Saturday, 22 December 2007
It's been a fascinating month for me, learning about blogging, the blogosphere, and more about the International Herald Tribune.
I had been meaning to experiment with blogging for a long time, and this is the experiment, with over 80 posts in a month, in what one other blogger described as a 'somewhat obsessive manner'.
Clearly I can't keep up this pace - I don't have the time.
Nor am I even sure I want to keep blogging at all.
After all, all the observations I have made on this blog are ones that I would mostly make anyway, and not spend anytime having to write them up, for the benefit of who knows who: anyone?
I know the blog is being read by some people at the IHT, many of them senior, but they're not voting on my little polls to show they've been for a visit. Nor are they posting or emailing me (with three honourable exceptions - thanks to you!)
Nor am I being paid.
So what is the point?
I'll come back to that question in the New Year but for now I am signing off (temporarily or permanently - come back in January to find out).
I'll leave you with one of those all so popular lists that MSM love to publish at this time of year:
IHT Journalist of the Year: James Kanter
Best Section: Technology (last Thursday's Personal Tech page just one of many outstanding examples of the section and a great End User column by Victoria Shannon on a mobile phone gadget that measures your carbon imprint)
Best Columnist: Paul Krugman
Best IHT Attribute of the Year: Spotting the stories and then following them up
Best Balls-up: Calling Istanbul the capital of Turkey
Happy Christmas to everyone at the IHT, and its readers, but especially those pulling down the Christmas holiday shifts. We appreciate it and keep up the good work.
It's a fantastic newspaper that deserves to be what it aspires to be: The World's Daily Newspaper.
Finally, one last thought for the powers that be at the IHT: if it wants to succeed it has to succeed online, and to do that, it needs to create a real sense of community amongst its readers.
This blog is an example of the sort of thing that www.iht.com maybe needs - an online reader ombudsman featured on the home page.
You know where to find me...and besides, if I do carry this thing on, it would be helpful to have a copy editor knocking the Britishisms out of me.
My appeal for a job is tongue in cheek, but as an IHT reader I'd love to be able to read this blog myself and not have to spend the time writing it.
Happy Christmas one and all.
I've also blogged about bloggers riffing off MSM and MSM riffing off other MSM and I've blogged on the Reuters/IHT deal.
Which is why a small piece in last Tuesday's International Herald Tribune caught my eye.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS said it would sell its French language service to a group led by former Agence France-Presse executive with the financial backing of the French investment group Bollore. The AP said late Friday that it wanted to focus its business in France on producing text in English, as well as on pictures and television.
A few thoughts:
Firstly, there are investors out there who still think that in the relatively crowded wire market there is still room for another wire provider. Content is king.
Secondly, AP content is king at the IHT, because they use so much of it. Will they use less of it and more of Reuters wire copy, with the new deal, not just in the business section as announced, but elsewhere in the book? My guess is yes.
And finally, what do AP make of the Reuters deal?
Here's the kicker.
If you Google any subject, or Google International Herald Tribune, you are often going to come upon AP content.
In fact most of the IHT content blogged upon on any given day in the blogosphere is in fact not IHT generated content, but AP content.
But the brand that is quoted for the information as de facto being reliable is not AP, but the IHT.
So why don't AP do a deal, like Reuters have done with the IHT on business news, on ALL their content with ALL their clients - a share of ad revenue wherever their content ends up on the web, be it a MSM client site or someone who has linked to it (that technology is surely coming).
The AP brand is a business to business brand - at the moment - but strategically maybe they need to revisit that, and start promoting the AP brand as a consumer brand, because at the moment it is their clients who get the credibility kudos on their content, not AP itself.
Next big thing for 2008 in media? A major shake up of the business models of news wire providers.
What will all this mean for outlets like the IHT who are basically aggregating and selectors of information from people like Reutuers and AP, with a little of their own journalism thrown in plus the NYT people. They might have to surrender the credibility high ground brand ownership to the likes of AP, and concentrate more not on their own credibility but the editorial choices they make.
Watch this space...
A good example?
I mentioned in a previous blog an article on Christmas trees in Denmark. A few days later, tucked away at the bottom of the Briefing Column on page 15 of last Wednesday's IHT, I find this: The Danish Christmas Tree Growers Association, whose members are Europe's biggest exporters of holiday greenery, were accused by the national authorities of trying to rig prices.
That's it. But it's there, and it rounds off the news story of the original article that equated growing Christmas trees in Denmark to being like 'growing gold'. Now we can see why.
I could provide many examples of how well the IHT does this, but this one was pure gold.
