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Landmark Communications, Inc.

Landmark Communications, Inc.

150 West Brambleton Avenue
Norfolk, Virginia 23510-2075
U.S.A.
Telephone: (757) 446-2010
Toll Free: (800) 446-2004
Fax: (757) 446-2489
Web site: http://www.landmarkcom.com

Private Company
Incorporated:
1905 as Norfolk Newspapers Inc.
Employees: 5,000
Sales: $732 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 511110 Newspaper Publishers; 511120 Periodical Publishers; 513111 Radio Networks; 513120 Television Broadcasting; 513210 Cable Networks; 514191 On-Line Information Services; 541850 Display Advertising

Landmark Communications, Inc. owns a diverse array of media holdings. About 60 percent of the privately held firms revenues come from its newspaper operations, which include three metropolitan dailies: the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia; the News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina; and the Roanoke Times, Roanoke, Virginia. Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc. publishes more than 100 newspapers, shoppers, college sports publications, and special interest publications in the East, South, Midwest, and Southwest. Four of the community newspapers are dailies: the Carroll County Times, Westminster, Maryland; Citrus County Chronicle, Crystal River, Florida; Los Alamos Monitor, New Mexico; and News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Heading the companys cable programming businesses, which generate more than 30 percent of revenues, is The Weather Channel, which reaches 95 percent of the homes in the United States that have cable television, translating into a potential audience of 84 million. Landmark also owns a 50 percent stake in Pelmorex, Inc., a Canadian firm that runs The Weather Network and Meteo Media, which are, respectively, English-language and French-language equivalents of The Weather Channel in Canada. Less than 10 percent of revenues derive from television broadcasting holdings, including KLAS-TV (Las Vegas), and WTVF-TV (Nashville), also known as NewsChannel 5 Networkboth of which are CBS affiliates. Many of Landmarks operating units also operate web sites, and the company owns a one-third stake in InfiNet, which helps newspapers create and maintain an online presence (the other, equal, partners in this venture are Gannett Co., Inc. and Knight Ridder, Inc.). Landmark also owns 49.9 percent of Annapolis, Maryland-based Capital-Gazette Communications, Inc., publisher of the Washingtonian magazine and newspapers, including the Annapolis Capital; a 50 percent stake in Trader Publishing Company, publisher of hundreds of classified advertising publications in more than 170 U.S. cities (Cox Enterprises, Inc. owns the other half); and full ownership of Landmark Education Services, Inc., which operates three career schools focusing on allied health and information technology. Landmark Communications is owned by the Batten family and company executives.

Samuel Slover and the Founding of Norfolk Newspapers

Landmark was founded by Samuel Leroy Slover, an enterprising gentleman immersed in the Virginia newspaper business for 55 years. A native of Tennessee, Slover migrated to Virginia in 1900, hoping to change his fortune. He had been the 20-year-old business manager of the financially troubled Knoxville Journal. Despite his efforts, the paper went bankrupt and Slover, then 22, assumed its liabilities ($36,400) as a debt of honor. After arriving in Virginia, Slover sold ads for a New York trade journal before approaching the well-connected Joseph Bryan, owner of the Richmond Times, for a loan to purchase a newspaper in neighboring Norfolk. Bryan, aghast, refused the young man. Slover, undaunted, asked to sell advertising for the Times. When he received a second rejection, Slover tried another tack: what if he sold ads, on a commission basis, to area merchants who were not current clients? With this proposition, Bryan had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so he accepted the offer and was soon rewarded with a multitude of new advertisers.

It was then Bryans turn to make an offer to Sloverrescue a Newport newspaper from going under within one year and gain half interest in its ownership. Samuel took the challenge, triumphed, and was named publisher of the Newport News Times-Herald. In 1909, relinquishing his title as publisher, Slover moved on to papers in Richmond, Petersburg, and other cities in southeast Virginia.

During the next several decades, he dominated the states newspaper trade, owning outright or controlling six of Virginias biggest papers. His modus operandi was to swoop in and rescue an ailing paper, nurse it from red to black ink, then move on. Through Slovers machinations, small, struggling papers were often merged together to create large, healthier ones, usually resulting in hyphenated names like two of Landmarks backbone publications, the Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Star.

By centering his company, Norfolk Newspapers Inc., near a major military installation, Slover capitalized on the regions immense growth, not only with newspapers, but other media as well. In 1930, as the Great Depression deepened, Slover took a gamble and purchased Norfolks WTAR-AM, Virginias first radio station, for $10,000. Though many had little faith in the sensibility of an aural medium and even less in another experimental medium, television, Slover believed in both and was later responsible for bringing Virginia its second television station.

Frank Batten, Taking Over in the 1950s

Throughout Slovers career, his exploits would prove both interesting and educational to his young nephew, Frank Batten, who joined the Slover household after the death of his father, Frank Batten, Sr., when the youngster was only two years old.

After serving in the merchant marines during World War II, Batten graduated from the University of Virginia in 1950 and received an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1952. His initiation into the business world was fast and furious: he began as a reporter for the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch (forerunner of the Ledger-Star), moved to the circulation and advertising departments of the Ledger-Dispatch and Virginian-Pilot, progressed to vice-president in 1953, and was appointed publisher by Slover at the age of 27 in 1954. Having absorbed much under the tutelage of his uncle and mentor, Batten learned the ropes in record timeaccelerating his pivotal role in Norfolk Newspapers Inc., the forerunner of Landmark Communications. While Batten settled into his role as publisher of two of the areas most prosperous newspapers, Slover, 81, slowed down and contemplated retirement. He also sought to share the fruits of his illustrious career, by liberally offering stock to his employees. With Batten at the helm a mere five years, Samuel L. Slover died in 1959, at age 86, leaving Batten a vast legacy.

