This isn’t a joke. Following its annual shareholder meeting today, the owner of the Los Angeles Times said that on June 20 it will no longer be called Tribune Publishing. The new name is: Tronc Inc. (It uses a lower case “t,” but our style capitalizes proper nouns.)
The company describes itself now as “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”
As part of the change, its shares will move to Nasdaq from the New York Stock Exchange and trade under the symbol “TRNC.”
The company is “focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders,” Chairman Michael Ferro says. “Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.”
Also on June 20, Tribune — sorry, Tronc — will introduce a web site that will serve as “a visual content portal that will curate Tronc’s premium content across all of its award-winning brands in one convenient place.”
In addition to the L.A. Times, the company owns the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and The Hartford Courant.
Among other things, the company is launching TroncX which it describes as a “curation and monetization engine, to combine existing assets with new artificial intelligence technology to accelerate digital growth.” A 30-day test with 1% of its traffic, boosted the yield on programmatic ad sales by 400%, it says.
It also will partner with its new investor and Vice Chairman, Nant Capital’s Patrick Soon-Shiong, to access “over 100 machine vision and artificial intelligence technology patents for news media applications.”
The company says in an SEC filing that it’s close to completing the licensing deal with Soon-Shiong as well as one to use studio space from one of his subsidiaries. Tribune will offer him 333,333 shares of its stock and let him keep $80 million in revenues from the licenses. After that it will pay his NantWorks a 6% royalty on revenues.
He says that today’s announcements illustrate the company’s eagerness to transform itself and “protect the vital role that free speech plays in our communities. In the wake of significant disruption, it is time to bring the legacy publishing business into the modern era and leverage innovative technology – from machine learning to artificial intelligence – to create long-term sustainability and vitality.”
Gannett said today that it is mulling whether to continue its effort to buy the company still known as Tribune. Shareholders offered a mixed response to the USA Today owner’s campaign urging them to withhold their votes for directors to symbolize their eagerness for a deal.
Gannett offered $864 million, or $15 a share — 99.5% more than Tribune’s trading price before April 25, when Gannett disclosed its initial bid. Tribune closed today at $11.38, down 1.8%.