But some are worthy of a special mention:
Last Wednesday's business section reported that total bonuses at Goldman Sachs for 2007 jumped 23 percent to a record $12.1 billion.
Thursday's front page reported that CEO of Morgan Stanley, who had announced a first quarterly loss of $3.59 billion, had announced that he wasn't going to take a bonus for 2007, in fact he was going to specifically ask the compensation committee that he would not accept one.
That's very big of him don't you think?
I wonder how the bonus regime is going at the IHT. Before American publisher Peter Goldmark came on board, high level compensation packages for senior execs were unheard of, but he introduced compensation packages allowing some senior execs, at least on the commercial side, to earn up to at least 75% of their annual salary (at least in my case, perhaps more for others).
One poor woman in finance lost her job for disclosing the enormous bonuses paid out to people like me by 'accidentally' leaving the information displayed on her computer screen. This at a time when Goldmark was cutting people and costs at every possible turn. The news on one senior exec's huge bonus did not go down well among the foot-soldiers in Neuilly.
Goldmark liked to use the sort of language that the folk over at ABN AMRO are fond of, as reported in last Thursday's IHT: "We have identified a number of overlaps and capabilities that no longer fit our strategic focus." Short hand for: we're going to fire a lot of you and we decided to let you know five days before Christmas.
Gotta love these folk.
Take this one for example, from last Wednesday's IHT.
An article Thursday about growing violence in eastern Congo carried a dateline that misstated (my emphasis) the name of the nation. The article was reported from Sake, which is in Congo, the former Zaire, and not its western neighbor, the Congo Republic.
Note to Copy Editors: must do better
Note to Foreign Correspondents: must know name of country I am reporting from.
For many years, the companies who advertised in the likes of the IHT, the FT, the Economist, WSJ etc, were obsessed with reaching this target audience, and it was winning advertising aimed at them that was the difference between the IHT being profitable or not.
As a result, the IHT did various things, particularly starting in 1999 to expand its readership in this audience sector, or at least try and improve its performance on the various readership surveys that measured them (how they did that is another story for another day). Editorially this meant beefing up the business news, hence the Bloomberg deal and what will be soon its replacement with Reuters.
The other thing the IHT did was to try and demonstrate that its readership was, if not strong on senior business decision makers (who largely read the FT as far as the international English-language press was concerned), strong on what they call Opinion Formers or Leaders. This is a wide group that includes journalists, members of government, academics etc.
It was hoped that if the IHT couldn't prove to advertisers it had the business readers, it could at least show it had the Opinion Formers.
Accordingly, just like the FT was the driving force behind the readership surveys that measure business readers (e.g EBRS), the IHT got off the ground their own 'independent' survey measuring European Opinion Formers. Although they still trailed the FT and The Economist, who quickly came on board as co-sponsors of this survey, they did a lot better on this survey than they did on the business readership surveys.
(For me, no surprise there: the IHT has never been the daily read of enough senior directors of large international companies, for the simple reason that if you are seen with your feet up in your office reading the FT or A.N .Other business title, you are seen as 'working'. Put your feet up with the IHT and the perception you project is quite different.)
Doing well on Opinion Former/Leader surveys is important: it helps land campaigns like the current one from Exxon.
But, unlike in the USA where public and corporate advocacy advertising is a much bigger sector, outside the USA it remains relatively small - for now.
(The folk at the NYT took a while to understand this btw, completely unable for a while to get their heads around the fact that department stores, movie companies and advocacy campaigns don't make up any sizeable sector in international advertising - as they do for the NYT.)
So what to do? The business advertising was/is going to the FT, the advocacy advertising just isn't out there in enough quantity and to make matters worse, more and more business reader aimed advertising was migrating to the web where it could be much more targeted by subject.
The IHT could always fall back on one of its key brand perceptions (other than that is for and read by Americans): that it is read by what is known as High Net Worth Individuals.
What's fascinating to observe, as the editorial increasingly speaks to the super rich, particularly in the back of the book (see the blog on the recent Top 50 Luxury destinations), is that the super rich have of course exploded onto the scene as never before - the result of hedge funds, private equity outfits, entrepeneurs and petrodollars from the Middle East to Russia.
HNWI are IN in a BIG way.
And that's all VERY good news for the IHT.
