Bloomberg on What’s At Stake in Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Sobering story in Bloomberg on Sunday on just how bad things could be should the U.S. default on its debt obligations this month:

Failure by the world’s largest borrower to pay its debt — unprecedented in modern history — will devastate stock markets from Brazil to Zurich, halt a $5 trillion lending mechanism for investors who rely on Treasuries, blow up borrowing costs for billions of people and companies, ravage the dollar and throw the U.S. and world economies into a recession that probably would become a depression. Among the dozens of money managers, economists, bankers, traders and former government officials interviewed for this story, few view a U.S. default as anything but a financial apocalypse.

The $12 trillion of outstanding government debt is 23 times the $517 billion Lehman owed when it filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008. As politicians butt heads over raising the debt ceiling, executives from Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Warren Buffett to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Lloyd C. Blankfein have warned that going over the edge would be catastrophic.

Also in this story: some talk about how we might mitigate some of the damage should we go into default, including that it might be a “technical default.” As in, we’ve got the money, we just don’t want to pay. But that does little to allay concerns that the U.S. is no longer a safe haven for investments.

So yeah. Totally no bigs. Holding the debt ceiling hostage? A perfectly acceptable way to govern.

What Acxiom Knows About Me

Me today, over at the day job, assessing data miner Acxiom Corp.’s, a website designed to allow people to see what information the company has collected about them:

Best I can tell, Acxiom has a fairly good picture of me except for two key things: my birthdate and my family situation.

For some reason, Acxiom thinks I was born in 1955, which would put me at 58 years old — 22 years old than I actually am. A little icon next to that data says the source for that information is “self reported.” So maybe I gave bad info on a survey once? My parents are about that age, so I also wonder if some of their data got mixed up with mine. But there’s no way of knowing, and of course I can correct it.

Acxiom also thinks my wife and I have exactly “1 Child.” We have exactly zero. I can correct that information, too.

Otherwise, the data Acxiom has amassed about me and my household is very nearly on the money, albeit in a very general way.

More on Acxiom’s motives for setting up the site in my interview with THV 11 News here and, of course, this interview with company CEO Scott Howe in the New York Times here. In short, Acxiom is striving for transparency to allay public fears about data privacy and head off a regulatory push in Congress.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post

The Washington Post’s front page.

A couple of days after the New York Times unloaded the Boston Globe for a song, Jeff Bezos of all people comes along and buys The Washington Post from the Grahams for $250 million:

Bezos, in an interview, called The Post “an important institution” and expressed optimism about its future. “I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain, and it will require experimentation.”

This might very well be a good idea. If Bezos is willing to run the Post like he runs Amazon — that is, on razor-thin margins or outright losses for years — this could be a match made in heaven. By all means, experiment like hell and play the long game. Maybe we’ll all learn something.

More: Jeff Bezos’ statement on buying The Washington Post.

‘Flying and Thriving’ at the Fayetteville Flyer

The Fayetteville Flyer

The Fayetteville Flyer

Congratulations to Dustin Bartholomew and Todd Gill, who are approaching the five-year anniversary of their hyperlocal news site The Fayetteville Flyer. They talk to Paul Gatling of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal for this cover story on the business, which began in 2007 as a niche site about local music and bands and exists today as the go-to news site for everything that’s going on Fayetteville.

Bartholomew and Gill, former ad executives of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, say the site is generating 190,000 page views and between 50,000 to 60,000 unique visitors per month. And they are determined to keep the site free to readers, relying completely on advertisers to support the business:

Today, there are about 45 businesses who advertise on the website.

Those sponsors sign a one-year renewable contract to place ads on the site. The cost? $300 per month, or $3,600 per year.

There are another 10 or so regular advertisers who purchase banner ads through other, short-term advertising options.

“The 45 [sponsors] are what we rely on to keep the business stable; to keep the paychecks coming in,” Gill said. “We know that we can continue going out and bringing in news without wondering if we’re going to be able to sell banner ads this month.”

Those sponsors have been particularly loyal. Gill says it’s rare that one doesn’t renew. And there’s this anecdote, which should send a chill down the spine of the newspaper guys:

Fayetteville-based restaurant chain Slim Chickens is one of the Flyer’s longtime advertisers.

Chief marketing officer Greg Smart said the company’s advertising with the Flyer tend to be more specific to products or promotions.

Slim Chickens no longer advertises with daily newspapers.

“It’s just not cost effective,” he said. “This is really a more affordable option and it’s been a way for us to stay relevant on a hyperlocal basis. I wish there were other [websites] like the Fayetteville Flyer in our other [restaurant] markets.”

That’s a pretty high compliment from an advertiser. Also noted: Bartholomew and Gill say the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette paywall is a great equalizer as the Flyer, with a fraction of the daily paper’s resources, competes for local news readers.

You can read the complete Northwest Arkansas Business Journal story on the Fayetteville Flyer right here. And of course, the Fayetteville Flyer is always online here.


Allbritton Sells KATV, Other Affiliates to Sinclair Broadcasting Group

My piece on today:

Allbritton Communications of Arlington, Va., which owns KATV-TV, Channel 7, in Little Rock and other ABC affiliates, said Monday that it is selling those television stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group of Hunt Valley, Md., the country’s largest television station owner.

According to Politico, which is also owned by Allbritton, the deal is worth $985 million. An Allbritton news release said the sale is scheduled to close in the fourth quarter.

I’d said back in June that Sinclair was the likely buyer, although there’s been no shortage of candidates, many of which have been scooping up other local TV properties all year. Some considered Nexstar Broadcasting Group as a probable buyer, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they kicked the tires. But in Little Rock, Nexstar controls four — count ‘em four — affiliates in Little Rock alone, pretty much maxing out their ownership here in the eyes of the feds.