Like his uncle before him, Battens prescience would firmly move Landmark into the future: just as Slover had envisioned the many possibilities of radio and television, Batten had been studying an extension of traditional television called cable programming. Batten considered cable a medium with vast potential and decided to invest in its promise. Within a year of his initial interest, in 1964, Batten acquired two cable franchisesone in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and a second in Beckley, West Virginia. These two stations were the cornerstone for the development of the TeleCable Corporation, of Greensboro, North Carolina, which would eventually operate 21 cable systems in 15 states, reaching 740,000 subscribers nationwide. TeleCables success led to a bountiful opportunity for Landmark stockholders in 1984, when it was spun off into an independent corporation. In late 1994, an offer of more than $1 billion in stock was made by rival TCI (Tele-Communications Inc.), the largest cable TV operator in the United States, to acquire TeleCables assets. The deal was closed in January 1995.

In 1965, Batten further expanded the company by purchasing the Greensboro Daily News, The Greensboro Record, and a television station, WFMY-TV, all owned by the prominent Jeffress family. Landmark later combined the Greensboro papers into the Greensboro News & Record, which celebrated its centennial in 1990, and sold WFMY-TV. Two years after the Greensboro acquisitions, in 1967, Batten was named chairman of the board of Norfolk Newspapers, which at the same time changed its name to Landmark Communications, Inc. Within another two years, he was on the move again, this time acquiring the Roanoke Times & World-News in Virginias third largest market (combined daily and Sunday circulation of over 240,000), bringing the Norfolk-based companys metro newspaper holdings to four. In the 1970s, Landmark also became home to community papers as well, including four dailies (Carroll County Times, Citrus County Chronicle, News-Enterprise, and Los Alamos Monitor); four triweeklies (the Gazette, Lancaster News, Kentucky Standard, and Roane County News); six semiweeklies; 21 weeklies; and 38 free shoppers available throughout the region and beyond.

Company Perspectives:

Enduring beliefs and strong expectations are steeped in a rich tradition of stability that permeates the entire organization. Core values focus on doing the right thing through high ethical standards, uncompromising principles, integrity, fairness and respect for people. As a privately held company with autonomous business units, Landmarks culture fosters careful risk-taking and an entrepreneurial spirit that produces solid, long-term financial results. There is a shared vision of excellence, social responsibility, and providing quality products and services it is proud of. The Landmark culture, above all, values people. Its strength is its unparalleled customer service. Internally, employees thrive in a family-like workplace that values interpersonal relationships in a polite, supportive, non-political environment. Continually improving, developing and motivating its people through teamwork, training and a collaborative style of management set Landmark apart. While Landmarks culture is reserved and understated, it values growing strong leaders from within and giving them responsibility and the freedom to act.

In 1978 Landmark departed from its tradition of local and regional expansion by taking a leap to the West Coast, acquiring two television stations: KNTV in San Jose, for $24.5 million and KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, for $8 million. Though KNTV was later sold, KLAS, a CBS affiliate, became Las Vegass top-ranked news station with 351,000 households, while another television acquisition, CBS-affiliate WTVF in Nashville, known as NewsChannel 5 (purchased in 1992), delivered award-winning specials and highly rated newscasts to 738,000 households. WTVF was also known for another distinction: the hiring of a college student in 1974 who went on to conquer the media industryOprah Winfrey.

Launching The Weather Channel in the 1980s

Three years later, still seeking opportunities to expand the company in both scope and value, Batten considered another leapthis one into the national broadcasting arena. In 1981 the Landmark think-tank developed what is probably regarded as the companys greatest achievementa 24-hour cable weather service called The Weather Channel. In less than 10 months, plans progressed from paper to programming reality. The Weather Channel was the most challenging task we had undertaken, Batten admitted. It was Landmarks first national venture, with all the complexities of marketing and distribution a national enterprise must consider. Despite jitters and numerous naysayers from within and outside the industry, Landmark was determined to live up to its name while also providing the quality of the major networks. On May 2, 1982, The Weather Channel (TWC) officially debuted, with the expressed purpose of becoming the nations primary source of weather information.

Part of TWCs success was its universalization of the weather. Because everyone was affected by Mother Naturean uncontrollable forceviewers could at least tune in, be informed, and prepare, which constituted a form of control in itself. Subscribers also appreciated TWCs format and flow: Viewers can find a constantly varied presentation of scientific information, friendly advice, and spontaneous philosophy, said Andrew Ross, in his 1991 book, Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits. Moreover, with programming Ross called accessible, concrete displays of otherwise abstract weather events, viewers kept coming back for more, especially during catastrophic weather. Ratings skyrocketed during August 1991, as Hurricane Bob terrorized the coast; in March 1993 with the Northeasts unexpected blizzard; and again in December of the same year when heavy snow once again threatened the East Coast.

TWC became a staple of contemporary programming, with what Batten termed one of the most loyal consumer audiences in television. Numbers proved him correct: at any given moment in the mid-1990s, 130,000 homes tuned in, while TWC programming was available to 56.7 million households that regularly watched its early morning and evening local forecasts, as well as a multitude of regular features (Boat & Beach Reports, Business Travelers Reports, International Forecast, Michelin Drivers Report, and Schoolday Forecast) and specials about weather-related health matters or seasonal hazards such as hurricanes and tornados. By 1995, TWC was available in 90 percent of all homes with cable television.

