*Newspapers add e-books: Both the New York Times and the Seattle Times have said recently they are putting more emphasis on digital delivery via electronic books. The New York paper said in December that it had initiated two programs, one with Byliner.com and one with Vook.com. The Byliner project, where the Times will co-publish as many as a dozen original books this year, started with "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek," which was based on a December story that also appeared on the paper's web site as an interactive feature. The e-book retails for $3. The Vook collaboration started with 25 "TimesFiles" titles that will be expanded. The first titles offered via Amazon.com, Apple.com and Barnes & Noble cost $2 each. According to a report last week on Poynter.org, the Seattle paper has created an Apple-only title, "Seattle Times: Pictures of the Year." "Visual storytelling really shines on the iPad, so it seemed a natural place to highlight our best photojournalism and videos," Seattle's Denise Clifton told Poynter. That book is $3.
*Orange County weeklies upgraded: As part of a broad plan to reinvest in news content, Southern California's Orange County Register said in December it was redesigning its 24 weekly community newspaper titles to transform them from tabloids to full broadsheets and increasing editorial space by three times. The redesign of the titles started in late November and will extend through February, the paper said. "Many of these newspapers are local institutions," said Aaron Kushner, publisher of the Register and chief executive of Freedom Communications Inc. "We really care about each of these communities and we want to make sure they feel at home with us when they open up their local newspaper." Kushner said the project is being led by Rob Curley, the Register's deputy editor for local news, and Michelle Nicolosi, manager of community content. The titles include the Anaheim Bulletin, the Huntington Beach Wave, the Irvine World News and the Saddleback Valley News.
*Gannett execs get restricted stock: Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week indicate that 13 of the top executives at Gannett Co. Inc., received restricted stock units with a total current value of $5.3 million. Executives ranging from Gracia Martore, the company's chief executive, to Teresa Gendron, its controller, received between 53,872 restricted units (Martore) and 5964 (Gendron). Gannett switched last year from giving executives stock options to RSUs, which are grants that are valued by company stock but the stock is not issued until the maturity of the grant (for example, Martore's and Gendron's grants don't mature until the end of 2016). The filings were compiled and first reported by Jim Hopkins of GannettBlog.Blogspot.com. Hopkins said the change from options to RSUs "effectively pushed millions of dollars in compensation into 2012," meaning this year executives will get more than they did last year. Gannett shares closed up 6.9 percent on Friday at $18.82.
*Layoffs in east and west: Two papers in Washington -- one in the District of Columbia and one in the state -- have had layoffs in recent days. The Washington Times in the nation's capital laid off about 20 newsroom employees last week, the Washington Post reported. The Times -- owned by an offshoot of the Unification Church -- has been under new management since October. The Post reported that laid-off staffers would get a half-week severance for each year of employment, with a minimum of two-weeks pay and health benefits paid through the end of January. At the Daily Herald of Everett, Wash. -- perhaps ironically, owned by The Washington Post Co. -- six were laid off, with four in the newsroom, and that other vacancies will not be filled. The paper also said it had shuttered its Weekly Herald, which it circulated in south Snohomish County, and that it will soon stop its free Herald Shopper.
*Trade group markets weekly A.P. wire: Weekly or semi-weekly newspapers seeking to expand their national and international report in print or online can turn to the National Newspaper Association to get The Associated Press' News Choice product, the trade group said last week. "We now can help weeklies provide that important state capital news and also pull down the feeds on national stories that they can localize as they see fit," said Merle Baranczyk, publisher of the Mountain Mail in Salida, Colo., and president of the group. "NNA's message is that community newspapers continue to serve and thrive. This is one more way we can continue to provide our readers with the news and information they need." Subscribers, said the NNA, can choose from among several categories of news streams, including state news, or can follow specific topics, such as tourism, energy or agriculture.
*Scripps execs to sell shares: Four executives of The E.W. Scripps Co. of Cincinnati said in late December they had started a process of pre-arranged, automatic sales of some of their shares in the company in accordance with government regulations. Bill Appleton, Brian Lawlor, Douglas Lyons and Adam Symson plan to sell as many as 136,000 shares over periods that could last as long as 13 months. Appleton, the company's senior vice president and general counsel, will sell as many as 40,000 shares, while Lawlor, the company's senior vice president for television, will sell about 35,000 shares and 13,000 share options and Lyons, a Scripps' vice president and controller, will sell about 42,000 share options. Symson, will sell 6000 shares. Scripps, with 13 daily newspapers and 19 TV stations, saw its stock close at $10.81 on Friday, up 3.7 percent for the week.
*Northwest publisher changes name: Reflecting its move into digital news delivery, Pioneer Newspapers Inc. of Seattle said on Friday it was changing its name to Pioneer News Group Co. "Our new name allows us to more fully convey the scope and nature of our expanding business to help us best serve the communities we are in with empowering local news and advertising information," said Marnie Roozen, chairman of Pioneer's board of directors. The company, which owns and operates 23 print and online daily and weekly newspapers in Washington, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Oregon, was formed in 1974 by James G. Scripps, a grandson of Edward Wyllis Scripps -- the founder of The E.W. Scripps Co. -- and remains family owned; Roozen is James' granddaughter. The company's largest daily is the 19,900-circulation Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa.
*W. Post expands video: Focusing on one of its "great strengths" -- political coverage -- the Washington Post said last week it would expand its political video production to about 30 hours per month. "We see it as an area of considerable promise," Martin Baron, the paper's executive editor, told a reporter. The paper said the new effort would "at least double" its existing political video production volume and the new productions would require an upgrade to the paper's TV studio. The Post declined to detail the costs that will be entailed. The Post currently offers video on its web site and produces an interview show, "The Fold," for Google TV which is available on Google Play.