Wednesday, 12 December 2007

International Herald Tribune vs The New York Times?

The media correspondent of The Times of London published an interesting article yesterday on the IHT/NYT deal: The New York Times wants Reuters business news

"Reuters is in discussion with The New York Times about supplying business news to the American newspaper, after reaching a similar agreement with its sister title the International Herald Tribune .
The tie-ups are designed to augment both titles’ business coverage, in an attempt to fend off the competitive threat from
The Wall Street Journal , which is due to be acquired by News Corporation, the parent company of The Times, this week. Mike Oreskes, the Editor-in-Chief of the International Herald Tribune, said that while discussions with Reuters had been going on for several months – before the News Corp takeover of Dow Jones, the owner of The Wall Street Journal, looked likely to go through - “there was absolutely no question” that the move was also preemptive."

What's interesting about this article is the suggestion that somehow the IHT and Oreskes made a deal with Reuters, and only now are the NYT, as if it were some sort of separate entity, going to try and make a similar deal with Reuters.

This is a complete misunderstanding about the relationship between the IHT and the NYT since the NYT took complete ownership of the NYT. It's indeed true that back in the day, the IHT was pretty much left to its own devices, largely as a function of its joint and very much hands off ownership by the WP and the NYT. Essentially the ambition of these owners, then, was a) be a way of putting our journalism in front of international decision makers and hence augment the stature and access of our foreign correspondents b) don't lose more than a million or two dollars.

That loss, split between the two owners could be, de facto, written off as a cost of doing business for their foreign news coverage. A front page interview with President of France, for example, appearing in only the US print editions of the NYT or WP didn't have quite the same impact with the French elite (who, pre the Internet, could not so readily read those newspapers) as reading it over breakfast in their IHT.

How and why things changed is another tale to tell, but now the notion that the editor of the IHT could forge a deal of such importance with Reuters, and somehow the NYT would then come along and piggy back on the deal is absurd.

This deal is a NYT/Reuters deal, being road tested by the IHT.

There is way too much smoke and mirrors about all this, something the media editor of the London Times has fallen for hook, line and sinker.

Note to editors: the NYT don't just OWN the IHT, they RUN IT, editorially, commercially, at every level.

Anyway, here's the quote from Mr Oreskes provided by The Times media editor, just for the record: Oreskes "confirmed that there were “ongoing discussions” about a separate agreement to supply business news to The New York Times. He said that business coverage was critical to his audience: “We believe that the most important story in the world is not politics or sports, but the globalisation of business and of economics and we’ve been trying to upgrade the section steadily to reflect that.”

In plain English: I am not in charge here, speak with New York to get the full story.

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