales of imagined meetings that never occurred.

However, the source continued, Patch reporters "are like machines", turning out keyword-rich stories almost every hour, while working for little more than minimum wage. They can also handle most of their own technology needs, reducing the need for expensive tech support. A company PR person can order a story killed for business reasons without getting any flack. And with Patch, there is no troublesome Guild to deal with.

The source described the transition as being like going from Mainframe to Cloud Computing, with an emphasis on efficiency, flexibility, and elasticity of resources.

This initiative will also reduce the squeeze on space in PMN's new city-subsidized offices on Market East, to which it will move this summer, as Patch employees can work outside of the office in their parent's basements. This will leave more room for important activities like table tennis for Project Liberty startup employees.

Osberg led Newsweek from 2000 to 2008; in 2009 it was sold for $1. Osberg took over the papers after Philadelphia Media Network acquired them for $139 million in 2010. They originally were said to be on the market earlier this year for $100 million, but the single bid reportedly came in at $60 million or possibly even less.


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