E.W. Scripps Looks To Streamline Digital Operations With Reorg

With digital revenues across E.W. Scripps’ newspaper and television divisions sometimes offering an incomplete picture, the company has decided to consolidation its many interactive efforts into one single unit. Digital will now be run by the new VP/chief digital officer Adam Symson, who is being promoted from the his role as the TV group’s VP for interactive.

For the past few years, E.W. Scripps’ pure-play digital revenues have grown significantly. But overall, they’ve been hampered by “upsells,” which are tied to the legacy newspaper and TV business. By breaking out digital into its own, the company’s digital sales would be undiluted by weak or declining revenues on the traditional side of the business.

For example, in Q2, revenue from its 10 TV stations was up an anemic 3 percent, while digital dollars were up 26 percent. Actual digital revenues within the TV segment were still a small $2.4 million, compared to $77 million total TV dollars.

The numbers for the 13 newspapers the Cincinnati company runs can be a bit difficult to untangle. Starting this year, E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP) began reporting revenue from “certain digital offerings” net of the amounts paid to its digital partners, such as Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). As a result of this change, digital newspaper revenues fell 3.9 percent to $6.7 million. If 2010 revenues had been reported on this net basis, pure-play digital advertising would have increased 10.3 percent and total digital revenues in the second quarter of 2011 would have increased 3.1 percent.

Either way, when the TV and newspaper digital numbers are combined, the amounts may not seem that great. But If it can lower the costs and friction of doing digital deals, that situation could change for the better.

The change comes as E.W. Scripps, which separated from its cable TV sibling Scripps Networks Interactive (NYSE: SNI) three years ago, has just started live streaming of its TV station broadcasts to mobile devices in nine of its TV markets. It’s not clear whether those apps will now seek to create deeper ties to the company’s newspaper content as well.

Symson, 36, began his career as reporter and worked as a TV journalist for Scripps’ ABC (NYSE: DIS) affiliate in Phoenix before joining the Scripps corporate office in 2003. He will report to Rich Boehne, Scripps president and CEO. Release