In May, 2012 Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Company announced the purchase of 63 newspapers, including 23 dailies, from the debt-ridden Media General Company. The transaction was a course reversal for Buffett, who earlier had said he wouldn't buy newspapers, and created a major new player in the industry. It also left Media General-whose history with newspapers dates back to the mid-1800's-with only one remaining daily, the Tampa Tribune, which many predict it will still try to sell.
The purchase, seen as a rare vote of confidence in a struggling industry, also capped a period of intense change in U.S. newspaper ownership. In the last 18 months many better known newspaper companies divested most or all of their holdings while a number of new entities, including hedge funds and private equity firms, jumped in.
According to the investment banking firm of Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, which monitors newspaper transactions, a total of 71 daily newspapers were sold as part of 11 different transactions during 2011, the busiest year for sales since 2007.
And newspapers were not the only media to undergo major changes. The last 18 months also saw local television sales reach new heights, the merging of Newsweek and the Daily Beast, Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, the Huffington Post's movement into web TV and further reach among U.S. broadcast companies into the Hispanic market.
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism has compiled a new interactive database to help users make sense of the changes at the highest levels.
Who Owns the News Media provides detailed statistics on the companies that now own our nation's news media outlets, from newspapers to local television news stations to radio to digital, and the accompanying report highlights the major changes of the year.