New Ventures in the 1990s

In 1990, Michael Eckert took over as president of what became Landmarks Video Networks and Enterprises Division. From 1991 through 1993, Paul FitzPatrick, formerly of C-Span, was The Weather Channels president and chief operating officer. During that time, TWCs viewership increased from 48 million to 56.7 million. By 1994, TWCs staff of 325 employees (65 as on-camera meteorologists or OCMs) used over $20 million worth of specialized equipment to ply their trade, including the state-of-the-art Weather STAR system, implemented in late 1993. The STAR system allowed TWC to insert local forecasts for the United States 750 weather zones, along with tags from local advertisers, into the channels continuous transmission.

Key Dates:

1900s20s:
Samuel Slover becomes publisher and half-owner of the Newport News Times-Herald; Slover takes over a string of Virginia papers through his company, Norfolk Newspapers Inc.
1954:
Frank Batten, nephew of Slover, is named publisher of the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch (later the Ledger-Star) and the flagship Norfolk Newspapers title, the Virginian-Pilot.
1964:
Norfolk Newspapers enters the cable television field with the purchase of two cable franchises; these form the core of the TeleCable Corporation, which eventually operates 21 cable systems in 15 states, reaching 740,000 subscribers.
1965:
The Greensboro Daily News and the Greensboro Record are acquired; they are later combined as the Greensboro News & Record.
1967:
Batten is named chairman of the board of Norfolk Newspapers, which changes its name to Landmark Communications, Inc.
1969:
Landmark buys its fourth metro daily paper, the Roanoke Times & World News.
1970s:
Company begins buying a string of community newspapers.
1978:
Las Vegas television station KLAS-TV is acquired.
1982:
Landmark launches The Weather Channel, a 24-hour, national cable weather service.
1984:
TeleCable is spun off to Landmark stockholders as an independent company.
1991:
Trader Publishing Company, specializing in classified advertising publications, is established as a 50-50 joint venture with Cox Enterprises, Inc.
1992:
Landmark acquires Nashville television station WTVF-TV, known as NewsChannel 5.
1994:
Company establishes InfiNet, an Internet service provider and developer of newspaper web sites.
1995:
Tele-Communications Inc. pays more than $1 billion to acquire TeleCable; the Ledger-Star ceases publication.
1998:
Batten is succeeded as company chairman by his son, Frank Batten, Jr.
2000:
Trader Publishing acquires UAP, Inc., resulting in the merger of the two largest U.S. publishers of classified advertising publications.

Once TWC was firmly into black ink, its skeptics and detractors were silenced; but just until Landmarks next national undertaking, The Travel Channel (TTC). Founded in 1987 by Trans World Airlines to help sell tickets, TTC was regarded as the bane of the cable industry for its blatant self-promotion; Landmark acquired a 97 percent share of TTC in 1992 for $50 million. Though TTC had never shown a profit and continued to lose $7 million annually, Landmark increased its stagnant viewership by 2.5 million during a concerted media campaign in 1993. Up to 20 million in 1994, Landmark hoped selling TWC and TTC as a team would bolster subscribers even more. Both the Travel and Weather channels won the attention of their peers and received cable ACE awards; in 1991 The Weather Channel was given the industrys highest programming accolade, the Golden ACE.

In April 1991 Landmark joined with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, Inc. to form Trader Publishing Company, a 50-50 joint venture that combined the classified advertising publications operations of Landmark Target Media and Coxs Trader Publications. Headquarters for Trader Publishing were established in Norfolk.

As the 1990s advanced, Landmark initiated the first of several new ventures, each in different directions. Mid-May of 1992 marked the acquisition of the nine-year-old Summary Scan! (renamed Promotion Information Management [PIM] in 1993), a tracking service of print media promotions (in-store circulars, coupons, direct mail, etc.) for packaged-goods manufacturers. Purchased from the Chicago-based Advertising Checking Bureau, PIM maintained offices in both Chicago and Overland Park, Kansas, selling its findings to customers on a weekly or monthly basis. Also in 1992, Landmark acquired Antique Trader Publications, which became a key part of Landmark Specialty Publications.

This year was also pivotal for personnel, as John O. Wynne was named corporate CEO in addition to his duties as Landmarks president; and E. Roger Williams joined The Travel Channel as president (and later CEO) after leaving ESPN. In 1994 Douglas Fox, formerly vice-president of marketing for the Times-Mirror Newspaper Group, was named COO for Landmark.

In the fall of 1993, further demonstrating its progressive nature and support of the underdog, Landmarks TeleCable Corp. was one of six cable operators agreeing to carry the new Fox networks programming in the fall of 1993. In June 1994, the company went online by forming a joint venture (70 percent ownership) with another Norfolk-based company, Wyvern Technologies Inc., to create InfiNet, a service bringing Virginia subscribers access to the Internet as well as establishing and maintaining web sites for newspapers and other media outlets. In the fall of 1994, The Weather Channel was in the news, too: CEO Michael Eckert announced plans for international expansion. A Spanish-language weather channel began serving the Latin American market in 1996, followed by a Portuguese channel for Brazil. These channels proved moderately successful, but a venture to develop several weather channels for the European market failed.

In February 1994, Travel, a London-based travel channel, was launched. In 1995, it served nearly one million cable households throughout the United Kingdom and all of Scandinavia. In May 1995, Landmark announced plans to expand further internationally by launching a new Travel Channel for Latin America, which would appeal, according to a press release, not only to those who travel, but to those who are interested in learning about the world. The new channel, based in Miami, began broadcasting later in the year. A further travel-related venture launched in 1995 was The Vacation Store. This was a mass-market travel agency that sold vacations nationwide, primarily at first through promotional programs that aired on The Travel Channel. The agency later ran such programs on other cable networks, such as Lifetime and Discovery.