I know its near Christmas, which always weights this type of advertising, but let's take a look at the advertisers from last Tuesday's paper (Atlantic edition)
- Ritz Carlton Moscow (possibly barter as part of their hosting of the Luxury confernce)
- Georg Jensen (luxury watch)
- Seiko (their top of the line luxury watch)
- Nespross Machines (aimed at HNWI)
- Graf (luxury jewelers)
- LG mobile phones (again, their top of the line range aimed at HNWI)
- Tudor (luxury watch)
- Sir Winston (trendy upscale bar/club in Paris)
- Hublot (luxury watch)
- Moussaieff (luxury diamonds)
The only advertiser that falls within the traditional EBRS category is Turkish Airlines.
The question for IHT readers is this: is there a deliberate move away from EBRS/ABRS land and into an exclusive, upscale world of luxury advertisers, led by editorial of the type that Mr. Frommer was so interested in?
Are the publisher, editor, IHT marketing, editorial and advertising on the same page here?
Is this a new strategy? That is to say: Forget the boring business people and just focus on the needs, editorially and consumer habits, of the mega rich.
The mega-rich don't show up on surveys (because they don't take part and are hard to reach) and if the IHT brand can just project a sense, editorially, that the paper is aimed at them, could this be the way to IHT profitability?
Anwser: a mix of 'I don't know' and 'I doubt it' as far as everyone being on the same page - my guess is that some players on the commercial side could see this as a way forward; editorial resistant or only partly in agreement.
Certainly as far as the IHT's own brand advertising is concerned (they have dropped The Broader Business Perspective campaign, and replaced it with the 'I don't know what it's saying' campaign) there is no evidence (yet) that the IHT is trying to reposition itself back to its fin-de-siecle glory days of being just that - the paper of record for HNWI Europeans (and here I am talking c. 1900, not 2000).
One way or another there are several pulls on editorial and advertising and marketing, and as yet, there isn't evidence of a coherent strategy, at least not from what I can judge as an outsider.
But the IHT as a luxury brand? And the resulting editorial that might go with it?
It's an idea, but how many existing IHT readers, who are not HNWI and who would be lost along the way, would be a problem. Not an insuromountable one.
Here's how it could play out: go for widest possible demographic on www.iht.com, relying heavily on the brand's credibility and AP material - the traditional base of the general interest newspaper - and in print head off to HNWI land.
Charge more for the print edition, make it a brand status symbol for HNWI, and leave www.iht.com for the global masses.
Of course I have my own ideas as to what they should do and how it could be done, but I'm not being paid so I'll stop here for now.
The Business of Green is an inspired addition to the International Herald Tribune.
If the rubric helps attract 'green' adverts from the likes of Exxon (their quarter pages currently regularly appearing in the IHT - the content of which IMHO are risible) helps pay for this coverage, then all power to the advertising department.
In fact, these adverts from large corporations trying to project their green credentials are all part and parcel of a term I think is going to enter the MSM in 2008 - 'greenflation' - as journalists writing about the environment search around for 'the new vocabulary of green.'
The cost to business, and consumers, ranging from the cost of cutting car exhaust emissions (sorry, tailpipe) to the rules being imposed by the EU on airlines (both well covered this week by Kanter and Rosenthal) is I think going to be the next big thing in The Business of Green. Corporate image advertising on green issues is another cost to business that will contribute to greenflation.
My only concern about the IHT's coverage is Rosenthal.
Careful reading of some of her pieces indicates to me that this particular journalist is verging on, and I say only verging on, being unbalanced. My strong sense is that she is a 'true believer' in climate change.
I have no problem with that as an individual, but she is a news reporter, not a opinion former, and the weighting of some or her articles, and her story selection, is close to being unbalanced.
I have to say that's a gut feel, based on recent reading of her pieces, rather than the result of any quantitative and qualitative analysis, but I think she needs to pay attention to this.
Just to give you an flavour of what I am talking about, compare her piece last Thurday headlined EU to increase fishing quoats, rejecting scientists advice with the more balanced articles on ethanol in last Wednesday's paper (Food vs. Fuel: Ethanol blamed for higher grocery prices and U.S Ethanol plan may be just a dream)
Keeping fact separate from opinion or bias or lack of balance in news reporting is crucial for the credibility of the green movement. MSM must provide balanced news reporting if readers are to take these issues seriously.
(Vinocur's piece on how green rhetoric is not necessarily helping the cause was also a point well made.)
Robb Mitchell, an arts producer from Minnesota, remembers reading the IHT in the 1980s when he was a graduate student in London, so he has a long term perspective on the paper's history and evolution, clearly dipping into it when he travels. (Another American traveller/traveler/expat reader btw just for the record.)
