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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Media Matters: LDS Church Bear Hugs Its Media Properties

Posted By on September 10, 2009, 11:32 AM

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The LDS Church's business arm brings all of its media properties under one division, while KSL divorces Bonneville International. ---

In a staff announcement yesterday that became public today, the Deseret Management Corporation did a major restructuring of its many media properties. Most notably, they created Deseret Digital Media, which will manage the operations and, according to an internal memo,  "capitalize on the proven successes" of the currently semi-independent Websites for the Deseret News, KSL-TV, and Deseret Book, among others.

DMC also split KSL-TV and KSL Radio 1160 into their own division, divorcing the local news organizations from their previous parent company, Bonneville International, which owns 28 other TV and radio stations in eight primarily Western markets.

The consequence of these moves are unclear. On the surface, it would seem odd to separate the web operations of individual companies and put it under an out-of-house overlord. But on the other hand, being able to leverage all of those Websites with advertisers does make sense.

What readers of those sites, especially the news sites, will likely see is a more prominent focus on the non-news projects, such as MormonTimes.com and LDSChurchNews.com. The Deseret News Website has already been doing this, to an extent, with subsections like "LDS Life."

What will this mean to readers, and to the journalists who work for these organizations? It's tough to predict. There may very well be no impact. But when paired with the vision of Deseret News Editor Joe Cannon for a "more Mormon" newspaper, the further consolidation of media properties under one LDS umbrella could be cause for concern for non-Mormon readers. (Note: Until coming to City Weekly willing in August, I was an editor at the Deseret News.)

From a business perspective, there is another likely benefit to combining Web enterprises: cost. This will allow the DMC to bring all of the scattered IT and Web personnel under one roof, which will require fewer bodies to maintain the digital side of these organizations.

As for the KSL divorce, the impact is more nebulous. It does create a local TV/radio company instead of one with properties outside of Salt Lake. A gut instinct tells me that this could mean Bonneville is going to shift to a more church-oriented media group, which might require selling some of its properties. But that is only my own instinct.

Here is the full text of the internal memo about this change. Read for yourself and post any thoughts on what it means in the comments:

DMC UNVEILS NEW DIGITAL MEDIA AND BROADCAST OPERATING DIVISIONS

September 10, 2009 Contact: Craig Haslam

801%u2010575%u20107513

SALT LAKE CITY – Deseret Management Corporation (DMC) today announced the creation of two

new operating divisions – the Deseret Digital Media Division (DDM) and the KSL Broadcast Division (KSL),

the latter including the flagship stations KSL Television and KSL NewsRadio.

Deseret Digital Media and the KSL Broadcast Division have been created to better leverage the

strengths and journalistic professionalism by which DMC's communications companies, which also

include the Deseret News and Deseret Book, serve the Salt Lake City market, Utah's communities, and

other interested national and international audiences.

Deseret Digital Media will be led by Clark Gilbert, who will serve as its president and chief

executive officer. Mr. Gilbert currently serves as an associate academic vice president at BYU%u2010Idaho,

overseeing the growth of the university's online initiative and educational outreach efforts. Previously,

he taught at the Harvard Business School, where he focused on innovation in digital news media. He is

an expert in online business model strategy and has helped found several new media start%u2010ups.

The KSL Broadcast Division will be guided by Bob Johnson, who will serve as president and chief

executive officer. Mr. Johnson currently serves as Bonneville International executive vice president and

its Salt Lake market manager. He has been involved in Bonneville operations since 1996. Previously, he

served as Bonneville general counsel and also practiced law in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City.

“We see tremendous strategic advantage,” said DMC President and CEO Mark Willes, “in aligning

the focus and facilitating the collaboration of our respective media divisions. Further, like media

companies everywhere, our print and broadcast companies have been under tremendous economic

pressure. We have found, and will continue to find, ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently.

Thankfully, our owner allows us to think about long%u2010term opportunities as well as short%u2010term challenges.

It is willing to let us take some of our cost savings and invest for the future, which is what we are doing

with the actions being announced today.

“Building on what has gone before, we see significant opportunities to grow the KSL brand and

business in its home market,” he continued. “We also see some very interesting ways to grow our

Internet businesses, both locally and around the world.”

%u25AA Deseret Digital Media

The creation of Deseret Digital Media, Mr. Willes pointed out, is a natural progression in Internet

development that capitalizes on the proven successes of DMC's several New Media activities. The newly

created digital division will manage the Web sites and business operations for DeseretBook.com,

DeseretNews.com, KSL.com, LDSChurchNews.com, and Mormontimes.com, strengthening the

relationships across those digital properties.

Mr. Gilbert stated, "With nearly four million unique users and well over 200 million impressions

per month, the existing Internet sites in the DMC family already comprise one of the top local%u2010market

digital networks in the country. We will use the focus of this new digital division to build the financial

%u2010 more %u2010

strength needed to support expanded growth for our online businesses. Going forward, our mission is

to extend our communications and E%u2010commerce efforts to national and international markets. The

reach of online media allows the DMC companies to connect with audiences in new and increasingly

dynamic ways.

"Our goal," he added, "is to extend the reach and impact of our existing properties and to find

new opportunities to be strategic to our ownership. We will find innovative ways to use technology to

further break down the barriers of time and space and connect people to news as well as to other online

content that will enrich their lives." Part of the expanded reach will be an effort to develop new digital

sites targeted at increasingly diverse audiences.

%u25AA KSL Broadcast Division

The KSL Broadcast Division will focus its attention on two nationally recognized stations and toprated

broadcasting icons. KSL Television and KSL NewsRadio perennially have led local news ratings with

their quality, values%u2010oriented products.

"Today's announcement," Mr. Johnson said, "regarding the repositioning of KSL Television and

KSL NewsRadio within the DMC family of companies marks a new chapter for these heritage

broadcasting stations. And as we reflect on that new chapter, KSL Television and KSL NewsRadio will

remain fully committed to providing balanced, unbiased, and comprehensive coverage of the news of

our Salt Lake and Utah communities. We also look forward to an increased level of professional

teamwork among the DMC assets, which will make available to KSL the additional and remarkable

talents found at the Deseret News and the new Deseret Digital Media."

%u25AA Bonneville International

Bonneville International Corporation (www.bonneville.com) will continue to be guided by Bruce

Reese, its president and chief executive officer. Bonneville owns and operates 28 affiliate radio stations

in eight national markets, including Salt Lake City stations KSFI (FM 100) and KRSP (103.5 The Arrow).

Mr. Reese said that Bonneville will continue to provide, as it has since its founding in 1964, the same

high%u2010quality, values%u2010oriented products and community service for which it has achieved industry%u2010wide

recognition and national acclaim.

According to Mr. Reese, "The decision to separate KSL Television and KSL NewsRadio from the

Bonneville organization is completely consistent with DMC's goals and the heritage of the KSL stations.

Obviously, we will miss our intimate working relationship with our KSL colleagues. At Bonneville, we

have terrific opportunities to expand and grow our core businesses, given the quality of people we’ve

been fortunate to attract and the service all of us deliver to our communities. I remain honored to lead

the remarkably talented associates who will continue to comprise our Bonneville family."

%u25AA Deseret Management Corporation

In addition to Bonneville International, DDM, and KSL Broadcasting, Deseret Management

Corporation (www.deseretmanagement.com) also directs and manages other commercial divisions,

including Beneficial Financial Group, Deseret Book, Deseret News, Hawaii Reserves, Temple Square

Hospitality, and Zions Securities.p

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