Also in 1995, Landmark purchased full control of InfiNet and then sold a 50 percent stake in that venture to Knight-Ridder, Inc. InfiNet could now draw on the holdings and attempt to attract the subscribers of two major newspaper publishers. In February 1996 another leading newspaper publisher, Gannett Co., Inc., became an InfiNet partner. The three firms held equal one-third stakes in the venture, which was based in Norfolk.

Meantime, in August 1995, the number of Landmark metropolitan daily newspapers fell to three when the Ledger-Star ceased publication. Thus ended a decades-long run in which the Ledger-Star was Norfolks afternoon newspaper and the Virginian-Pilot was the morning daily. The two papers, despite their common ownership, had been run independently and had maintained a fierce rivalry until 1982, when the staffs were combined in a cost-saving move precipitated by the declining fortunes of the newspaper industry. The differences between the two papers began to fade away, and circulation at the Ledger-Star went into a steep fall. By the end, circulation had plummeted to less than 10,000, compared to the more than 100,000 in the mid-1970s.

Late in 1996 Landmark expanded its international weather channel interests by purchasing a 50 percent stake in Pelmorex, Inc. This Canadian firm operated The Weather Network, a weather channel that reached 95 percent of the Canadian cable market, and a French-language weather channel called Meteo Media. Another 1996 development was Landmarks decision to begin divesting its travel-related holdings. In December of that year the company sold The Vacation Store to an investor group led by the agencys top executives. In the middle of the following year, after a prolonged search for a buyer, Landmark sold the troubled Travel Channel to Paxson Communications Corporation for $20 million in cash and $55 million in Paxson stock. Then in 1998 Travel Channel Latin America was sold to Discovery Communications Inc. Landmark retained ownership of Travel, its London-based travel channel.

In a somewhat incongruous development during this same period, Landmark purchased two publishers of travel guides at the same time that it was divesting The Vacation Store and the travel channels. In April 1997 the company bought The Insiders Guides Inc., producer of a 45-title guidebook series from its headquarters in Manteo, North Carolina, and in October of that same year Landmark purchased Helena, Montana-based guidebook publisher Falcon Publishing Co. The two companies were merged, as Landmark hoped to grow the combined business by creating a new revenue stream in the form of paid advertising. This strategy did not work, and the business was soon deemed to be a noncore asset and was sold to Morris Communications Corporation in 2000.

Yet another new venture for Landmark was the formation in 1997 of American Outdoor Advertising Inc. This billboard advertisement subsidiary developed a network of 960 billboards in 11 southeastern states by the early 2000s. Landmark also began acquiring college sports fan magazines in 1997starting with The Cats Pause, a title focusing on the University of Kentuckyplacing them within the Landmark Community Newspapers unit. In January of the next year, Frank Batten turned over control of Landmark Communications to his son, Frank Batten, Jr., who became chairman. The senior Batten remained involved at the company as chairman of the boards executive committee. Batten, Jr., had served as executive vice-president with responsibility for new ventures and new media since 1995. Prior to that, he had a four-year stint as president and publisher of the Virginian-Pilot following precisely in his fathers footsteps. Wynne continued in his capacity of president and CEO.

In early 1999 Landmark moved into the education field, specializing in career education. Company officials saw this as an extension of its core business of delivering information, because they viewed career education as a type of information business. Landmark Education Services, Inc. was created, and it bought Salt Lake City-based Certified Careers Institute, which focused on computer training. Schools focusing on allied health were later added. In another 1999 development, Landmark Specialty Publications, which included antiques and collectible titles such as Antique Trader, was sold to Krause Publications, Inc.

Early 2000s and Beyond

Landmark began the 2000s with two major acquisitions. Early in 2000, the company paid about $120 million to Litton Industries Inc. for its Weather Services International (WSI) unit. Using National Weather Service data, WSI packaged weather presentation systems for television stations (including The Weather Channel), the aviation industry, and the government. Later in 2000, Trader Publishing spent $520 million to acquire UAP, Inc., the U.S. classified advertising publication unit of London-based United News & Media plc. The deal combined the two largest U.S. publishers of classified advertising publications. UAP published 300 free advertising titles in 38 states. Landmark extended its hold on the Norfolk area media market through a third 2000 acquisition. The Virginian-Pilot bought Norfolk-based Military Newspapers of Virginia, Inc., publisher of several base-related newspapers that were distributed free of charge.

In 2001 Landmark ventured further into the Internet services sector by establishing Continental Broadband LLC. This Norfolk-headquartered company was a provider of fixed wireless Internet services for medium-sized businesses (fixed wireless being wireless broadband Internet service). A sharp drop in advertising in the wake of three circumstancesthe bursting of the Internet bubble, the start of a prolonged recession in the United States, and the events of September 11, 2001resulted in a decline in revenue for Landmark Communications from an estimated $805 million in 2000 to $732 million the following year.

At the beginning of 2002, Wynne retired as president and CEO. Decker Anstrom was named president and COO of Landmark. Anstrom had been president and CEO of The Weather Channel; before that, he had served as president of the National Cable Television Association, and he was thus the first Land-mark president to have not spent the majority of his career with the company.

Alterations to the companys portfolio of businesses continued under the new president. In June 2002 Landmark sold its American Outdoor Advertising billboard subsidiary, which had been deemed a noncore asset, to Lamar Advertising Company. One month later, the company purchased a majority interest in Shorecliff Communications LLC. Headquartered in San Juan Capistrano, California, Shorecliff was a trade show enterprise specializing in industries related to telecommunications infrastructure. The firm produced two major trade shows, one serving the cellular tower industry and the other serving the fixed wireless industry. The investment in Shorecliff meshed well with the previous establishment of Continental Broadband, and Landmarks entrance into trade shows was not unexpected given that many media companies were heavily involved in the business.

