Monday, 17 December 2007

A New Orleans outpost of the International Herald Tribune?

I was rather under the impression that the Times Picayune had come out of Katrina rather well, at least its reputation.

But New Orleans blogger and on the road IHT reader Maitri isn't so sure:

Here's what she said:

"While I braved maelstroms coming off the North Sea, a different storm raged back here - the so-called debate over public housing demolitions - which reached the eyes and ears of those in my Dutch midst thanks to their nation’s and others’ coverage of the situation. Here’s an idea for a demolition: let’s scrap the Times Picayune offices and replace it with the New Orleans business outpost of the International Herald Tribune. I learned more about here and the world from reading the IHT everyday, and missed only the TP’s Living and Obituaries section. A deal which meshes the best bits of the two papers can be arrived at, I am sure."
http://vatul.net/blog/index.php/1568/

Actually, it's not such a fantastical idea.

I remember once floating in some meeting or another the idea of doing local publishing partnerships with American newspapers. But of course that didn't fit with the NYT's then ever-growing expansion into the heartlands beyond Manhattan, as they road-tested - IMHO - an international NYT by first rolling-out the national edition of the NYT. (I think it was always a two step plan for the NYT: get the national edition up and running and then squeeze out the WP from the IHT and the world would fall at their feet.)

The NYT's plans for the IHT rested on hoping to do what the NYT did in the USA, very successfully. The idea in the States had been that if one worked out what type of people read the NYT in NY, it would then just be a question of finding those types of people throughout the USA and selling them the NYT.

So it was no surprise what the NYT then did, on acquiring the other 50% of the IHT.

They spent the best part of a million dollars on market research, hoping to confirm what their strategic planners probably thought. Which was that the NYT brand resonance would be as great internationally as it was in the USA.

Which it wasn't.

This enormously time consuming market research process was one of endless late hours for the commercial managers of the IHT, all of whom knew (because they happened to have worked in international publishing outside Manhattan for some time) that the brand resonance of the NYT, internationally, simply wasn't there in the same way that it was in the USA.

Nor were the lives of IHT employees much enhanced by many of their 'new colleagues' in Manhattan not fully appreciating that 4.oo pm there is the middle of the night in Paris.

Despite being advised of the small but rather important point that many people in Europe associated American media (rightly or wrongly) with crap culture, the NYT insisted on the market research project, asking existing IHT readers, inter alia, if they thought it would be a good idea to rename the paper the International NYT, or words to that affect.

Back came a resounding NO.

Which any number of IHT employees could have told them over a cup of Starbucks coffee, and for a lot less money than $1 million.

3 comments:

Maitri said...

My comment was partly tongue in cheek but it seems to have struck a chord with you. There are some very good journalists here, but it's a shame that since the beginning of the rebuilding process proper (early 2006), other national and international papers have reached a New Orleans story and/or performed investigative journalism way before the TP folks get to it. This is sad given that they are on the ground here and can give perspectives beyond the party line or parroting other papers. This is not to say that some fine pieces of journalism haven't come out of here; I simply point to the inadequacy and overall mediocre quality of the paper. On any given day, we refer to the Times Picayune as the TP (toilet paper) and, hence, rely on ourselves in the local blogosphere to ferret out the information.

Maitri said...

My comment was partly tongue in cheek but it seems to have struck a chord with you. There are some very good journalists here, but it's a shame that since the beginning of the rebuilding process proper (early 2006), other national and international papers have reached a New Orleans story and/or performed investigative journalism way before the TP folks get to it. This is sad given that they are on the ground here and can give perspectives beyond the party line or parroting other papers. This is not to say that some fine pieces of journalism haven't come out of here; I simply point to the inadequacy and overall mediocre quality of the paper. On any given day, we refer to the Times Picayune as the TP (toilet paper) and, hence, rely on ourselves in the local blogosphere to ferret out the information.

Ian said...

I did recognise your comment was partly tongue in cheek, and so was my posting - I used your comment to lead into a wider story behind why the IHT is not widely available in the U.S.A when it could be, and which many Americans - I believe - would welcome. Reading your local newspaper and the national edition of the NYT is quite a lot to digest. However your local newspaper with the compact IHT as its foreign news supplement - well, that would be quite a nice package. The only problem is that it would deter people from subscribing to the national edition of the NYT. However, if you received the IHT as part of your subscription to the TP, then my guess is that their circulation would go up rather nicely at a time of falling American newspaper circulations.