jonc in the tronc?

We’re a few days in and the dust has started to settled on the announcement that Tribune Company is renaming themselves tronc. The interwebs have had an absolute field day with the announcement, the news being greeted with a frenzy normally reserved for Kardashian birth announcements (sidenote, Kanye is a bit put out as tronc was on his shortlist of future baby names). But beyond the name change and hasty announcement, what does this mean for tronc/Tribune Co. and publishers in general?

1. tronc is a Programmatic Content Provider

When you get past the buzzwords in the press release, what it really says is that tronc is essentially a DMP that also produces its own high quality and unique content. The order there is important as I think they’re acknowledging that paying for content is officially dead and the only way forward, at least for local / regional media brands, is to forget paywalls and turn the data about their customers into the primary or exclusive driver of revenue. The content part will be important as well, as the data they’re collecting could help them provide more relevant content to their readers (or at least be better at it than Facebook).

2. They Are No Longer Competing with Publishers

Realistically, this isn’t true as tronc will more or less be battling the same competitive set they were as Tribune Co. but in some ways they are rebooting by positioning themselves as an ad tech company. As a practical matter, they’ve been competing with ad tech providers (not to mention Google, Facebook etc.) for sometime. What’s the downside to just changing the game completely and putting their most valuable (or at least monetizable) asset front and center?

3. A Whole New Acquisition Strategy

The acquisition strategy of a tronc is much different than that of a Tribune Co. If you are in the business of collecting and re-selling data to then market to what continues to be a very desirably audience, you no longer need to limit yourself to snatching up media properties in complimentary local markets. If I were tronc, I’d want to be deep into internet connected appliances, virtual reality and every other area that a traditional media company would avoid. In a few years, tronc could be collecting data on the contents of my refrigerator, combining it with five thousand other data points, and sending me incredibly targeted advertising and content based on what my family is eating.

Of course I have no idea how this will end. The change could be much less strategic than what I’ve laid out; essentially a poison pill to keep Gannett at bay or the desperate flailings of an old media organization trying to ape what the cool kids are doing. But, if played correctly, tronc could end up reinventing themselves and providing a unique content that is fully funded on the advertising side.