The next question is, how much will this change operations at KATV? Does Sinclair bring in its own management team? How many (if any) newsroom contracts get dropped?

And to what extent does Little Rock feel Sinclair’s sympathy for the GOP? In Seattle, where Sinclair just snapped up KOMO-TV, some are bracing for the “Fox News equivalent in a local news channel.” Admittedly, this might not be as big a deal in the Little Rock DMA as it is in Seattle. Still, KATV is telling viewers that this is strictly a “behind-the-scenes business deal.” “KATV will continue to bring you the best local news, weather and sports coverage you have counted on us to provide for more than 50 years,” the station said.

Also: 5 Things to Know About Sinclair

And: Here Are Some People Unhappy About Allbritton’s Sale to Sinclair

Layoffs in Conway: 500 Jobs Gone at Hewlett-Packard

Above, my quick conversation with THV 11 News about yesterday’s announcement by Hewlett-Packard that it would lay off 500 people at its technical support center in Conway. Our breaking news coverage on Arkansas Business here, along with an additional report by the AP and an interview with Brad Lacy of the Conway Chamber of Commerce here.

It’s the second blow to Arkansas’ job base in as many weeks. Last week, Nordex USA, which makes parts for windmills, announced it would end wind turbine production at its Jonesboro plant. That move will cut 40 jobs, but it also ends all hope that Nordex will ever reach its projected employment number of 750, which it touted when announcing the project in 2008.

At Nordex’s Germany headquarters, officials were quick to blame Congress for failing to make a long-term commitment to a crucial wind energy tax credit that was driving business. But in Palo Alto, Calif., home of HP, executives have only themselves to blame. The company was caught wholly unprepared for the mobile computing revolution, touched off by Apple’s iPhone and raised to new heights by its iPad. HP’s high-profile CEO changes, an aborted plan to exit the PC business, and the wasted, $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm Inc. didn’t help matters, either.

My Look at Google Glass with Brant Collins

Google Glass

Google Glass, perched atop its little gray case.

Is it the future, or a Segway for your face? That’s the central question regarding Google Glass, the Internet-connected glasses with heads-up display, Wifi, Bluetooth and the ability to shoot high-definition video and photos and share them instantly with the world. Thanks to Brant Collins of Stations X of Little Rock, I was able to see Glass up close in this video for Arkansas Business.

As you can see, the video and photo quality are surprising great, and device’s potential uses has early adopters like Collins thinking of myriad ways to use Glass in business, technology, health care and more. Click here for my up-close look at Google Glass, or hit “continue reading” below and watch the video here.

Continue reading

Video: Johnny Allison and Wallace Fowler on Their $280 Million Bank Deal

My hastily thrown together segment on that $280 million Home BancShares/Liberty Bank of Arkansas deal, which originally debuted here. Since then, there have been two more big Arkansas banking deals — one by First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas of Harrison, and another involving Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock. Yep, it’s the Summer of Bank Deals in Arkansas.

From Bad to Worse for Martha Shoffner & More on ‘Arkansas Week’ Tonight

Arkansas Week on AETN

8 p.m. Friday.

With Steve Barnes out, they let me host another edition of AETN‘s “Arkansas Week,” which you check out at 8 p.m. tonight or later this afternoon at this link. Once again, a big thanks to Steve and the “Arkansas Week” crew for allowing me to fill in. And thanks today’s panelists — Michael Hibblen, Hoyt Purvis and Rick Fahr — for another great show.

On the docket tonight: Martha Shoffner’s baffling May 31 court appearance, which cleared the way to Wednesday’s 14-count indictment; state finances and unemployment; Gov. Mike Beebe’s dip into the rainy day fund to help college students; slumping lottery sales; Tom Cotton’s latest moves in Washington D.C.; and update from Mayflower, where we might be close to getting some answers about that oil spill.

Dale Nicholson Signs Off: Arkansas TV Legend Dies at 74

KATV: Long-Time General Manager Dale Nicholson Has Died:

Dale Nicholson, who presided over one of Arkansas’ most influential television stations for 25 years as general manager, died at his Little Rock home on Saturday. He was 74.

Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV-TV, Channel 7, where Nicholson spent nearly all of his professional career, announced Nicholson’s death on its Facebook page Sunday afternoon.

“We have some sad news to pass along … we’re saying goodbye to an old friend of KATV’s tonight,” the Allbritton Communications-owned TV station said. ”Our Chairman and former General Manager Dale Nicholson died at his home in Little Rock last night. He was 74.”

The lead to my piece on Dale Nicholson, one of last true media giants still walking among us Arkansans. Great anecdotes abound about Nicholson, the young man with the booming voice who arrived at KATV in 1962 to take a job as booth announcer. Former KATV news director Bob Steel tells of Nicholson once declaring that he could run KATV out of the trunk of his car better than ABC could program its network. Having led the affiliate during some of ABC darker, low-ratings years, Nicholson probably wasn’t far off the mark. This guy knew TV. And the long-running success of KATV is a testament to that.

If you want to get symbolic, you could view Nicholson’s passing as another sign of how the TV business continues to be buffeted by radical change, mostly in the form of the Internet, and mostly not for the better. Hell, it was just a few weeks ago that a former student of Nicholson’s, Robert Allbritton, announced his intention to get out of the traditional TV business entirely to focus on the Internet, specifically a website called Politico. You might know Allbritton as the CEO of Allbritton Communications Co., which has owned KATV since 1983. Allbritton plans to sell all its TV properties, KATV included, by the end of the summer.

But few want to get symbolic. Not Nicholson’s friends, not his coworkers, certainly not his family. They just miss their friend and patriarch, affectionally dubbed “Big Pard.” Nicholson, the young man with a booming voice, but also a mentor, an innovator, a father and a friend.