In December 2002, meantime, Landmark elected to shut down its two weather channels in Latin America after six years of operating in the red. Deepening economic problems in the region contributed to the decision. In March 2003, however, The Weather Channel announced that it was developing a Spanish-language weather channel that would be aimed at the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the United States. The latter move exemplified Landmarks willingness to continue to pursue new, innovative ventures. While not all of the companys ventures proved successful, Landmark had managed over the 1980s and 1990s to add two major businessesThe Weather Channel and Trader Publishingto its core operations in newspapers and television stations. Given the companys track record, successes of a similar magnitude seemed likely in the future.

Principal Subsidiaries

Continental Broadband LLC; KLAS-TV; Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc.; Landmark Education Services, Inc.; Landmark Travel Channel Limited (U.K.); News & Record, NewsChannel 5 Network; Roanoke Times, Shorecliff Communications LLC; Virginian-Pilot; The Weather Channel, Inc.

Principal Operating Units

Landmark Broadcasting; Landmark Communications; Landmark Publishing Group.

Principal Competitors

Media General, Inc.; Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.; Knight Ridder, Inc.; Gannett Co., Inc.; Tribune Company; The Washington Post Company.

Further Reading

Batten, Frank, and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of a Media Phenomenon, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002, 276 p.

Cunningham, Dwight, School Spirit Pays Off Big-Time for Landmark Pubs, Editor and Publisher, December 18, 1999, p. 14.

Dinsmore, Christopher, Landmark President and CEO to Pass Leadership Torch, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, May 23, 2001, p. D1.

, Landmark Sells Billboard Subsidiary, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, June 5, 2002, p. D1.

, Landmark to Close Second Business in Three Months, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, December 4, 2001, p. D1.

, Norfolk Publisher to Expand: Deal Would Make Trader Publisher One of the Largest Firms Based Here, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, May 10, 2000, p. D1.

, The Weather Channel Turns 20, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, May 2, 2002, p. D1.

E. B. Jefress, 75, Dies, New York Times, May 24, 1961, p. 41.

Elliott, Stuart, Defying the Skeptics, the Weather Channel Finds a Silver Lining in Mother Natures Mood Swings, New York Times, June 9, 1993, p. D19.

, Seven Agencies Help Finance Study, New York Times, September 4, 1994, p. D15.

Fates & FortunesJohn O. Wynne, Broadcasting, November 2, 1992, p. 77.

Garneau, George, Another Way to Go Online, Editor and Publisher, June 24, 1995, p. 24.

, The Move to Alternative DeliveryA Success Story, Editor and Publisher, December 15, 1990, pp. 89.

Gersh, Debra, Landmark Acquires Marcol, Editor and Publisher, August 19, 1989, pp. 1314.

Günther, Marc, The Weather Channel: Hot Enough for Ya?, Fortune, October 25, 1999, pp. 46 +.

Kolbert, Elizabeth, Conflict, Fury, Highs, Lows and Humidity, New York Times, February 14, 1993, pp. 29, 38.

Linda, Kent, and Moss Gibbons, Paxson Deal Puts End to Travel Nightmare, Multichannel News, June 23, 1997, p. 1.

Mayfield, Dave, Gannett Buys Stake in InfiNet, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, February 15, 1996, p. D1.

, Knight-Ridder Buys into InfiNet, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, June 8, 1995, p. D1.

Meeks, Fleming, What Brand Is Your Weather?, Forbes, October 23, 1994, p. 320.

Mehta, Stephanie N., Small Fish Seek the Big As Internet Industry Consolidates, Wall Street Journal, June 24, 1994, p. B3.

Moses, Lucia, Internet Access Business Loses Luster for Papers, Editor and Publisher, February 27, 1999, pp. 2021.

Other Fields Are Just As Green to Frank Batten, Broadcasting, July 19, 1982, p. 95.

Patsuris, Penelope, Wild About the Weather, TV Guide, September 5, 1992, p. 24.

PersonalsJohn Wynne, TV Digest, October 26, 1992, p. 10.

Promotion Information Management, Advertising Age, January 18, 1993, p. 38.

Robichaux, Mark, If Snow Is Forecast, the Tour of Tahiti Will Be Irresistible, Wall Street Journal, January 16, 1992, p. B3.

Ross, Andrew, Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits, London: Verso Press, 1991, pp. 23746.

Samuel L. Slover, Virginia Publisher (obituary), New York Times, November 30, 1959, p. 31.

Summary Scan! Sold, Advertising Age, May 18, 1992, p. 37.

Swift, Earl, The Final Edition: The Ledger-Star Stops the Presses After 119 Years, Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot, August 25, 1995, p. A1.

Wagner, Lon, Newspaper Leader Hands Company Over to Son, Roanoke (Va.) Times & World News, December 17, 1997, p. A13.

The Weather Channel to Expand, Adweek, July 18, 1994, p. 12.

Williams, Debra Abe, Taking a Safari on the Internet, Advertising Age, September 5, 1994, p. 14.

Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf

update: David E. Salamie

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"Landmark Communications, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Landmark Communications, Inc.

Landmark Communications, Inc.

150 W. Brambleton Avenue
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
U.S.A.
(804) 446-2000
Fax: (804) 446-2489

Private Company
Incorporated:
1865
Employees: 4,400
Sales: $467 million
SICs: 2711 Newspaper Publishing & Printing; 2721
Periodical Publishing & Printing; 2741 Photo Guide &
Classified Advertising Publications; 2752 Commercial
Printing, Lithographic; 2759 Broadcasting & Cable
Programming; 4832 Radio Broadcasting; 4833 Television
Broadcasting; 4841 Cable & Other Pay Television
Services; 4899 Communication Services, Not Elsewhere
Classified

Landmark Communications, Inc.s diverse media holdings extend into virtually every vestige of American life, reaching more than 55 million homes in 50 states through radio, television, newspapers and magazines, as well homes in the United Kingdom and Scandanavia through its European cable television channel. According to Advertising Ages 1994 edition of the 100 Leading Media Companies in the United States, the Norfolk-based Landmark ranked 46th, climbing up a notch from 1993 with a six percent increase in total earnings. Though the bulk of Landmarks revenue came from its metropolitan newspapers (the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star, Norfolk, Virginia; the News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina; and the Roanoke Times & World-News, Roanoke, Virginia), television proceeds and recognition have steadily climbed since the launch of The Weather Channel and acquisition of The Travel Channel, KLAS-TV (Las Vegas), and WTVF (Nashville). Additionally, 75 community newspapers and specialty publications like Antique Trader Weekly, The Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, Military Trader, and Toy Trader maintain a stable readership. Landmark has also continued to explore other media ventures, co-owning Trader Publishing Company (a producer of classified publications, primarily automobile, located in Norfolk) and Capital-Gazette Communications, Inc. in Annapolis (publisher of the Washingtonian magazine and newspapers, including the Annapolis Capital). Expansions in the mid-1990s included Promotion Information Management, a business-to-business marketing service, and exploration of the Internet via InfiNet (a joint venture) and multimedia offerings on the Travel Channel. In 1994, Landmark launched Travel, based in London, with cable service throughout Great Britain and Scandanavia.

Landmark was founded by Samuel Leroy Slover, an enterprising gentleman immersed in the Virginia newspaper business for 55 years. A native of Tennessee, Slover migrated to Virginia in 1904, hoping to change his fortune. He had been the 20-year-old business manager of the financially troubled Knoxville Journal. Despite his efforts, the paper went bankrupt and Slover, then 22, assumed its liabilities ($36,400) as a debt of honor. After arriving in Virginia, Slover sold ads for a New York trade journal before approaching the well-connected Joseph Bryan, owner of the Richmond Times, for a loan to purchase a newspaper in neighboring Norfolk. Bryan, aghast, refused the young man. Slover, undaunted, asked to sell advertising for the Times. When he received a second rejection, Slover tried another tack: what if he sold ads, on a commission basis, to area merchants who were not current clients? With this proposition, Bryan had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so he accepted the offer and was soon rewarded with a multitude of new advertisers.

It was then Bryans turn to make an offer to Sloverrescue a Newport newspaper from going under within one year and gain half interest in its ownership. Samuel took the challenge, triumphed, and was named publisher of the Newport Times-Herald. In 1909, relinquishing his title as publisher, Slover moved on to papers in Richmond, Petersburg and other cities in southeast Virginia.

During the next several decades, he dominated the states newspaper trade, owning outright or controlling six of Virginias biggest papers. His modus operandi was to swoop in and rescue an ailing paper, nurse it from red to black ink, then move on. Through Slovers machinations, small, struggling papers were often merged together to create large, healthier ones, usually resulting in hyphenated names like two of Landmarks backbone publications, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star.

By centering his company, Norfolk Newspapers Inc., near a major military installation, Slover capitalized on the regions immense growth, not only with newspapers, but other media as well. In 1930, as the Depression deepened, Slover took a gamble and purchased Norfolks WTAR-AM, Virginias first radio station, for $10,000. Though many had little faith in the sensibility of an aural medium and even less in another experimental medium, television, Slover believed in both and was later responsible for bringing Virginia its second television station.

Throughout Slovers career, his exploits would prove both interesting and educational to his young nephew, Frank Batten, who joined the Slover household after the death of his father, Frank Batten, Sr., when the youngster was only two years old.

After serving in the merchant marines during World War II, Batten graduated from the University of Virginia in 1950 and received an MBA from Harvard in 1952. His initiation into the business world was fast and furious: he began as a reporter for the Ledger-Star, moved to the circulation and advertising departments of the Ledger-Star and Virginian-Pilot, progressed to vice-president in 1953, and was appointed publisher by Slover at the age of 27 in 1954. Having absorbed much under the tutelage of his uncle and mentor, Batten learned the ropes in record timeaccelerating his pivotal role in Norfolk Newspapers Inc., the forerunner of Landmark Communications. While Batten settled into his role as publisher of two of the areas most prosperous newspapers, Slover, 81, slowed down and contemplated retirement. He also sought to share the fruits of his illustrious career, by liberally offering stock to his employees. With Batten at the helm a mere five years, Samuel L. Slover died in 1959, at age 86, leaving Batten a vast legacy.

Like his uncle before him, Battens prescience would firmly move Landmark into the future: just as Slover had envisioned the many possibilities of radio and television, Batten had been studying an extension of traditional television called cable programming. Batten considered cable a medium with vast potential and decided to invest in its promise. Within a year of his initial interest, in 1964, Batten acquired two cable franchisesone in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and a second in Beckley, West Virginia. These two stations were the cornerstone for the development of the TeleCable Corporation, of Greensboro, North Carolina, which would eventually operate 21 cable systems in 15 states, reaching 740,000 subscribers nationwide. TeleCables success led to a bountiful opportunity for Landmark stockholders in 1984, when it was spun off into an independent corporation. In late 1994, an offer of more than $1 billion in stock was made by rival TCI (Tele-Communications Inc.), the largest cable-TV operator in the United States, to acquire TeleCables assets. The deal was closed in January 1995.