Here's what he had to say:
"Most people living in London [in the 1980s] picked up the IHT to get box scores for the Major League Baseball World series in October, the Stanley Cup playoffs (I recall reading about Minnesota's 18 players beating the Russians and going onto win a gold metal in 1980 in the IHT), or tracking NFL football. I read it for the unique perspectives of the IHT columnists.
Yet, even with its play to homesick Americans, in many ways in the 1980s the IHT was better than the New York Times. Based in Paris, many of the American reporters and columnists had a distinctive world view. Writers were ex-pats who could see America through a prism of intimately knowing the country they grew up in and loved, yet, through distant lenses being separated from American daily life. The IHT always was a forward line in understanding the world reaction to America and it policies with the eyes and ears of foreigners.
I must add, however, I was a bit disappointed to see the current IHT running columns by Paul Krugman, Adam Cohn and Howard M. Wachtel about the CIA tape destruction scandal, Hillary and Bill stumping in Iowa, and the weakening American economy while drinking my morning coffee in Sao Paulo.
These New York Times regulars aren't living the life of an American in Paris. The publishers are simply repurposing the content written for the New York Times instead of seeking to provide a prism other than that which can be obtained from the NYT. This might be a recent devolution in the IHT's distinctive reporting and analysis since the New York Times became whole owner of the IHT in 2007 by buying out its partners.
Let's hope the Times editors and publishers see the value of an alternative world view other than one directed out of New York and written by New Yorkers with little day-to-day life experience overseas."
I've blogged on the weakness of the IHT's op-ed pages before, and the problem that they don't run their own editorials (I think Rob may be under the impression that the IHT at one point did run its own editorials - it never did; it was WP or NYT or Boston Globe editorials, the BG being a NYT property).
But too many of the opinion writers are, if not NYT, America-based columnists, at least Americans. Vinocur (American in Paris) is still going strong of course, Cohen (a Brit) is a good new addition, but the basic argument Rob makes is a good one.
I've nothing against the likes of Krugman et al, but the IHT needs to balance this with more Vinocurs and Cohens.
she "is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK's best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars."
She met Michael Golden last year and this is what she reports him as saying to her:
"Chuck [Kersher http://www.blogger.com/profile/04676592193683427920] also asserts that the New York Times has suffered as a paper since its focus has shifted to the internet. Have I got news for you Chuck, their focus has shifted to the internet because their business is shifting to the internet. I met the publisher of the International Herald Tribune last year, and their strategy was to grow the online business as quickly as possible. If they have five to 10 years to make that happen, he said the New York Times was OK. If they only had three to five years to do that, well, they might just be out of the journalism business, not just the 'newspapering' business."
That's interesting - taking Suw met Golden last year, the NYT has 2-4 years to make it as an online business or they might be out of business.
For example here's http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2007/12/eric-alterman-another-liberal-who.html on why Alterman is apparently another liberal who doesn't get it.
I leave it you dear reader...
An Indian blogger - The Media Dynamo - http://themediadynamo.blogspot.com/2007/12/when-international-herald-tribune.html
has provide an interesting summary of how the IHT managed to circumvent strict Indian rules on foreign media in India and the blog is worth quoting at length, because The Hindu newspaper is not happy about this.
Since May 31, 2004 a newspaper with the title International Herald Tribune started publishing out of India, from Hyderabad. It was printed from Deccan Chronicle's press on behalf of an Indian company Midram Publications Private Limited, owned by Deccan Chronicle's owner T. Venkattram Reddy. The paper carried the editor's name as MJ Akbar.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was caught unawares. Only when newspapers started reporting this fact did they wake up to the issue.
The Hindu seems to indicate that this type of publication is a violation of the existing laws in the country. According to the 1955 Cabinet Resolution, says The Hindu, "foreign newspapers and periodicals which dealt mainly with news and current affairs should not be allowed to bring out editions in India." In 2002, NDA Government allowed 26% equity stake in news media and upto 100% in entertainment media.
The Hindu further states
As for syndication laws, the Government in 2002 revised the guidelines to mandate that the total material so procured and printed in an issue of an Indian publication should not exceed 7.5 per cent of the total printed area of that issue. Further, the masthead of the content provider could not be used.
However, the Business Standard report indicates that the whole operation has been planned very meticulously.
- The company that is publishing the Indian version is a company regsitered in India, and fully owned by Indians.
- The name of the paper has been registered with the Registrar of Newspapers of India.
- To avoid copyright and trademark violations, the publishing company in India has obtained no-objection certificate from The International Herald Tribune.
- Only 7.5% of the content is sourced from The International Herald Tribune. The rest from various news agencies.
It is unclear what the masthead looks like. Having taken so much care, they would have ensured that the masthead is not the same as the one used internationally.
