Today’s it’s Bruce Gordon’s WIN Corp that is considering its future, according to the SMH. Which provides the excuse to examine a BusinessWeek piece on what sort of media masters private equiteers make.

BW’s Jon Fine reckons a brutal accounting is on the way, but private equity also will mean a faster switch to digital and a breakup of media conglomerates – which has obvious implications for PBL. Writes Fine:

A shift to a “hard” accountability won’t be easy. A soft-edged ecosystem allowed generations of lower-tier employees to make decent middle-class salaries – in some cases, much better than middle-class salaries. That world has been shrinking. It will shrink faster…..

Also ceasing: what one might call the “Wizard of Oz” model of media management, as practiced by News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch or Viacom’s Sumner Redstone.

In their place will come tightly focused companies. One example: GateHouse Media, a newly public small-market newspaper company, whose stock rose 20% on its first day of trading.

Individual properties will also be recast. A private-equity-owned (as opposed to a David Geffen-owned) Los Angeles Times may end up covering just Southern California, which readers who enjoy its farther-flung correspondents won’t welcome.

A private-equity-owned Tribune will jettison notions that there are synergies to be wrung from its Chicago TV, radio, and newspaper operations, and perhaps the entire notion that it’s good for a company to own several kinds of media.

The upside from the perspective of Crikey World is the suggestion that private equity will accelerate the move to online journalism:

The calculus is brutal, but it liberates companies from both quarterly expectations and traditional thinking. One media executive who’s mulling joining a private-equity play puts it this way.

He goes to the Established Media Company and asks for, say, $2 million to build a robust digital strategy – and is told he’ll get a fraction of it. He tells Potential Private-Equity Backer the same thing and is told fine – and, by the way, can you make me more money faster if I double it?

The sharks of private equity swim remorselessly toward the payout. The one undercolonised frontier for media is online.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey