Here's Why the Morning News Really Bought Pegasus News

Categories: Media

Thumbnail image for PegasusDallas.jpg
News wise, Pegasus never soared quite so high.
Yesterday evening, the Dallas Morning News reported on its business blog that it had purchased "hyperlocal online news provider Pegasus News." The news was surprising because Pegasus has been at the periphery of the local media scene for nearly a decade, never standing out as much of a competitor or potential acquisition target by the city's only daily newspaper. I was equally struck by the generous use of "hyperlocal" in describing Pegasus.

Hyperlocal is quite the buzzword these days. The idea is that news consumers want up-to-date information on what's going on in their own neighborhood, rather than the issues of citywide importance a traditional newspaper might cover. The other and probably more important idea, of course, is that all those local restaurants and stores that have no reason to buy an ad in the Morning News will be more apt to do so on a site that reaches a more targeted audience.

Hyperlocal news, built on actual on-the-ground reporting, can be done well. Or, it can be a messy compilation of press releases and photos of cute kids built around a core of local advertising. (See AOL's Patch.) But Pegasus News just isn't hyperlocal.

Pegasus has some talent. Teresa Gubbins goes toe-to-toe with all comers on the food beat, and I have had much respect for editor Sarah Blaskovich since she, as head of an outside journalism advisory council of sorts, skewered me during an interview for the managing editor's slot at the UTD Mercury. Since she's been at Pegasus, the site has improved.

But visit the site and click through some of the stories. When I looked, Blaskovich had a story on Deep Ellum's new logo, but otherwise, it was something from the Texas Tribune; a post from "content partner" The Taco Trail; a press release tagged as a wire story; one-sentence links to stories in the Morning News and elsewhere.

So basically Pegasus News aggregates a lot of local blogs and produces a modicum of original material. Which is fine. But to say, as the article about the sale posted on Pegasus News does, that the "purchase further strengthens The Dallas Morning News' position as the leading source of up-to-date local news," is a farce, and when I first saw the Morning News' headline touting the acquisition of a hyperlocal news site, I assumed that this was yet another example of it just not getting the internet.

It doesn't take much reading, however, to get to the real reason for the purchase. Says Rich Alfano, general manager of Morning News's arts and entertainment business:

Pegasus News allows us to reach more consumers and strengthens our ability to provide the latest and most relevant information about places to visit, events, music and restaurants. Pegasus News' hyperlocal data provides consumers with information on approximately 225,000 places, 5,000 events, 4,200 restaurants, 2,500 bands and Friday Night specials.

Translation: Guide Live, the newspaper's floundering attempt to do event and entertainment listings, is sucking wind. So, rather than putting in the time and energy and smarts necessary to make it suck less, the Morning News just bought up some existing listings instead.

Lazy, perhaps, but maybe, depending on the purchase price and how they use that info, a wise business decision. Tough to say. What's less tough to say: That press release was some grade A bullshit, the sort of thing you'd hope the News' business desk would sniff out upon first whiff.

Update at 4:41 p.m.: Just got off the phone with David Gross, vice president of investor relations and strategic analysis for A.H. Belo. Still coy about the terms of the sale, and he wouldn't say how heavily the event listings played, but he did provide a few more details.

"Right now, we are really focused on the near term and supporting the Pegasus News team that came on board as it continues to operate pegasusnews.com."

As for the long-term, as far as what will happen with the site, how many employees the Morning News will keep, and when we can expect to hear more, he wouldn't say.

He did say the Pegasus will stay on this side of paywall.

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10 comments
christibob9
christibob9

How do I find an old news article from May 2008? Please help me find. Very important.

GAA
GAA

"What's less tough to say: That press release was some grade A bullshit, the sort of thing you'd hope the News' business desk would sniff out upon first whiff." - That tickled the shit out of me. 

Mike Dunlap
Mike Dunlap

You're trying to reason with a guy/gal anonymously hiding on the internet behind the screenname "Gat2keeponmovin."

Mike Dunlap
Mike Dunlap

"Anyway we could get you to keep up your commentary without the personal attacks?" Yes.  Make the comments section require a Facebook or Twitter login.

RUSKNATIVE
RUSKNATIVE

belo has to do SOMETHING...watching Brad and Gomers do a pathetic job of running a debate between Dewhurst and Cruz was PAINFUL....the candidates did OK...but the HOSTS were just TERRIBLE. Belo is  "below" par on every score.

David Walker
David Walker

I am a personal friend of Sarah's so I am biased.  I have Peg News in my favorites queue along with the DO and Central Track, among other sites I peruse for info.  I wish the staff at Peg News all the best, and I mean in their search for jobs.  DMN is gonna sweep the deck, IMHO.  Good luck, Sarah! DW

cp
cp

The DMN went balls-out crazy trying to market Quick when they first started it. I was trying to get the DMN to buy advertising from us (McKinney Avenue Transit) and struck upon the idea that if I could get the AM/PM Journal on my streetcars in exchange for some advertising, then maybe the DMN would pay up for some. It lasted about three days and the DMN was all over me to advertise their brand-new Quick. The AM/PM Journal was very successful and for Dallas being a Top 10 city, it was surprising that there wasn't already a daily commuter quick-read. I don't think the AM/PM Journal lasted more than six months before the DMN bought them. It's what the DMN does: buy out competition.   

Paul Riddell
Paul Riddell

On the update: well, based on watching other corporate acquisitions, the rank and file probably has six months to get their resumes in order before Belo replaces them with its own people. And since Pegasus News doesn't have that one unfireable person that the staff refers to as "the heart and soul of the organization" and the readers refer to as "the dogfelcher on whose face I wouldn't piss if his face was on fire," it'll probably be a straight sweep. I'd be honestly surprised if Pegasus News seniority transferred over as Morning News seniority: if not, well, expect everyone worth a damn to be replaced with unpaid interns who will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to break into journalism.

Paul Riddell
Paul Riddell

That's called "shutting down contrary voices". The Morning News has been doing this since its sneaky buyout of the Dallas Times Herald, and it's going to keep going so long as Robert Dechard has two nickels to rub together. In my case, I'm actually quite entertained: as New Times learned when it bought up and gutted the Fort Worth Weekly and bought up and shut down The Met, stifling your competition doesn't mean customers will move, zombie-like, toward your own product. If anything, it convinces people who went to the competition specifically because your own product sucked that maybe it's time to give up the habit entirely.

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