In 1965, Batten further expanded the company by purchasing the Greensboro Daily News, The Greensboro Record, and a television station, WFMY-TV, all owned by the prominent Jeffress family. Landmark later combined the Greensboro papers into the Greensboro News & Record, which celebrated its centennial in 1990, and sold WFMY-TV. Two years after the Greensboro acquisitions, in 1967, Batten was named Landmarks chairman of the board. Within another two years, he was on the move again, this time acquiring the Roanoke Times & World-News in Virginias third largest market (combined daily and Sunday circulation of over 240,000), bringing the Norfolk-based companys metro newspaper holdings to four. In the 1970s, Landmark also became home to community papers as well, including four dailies (Carroll County Times, Citrus County Chronicle, News-Enterprise, and Los Alamos Monitor); four tri-weeklies (The Gazette, Lancaster News, Kentucky Standard, andRoane County News) \ six semi-weeklies; 21 weeklies and 38 free shoppers available throughout the region and beyond.

In 1978, Landmark departed from its tradition of local and regional expansion by taking a leap to the West Coast, acquiring two television stations: KNTV in San Jose, for $24.5 million and KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, for $8 million. Though KNTV was later sold, KLAS, a CBS affiliate, became Las Vegass top-ranked news station with 351,000 households, while another television acquisition, CBS-affiliate WTVF in Nashville, known as NewsChannel 5 (purchased in 1992) delivered award-winning specials and highly-rated newscasts to 738,000 households. WTVF was also known for another distinction the hiring of a college student in 1974 who went on to conquer the media industryOprah Winfrey.

Three years later, still seeking opportunities to expand the company in both scope and value, Batten considered another leap this one into the national broadcasting arena. In 1981, the Landmark think-tank developed what is probably regarded as the companys greatest achievementa 24-hour cable weather service called The Weather Channel. In less than 10 months, plans progressed from paper to programming reality. The Weather Channel was the most challenging task we had undertaken, Batten admitted. It was Landmarks first national venture, with all the complexities of marketing and distribution a national enterprise must consider. Despite jitters and numerous naysayers from within and outside the industry, Landmark was determined to live up to its name while also providing the quality of the major networks. On May 2, 1982, the Weather Channel (TWC) officially debuted, with the expressed purpose of becoming the nations primary source of weather information.

Part of TWCs success was its universalization of the weather. Because everyone was affected by Mother Naturean uncontrollable forceviewers could at least tune in, be informed, and prepare, which constituted a form of control in itself. Subscribers also appreciated TWCs format and flow: Viewers can find a constantly varied presentation of scientific information, friendly advice, and spontaneous philosophy, said Andrew Ross, in his 1991 book, Strange Weather: Culture, Science and Technology in the Age of Limits. Moreover, with programming Ross called accessible, concrete displays of otherwise abstract weather events, viewers kept coming back for more, especially during catastrophic weather. Ratings skyrocketed during August 1991, as Hurricane Bob terrorized the coast; in March 1993 with the Northeasts unexpected blizzard; and again in December of the same year when snow once again threatened the East Coast.

TWC became a staple of contemporary programming, with what Batten termed one of the most loyal consumer audiences in television. Numbers proved him correct: at any given moment in the mid-1990s 130,000 homes tuned in, while TWC programming was available to 56.7 million households that regularly watched its early morning and evening local forecasts, as well as a multitude of regular features (Boat & Beach Reports, Business Travelers Reports, International Forecast, Mi-chelin Drivers Report, and Schoolday Forecast) and specials about weather-related health matters or seasonal hazards like hurricanes and tornados. TWC was available in 90 percent of all homes with cable television in 1995.

In 1990, Michael Eckert took over as president of what became Landmarks Video Networks and Enterprises Division. From 1991 through 1993, Paul FitzPatrick, formerly of C-Span, was The Weather Channels president and chief operating officer. During that time, TWCs viewership increased from 48 to 56.7 million. By 1994, TWCs staff of 325 employees (65 as on-camera meteorologists or OCMs) used over $20 million worth of specialized equipment to ply their trade, including the state-of-the-art Weather STAR system, implemented in late 1993. The STAR system allowed TWC to insert local forecasts for the United Statess 750 weather zones, along with tags from local advertisers, into the channels continuous transmission.

Once TWC was firmly into black ink, its skeptics and detractors were silenced; but just until Landmarks next national undertaking, The Travel Channel (TTC). Founded in 1987 by Trans World Airlines to help sell tickets and regarded as the bane of the cable industry for its blatant self-promotion, Landmark acquired a 97-percent share of TTC in 1992 for $50 million. Though TTC had never shown a profit and continued to lose $7 million annually, Landmark increased its stagnate viewership by 2.5 million during a conceited media campaign in 1993. Up to 20 million in 1994, Landmark hoped selling TWC and TTC as a team would bolster subscribers even more. Both the Travel and Weather channels have won the attention of their peers and received cable ACE awards; in 1991, the Weather Channel was given the industrys highest programming accolade, the Golden ACE.

As the 1990s advanced, Landmark initiated the first of several new ventures, each in different directions. Mid-May of 1992 marked the acquisition of the nine-year-old Summary Scan! (renamed Promotion Information Management [PIM] in 1993), a tracking service of print media promotions (in-store circulars, coupons, direct mail, etc.) for packaged-goods manufacturers. Purchased from the Chicago-based Advertising Checking Bureau, PIM maintained offices in both Chicago and Overland Park, Kansas, selling its findings to customers on a weekly or monthly basis.

This year was also pivotal for personnel, as John O. Wynne was named corporate CEO in addition to his duties as Landmarks president; and E. Roger Williams joined The Travel Channel as president (and later CEO) after leaving ESPN. In 1994, Douglas Fox, formerly vice-president of marketing for the Times-Mirror Newspaper Group, was named COO for Landmark.

