Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gannett Acquires US Presswire

According to sources familiar with the deal, US Presswire has been acquired by Gannett (NYSE: GCI). In a conference call last night amongst contributors and US Presswire management, the details of their new deal were discussed.

Among the details, US Presswire photographers, who previously shot on spec and had to cover all their own expenses, now would be compensated, albeit at a nominal amount. According to sources, US Presswire's Bob Rosato, who is set to stay on as the Chief Operating Officer of US Presswire under the new Gannett deal, told photographers that now, with an "assignment fee" of $100, which must include all expenses, that all the photographers are getting their expenses paid. This lead to some grumbling amongst conference call participants who concluded that some photographers have been getting expenses paid, while others have not. Under the terms of the deal, the $100 assignment fee will apply for the first year, with $125 being the assignment fee paid in the second year.

(Continued after the Jump)

Further details of how revenues would be divided came to light during the conference call. Images that were previously a part of a subscription arrangement, similar to the one that USA Today was paying $600 for, which ultimately became a $1000 a month deal when they added and Sports Weekly, for with an "all you can eat" stream of images, would not earn those on assignment any additional fees, whereas it previously did, albeit at a nominal $5 or so per image, according to one source who's often been paid these amounts. Further, if USPW has a photographer on assignment at a game, and another USPW photographer requests a credential to cover the game, any images that the requesting "not on assignment" photographer submits will not generate any income from the subscription feeds, however any a la carte sales would remain paid at regular rates.

There are no planned departures, with all senior management reportedly staying on. A new contract that all contributors will be required to sign is in the works, and the timetable for the formal takeover, while happening soon, has not been announced with an exact date.

With Gannett re-launching their Sports Network brand (as noted here), it seems this is among the faster ways that Gannett can get a network of photographers rapidly, although it remains unknown if all of the USPW content will be used without charge within the Gannett family of properties (USA Today,, Sports Weekly, all of the Gannett newspapers, etc) or will there be some compensation.

Rumors abounded several years ago that Getty Images, seeing US Presswire as a thorn in their side more than a valuable property to acquire, offered an excessive amount of money to USPW owners - in the realm of $4m - $5m - which they turned down. Rosato, staying on as the COO, also is reported to have resigned his position as a photographer with Sports Illustrated, supposedly because of conflict of interest concerns if he were to stay on.

Photo Business News has written several articles about USPW in the past, and taken a critical look at how photographers have frequently gotten poor deals and the short end of the stick. With this new deal, management will likely have little room to offer as an excuse that they don't have any money to pay photographers, as they have in the past.

We've made outreach to Gannett throughout the day, and the response we received, was no comment.


US Presswire "Steps In It" With MLB and Getty Images

US Presswire - Introduction
US Presswire - A Conflict of Interest
US Presswire - Friends Don't Screw Friends
US Presswire - Contract Analysis
US Presswire - The Client's Perspective
US Presswire - The Freelancers Perspective
US Presswire - Closing Thoughts

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Anonymous said...

I have never shot for USPW... but if you consider the $100 all-inclusive day rate for expenses PLUS owning copyright - versus - the approx. AP $175 freelance day rate, Work For Hire... I cannot help but think the USPW deal might actually not be so bad now, relatively... of course.

Anonymous said...

Has this deal gone public? I have not seen any other mention of this deal except on your site.

Wouldn't GCI,a publicly traded company need to disclose this purchase?

Chicago Photographer said...

The race to the bottom of the industry continues

Anonymous said...

I am a photographer at a Gannett paper and we are as uncertain of the future and what this deal means as the US Presswire photographers probably are.

Does this mean Gannett will stop using AP & Getty and rely exclusively on Presswire for wire sports? And use it to renegotiate lower rates? Does it mean Gannett papers will no longer contribute sports photos to the AP wire and now market them through Presswire, competing with the Presswire photographers?

Are Gannett's motives even darker? Does it mean that Gannett papers will no longer staff NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA and the like instead relying on Presswire?

Let's face it, it's a lot cheaper to send one or two US Presswire photographers to a NFL game for a flat $100 each than two staffers who in addition to their salaries get health insurance, expenses and mileage etc. By the time you stretch the math out you could probably send three Presswire people for what one staffer would cost.

Gannett's motive could be even more nefarious. Once the Presswire deal is concluded, Gannett will have a large roster of reliable freelancers at its disposal. Will they start to use them to replace staffers. If they will take $100 to work a football game maybe they'll take $25 to do a community back to school assignment? Again, much cheaper than sending a staffer.

It's interesting that neither Gannett nor Presswire have made any announcements about this yet. Rumor has it that a number of Gannett people are traveling to Virginia next week to hear about the deal and what it means. I guess we'll have to wait till then to find out what's in store.

Unknown said...

Among the details, US Presswire photographers, who previously shot on spec and had to cover all their own expenses, now would be compensated, albeit at a nominal amount.


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