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Zell: Newspaper Customers ‘Have Almost No Interest on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday’

Sam_Zell_03_CMYK.jpgConde Nast Portfolio editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman recently interviewed embattled newspaper mogul Sam Zell at the embattled Quadrangle Group’s Foursquare media conference. Good times!

The pair spoke about a wide range of topics including “the deal from hell,” Zell’s purchase of the Tribune Company, publishers of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun among others.

A transcript of the interview is now up on Portfolio.com. We’ve posted some of the juicer nuggets after the jump.


“You needed a Ph.D. in order to understand the rate card. In the days where the customer had no options, you could give him the rate card and say, ‘Take it or leave it.’ But today, that doesn’t work. I think the newspaper industry truly still doesn’t understand that it is in a business with customers, and the business must reflect the needs and demands of the customer. And to the extent that we don’t do that, we will disappear.”

“Our customers have an enormous interest in our newspaper on Sunday; have almost no interest on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; Thursday and Friday, they’re more interested; and Saturday might as well be in the desert.”

“I haven’t figured out how to cash in a Pulitzer Prize. There was a day when a newspaper put ‘Winner of Pulitzer Prize’ on the front page, and people flocked to read the Pulitzer Prize story. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that that’s the case today But I also think that there are scale issues. In other words, I think that if the goal is a Pulitzer, it’s in the wrong place. In other words, we’re not in the business of, in effect, underwriting writers for the future. We’re a business that, in effect, has a bottom line. So as far as we’re concerned, I think Pulitzers are terrific, but Pulitzers should be the cream on the top of the coffee. They shouldn’t be the grounds. And I think there are a lot of scenarios in the newspaper industry where the entire focus is on Pulitzers.”

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