In the fall of 1993, further demonstrating its progressive nature and support of the underdog, Landmarks TeleCable Corp. was one of six cable operators agreeing to carry the new Fox networks programming in the fall of 1993. In June of 1994, the company went online by forming a joint venture (70 percent ownership) with another Norfolk-based company, Wyvern Technologies Inc., to create InfiNet, a service bringing Virginia subscribers access to the Internet. In a related move in September, the Travel Channel and Gramercy Pictures teamed up on the Internet to publicize a new movie, offer prizes and promote TTCs programming. At the same time, the Weather Channel was in the news too: CEO Michael Eckert announced plans for international expansion, and was also one of seven agencies financing a study in Central and South America on the media habits (reading, viewing, consumption) of 5,800 subjects in 19 Latin American countries.

In February 1994, Travel began in London. In 1995, it served nearly one million cable households throughout the United Kingdom and all of Scandanavia. Despite national and international expansion, Landmark remained committed to its roots the local and regional customers who have always been the foundation of the company. To continue meeting their needs, Our managers must have room to grow and freedom to respond to their audiences and communities, chairman Batten explained. I dont want the future of the papers and stations we own to be dependent on me or a corporate staff. Most of our enterprises are local. They should have roots and personalities reflecting their communities.

In May 1995, Landmark announced plans to expand further internationally by launching a new Travel Channel for Latin America, which would appeal, according to a press release, not only to those who travel, but to those who are interested in learning about the world. The company expected the new channel, based in Miami, to be on the air by October 1995. Another announcement during this time concerned the formation of a joint venture between Landmark and Knight-Ridder, Inc. The new company, InfiNet, was formed to help newspapers into the Internet access and electronic publishing businesses, according to a Landmark press release. A Landmark spokesperson noted that InfiNet would help newspapers establish services on the World Wide Web without their making a capital investment and provides an immediate revenue stream to publishers as a share of access fees.

By keeping one foot planted firmly in the past (reflecting the values and philosophy espoused by Samuel Slover) and the other stepping into the future, Landmark hoped to maintain its edge, its on-going quest for quality and the loyalty of its constituents. With competition heating up and technology changing fast, the media that succeed will be the ones that build competitive advantage, Batten declared. We have undertaken a systematic effort to be the most productive media in our markets and the best in responding to customers. Current president and CEO John Wynne concurred: all of us... are guided by this single mission: to pursue excellence in our products, our customer service and ourselves.

Principal Subsidiaries

News & Record;

KLAS-TV; Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc.; Landmark Special Publications, Inc.; Promotion Information Management; The Roanoke Times & World-News-, The Travel Channel; The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star, The Weather Channel; WTVF (TV).

Further Reading

Davidson, Joe, FTC Studies TCFs Proposed Purchase of TeleCable Corp., The Wall Street Journal, October 18, 1994, p. A5.

E.B. Jefress, 75, Dies, The New York Times, May 24, 1961, p. 41.

Eisenhart, Tom, People to Watch, Advertising Age, April 8, 1991, p. 42.

Elliott, Stuart, Defying the Skeptics, the Weather Channel Finds a Silver Lining in Mother Natures Mood Swings, The New York Times, June 9, 1993, p. D19.

Elliott, Stuart, Seven Agencies Help Finance Study, The New York Times, September 4, 1994, p. D15.

Fates & FortunesJohn O. Wynne, Broadcasting, November 2, 1992, p. 77.

Garneau, George, The Move to Alternative DeliveryA Success Story, Editor & Publisher, December 15, 1990, pp. 89.

Gersh, Debra, Landmark Acquires Marcol, Editor & Publisher, August 19, 1989, pp. 1314.

In BriefLandmark Adds Travel to Weather, Broadcasting, March 23, 1992, p. 97.

Kolbert, Elizabeth, Conflict, Fury, Highs, Lows and Humidity, The New York Times, February, 14, 1993, p. 29, 38.

Media MovesE. Roger Williams, Advertising Age, March 30, 1992, p. 8.

Mehta, Stephanie N., Small Fish Seek the Big as Internet Industry Consolidates, The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 1994, p. B3.

100 Leading Media Companies, Advertising Age, June 30, 1986, p. S-45.

100 Leading Media Companies, Advertising Age, August 8, 1994, p. S-2.

Other Fields are Just as Green to Frank Batten, Broadcasting, July 19, 1982, p. 95.

Patsuris, Penelope, Wild About the Weather, TV Guide, September 5, 1992, p. 24.

PersonalsJohn Wynne, TV Digest, October 26, 1992, p. 10.

Program NotesWeather Channel, TV Digest, October 11, 1992, p. 10.

Promotion Information Management, Advertising Age, January 18, 1993, p. 38.

Robichaux, Mark, If Snow is Forecast, the Tour of Tahiti Will be Irresistible, The Wall Street Journal, January 16, 1992, p. B3.

Robichaux, Mark, and Novak, Viveca, TCI Expected to Get FTC Approval for its Bid to Acquire TeleCable Assets, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 1994, p. A2, A8.

Ross, Andrew, Strange Weather: Culture, Science and Technology in the Age of Limits, London: Verso Press, 1991, pp. 23746.

Samuel L. Slover, Virginia Publisher, (obituary) The New York Times, November, 30, 1959, p. 31.

Six Cable Operators Agree to Air New Fox Network, The Wall Street Journal, August 2, 1993, p.B3.

Summary Scan! Sold, Advertising Age, May 18, 1992, p. 37.

TWA Agreed to Sell ..., TV Digest, January 20, 1992, p. 4.

The Weather Channel, MediaWeek, July 18, 1994, p. 6.

The Weather Channel to Expand, Adweek, July 18, 1994, p. 12.

Williams, Debra Abe, Taking a Safari on the Internet, Advertising Age, September 5, 1994, p. 14.

Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf

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