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2HRS2GO: Old Media is outlasting New rivals

    Maybe Old Media will die.

    Lord knows talking heads have been predicting it for years. Heck, they're still writing about it.

    The Dead Tree market will survive in some fashion until we get electronic "paper" that's easy to read, carry and throw away. There are folks working hard to perfect that kind of thing.

    And when that product arrives, maybe Old Media will wither away.

    But Old Media companies won't.

    Like most professional journalists on the Web, I used to be a print reporter. I moved to the Web not for the money -- generally speaking, it's no better than in newspapers -- but because the Internet looked like an exciting medium. I wanted to get in before it became dominated by the corporate mindset that infuses most newspapers.

    Of course, I ended up writing for a website that began as an outgrowth of an old-time trade publisher. What can I say? Corporations caught up faster than I thought they would.

    Don't get me wrong, your average dot-com moves far more nimbly than any newspaper chain. But economic reality seems to be catching up to most Web content providers before they could escape into profitability.

    Companies like APBNews are having problems. Dot-com valuations have plummeted on Wall Street, especially for content specialists. Even mighty Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) is down 47 percent from is 52-week high, and that's after reporting another impressive quarter and promising more to come.

    Fall stock prices also hurt New Media's ability to expand. Most are now looking for a way to survive or simply a way out.

    CareerBuilder (Nasdaq: CBDR) provides a perfect example today.

    The employment network sold itself to Old Media. CareerBuilder will merge with CareerPath.com, which was an Old Media attempt at the online job market. The combined company would be jointly owned by two newspaper chains, the Tribune Co. (NYSE: TRB) and Knight-Ridder (NYSE: KRI), through its knightridder.com unit.

    CareerBuilder's absorption means least two of the largest job sites will essentially be extensions of Old Economy companies. Monster.com has always been a unit of TMP Worldwide (Nasdaq: TMPW).

    Advertising might be shifting away to the Internet away from newspapers and magazines, but the traditional media giants still have the cash to buy their way onto the Web. Means of distribution might change, but the Old Media companies won't go away. The Chicago Tribune will survive as the Tribune Company's current flagship, whether in a corner street box or as a bookmark in someone's browser.

    And it will survive not only because the Tribune Co. has the warchest (more than $1.2 billion in cash and accounts receivable at the end of March) and cash flow to outlast any would-be upstarts, and the brand name website. In the long run, it doesn't matter if the Tribune gets its money from the Web or from print; either way, it'll take it.

    You can see how well Old Media is doing in other fields. The most visited general news sites are MSNBC and CNN.com. Most major Web portals have fled into Old Economy arms, with the exception of the giants Yahoo! and America Online (NYSE: AOL), which happened to be the only one with the stock muscle to buy some big Old Media instead of the other way around.

    The standard argument has always been that Internet upstarts move more quickly than their Old Economy rivals can adapt. Unfortunately for the dot-coms, the Wall Street comet moves even faster.

    And the dinosaurs have cash shelters to survive the impact. 22GO>