It appears from The Hindu news item that the I & B ministry officials are asking the IHT to withdraw from this arrangement. However, I cannot see how this is enforceable. One can also see the shades of reporting standards not being up to the mark: The Hindu resists foreign investment in print media, Business Standard welcomes it, and has sold 26% equity in its company to the London based The Financial Times."
For her top three she comes down in favour of Ming Pao or HK Economic Journal and Financial Times. Interestingly only one of these offers unrestricted free internet access.
The International Herald Tribune (read free on the internet it seems) "gives me in-depth analysis on international events and comments on various topics."
Without doubt, in the last couple of weeks the two articles that have generated the most chatter have been Elisabeth Rosenthal's article on the UN food report and the piece on December 13 on Italy. “In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment.”
Here's a flavour of the blog world on the Italian article posted by From Where I Sit in 11c http://seat11c.blogspot.com/2007/12/times-article-throws-italy-into-tizzy.html
reporting on how the article by Ian Fisher, the Rome correspondent of The New York Times, about a souring national mood in Italy and how it "hit a nerve, or did it hit a nerve? The article has been Topic A all over the country for a week now, in the papers and on TV, in political speeches and comedy routines, in taxicab chatter and church sermons, like nothing Mr. Fisher had seen before..."
One of the things www.iht.com does is measure the most popular articles by the 'most emailed' rubric on their site, but the editors of www.iht.com admit that this isn't really an accurate reflection of the most popular ones, because most people cut and paste articles into emails rather than use the function on their own site.
Wouldn't it be good if www.iht.com ran a most blogged about article in the last 24 hours list, plus give us a good link to a blog on the article concerned?
This is something I would like to do, but just don't have the time to do (nor am I paid to do, let's not be forgetting).
But it's easily enough down by searching on Google's Blog Search once every 24 hours.
Of course if www.iht.com would like to link this blog their site, and pay me for this sort of thing, I'm all ears, but somehow I don't think that's going to happen.....
Friday, 21 December 2007
Here's the noise, and an idea that anyone who has ever been the subject of a news story in the MSM will probably agree with:
There's another fatal flaw in the bigpub approach to journalism, that the reporter doesn't really need to know anything about the topic he or she is covering. If the reader doesn't know the technical details, the writer doesn't need to know either. But when I see the Times cover areas I am expert in, and miss the point completely, I wonder how well they're informing me in areas where I am a neophyte. I'm not from Missouri, I'm from Queens, but I still need to be shown that they are doing their jobs responsibly. I'm not impressed, so I look elsewhere for real news, and soon most other people with minds will too.
My bet with Martin Nisenholtz at the Times says that the tide has turned, and in five years, the publishing world will have changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want.
I loved this follow up comment:
"... our most trusted source on the biggest news stories of 2007 is a horde of nameless, faceless amateurs who are not required to prove expertise in the subjects they cover."
That's pretty much the definition of "journalist."
(Incidently, I speak from a position of authority, having hired many a nameless, faceless amateur who was not required to prove their expertise in the subjects they covered for many many years as a newspaper publisher.)
Here is a blogger into his photography and praising the power of photo journalism and he remarks he was able to only spot 'a couple' of pictures in the IHT's Special Report with that real WOW factor.
Exactly. Just a couple.
I thought the whole thing was a pretty strong indictment of the IHT's failings in the photo-journalism department. I know many people in the newspaper business who think the IHT just doesn't run good photos.
Of course they don't have their own staff photographers - they use NYT or any of the number of photo agencies - but the real problem is I think deeper. For many years, the IHT didn't even have a full-time photo-editor and it was a real mish-mash of people who made the call on what photos to use, many of them with no eye for good photo journalism.
Infamously, I recall 9/11 when, with hundreds of photo's to go with, then editor David Ignatius elected to put on the front page a grainy screen grab from a TV shot we had all already seen a hundred times before we got to 10/11.
I would agree with this photo blogger and say there are perhaps just a couple of really outstanding shots in the report which was just long enough to accommodate a double page spread advert from Nikon.
My guess is that the impetus for this special report came from advertising - and Nikon's ad agency - and the net result was a poorly conceived, poorly executed selection of photos. Were these REALLY the stand-out shots from 2007? Was someone in editorial a bit pissed-off at having to put this together at the request of an advertiser.
OK, lead paint on Thomas the Tank engine was a big story, but I don't think any of us need to see a picture of little Tom in the IHT's 2007 Year in Pictures. There are lots of good photo-journalism reviews of the year around at this time of year, and this isn't the one I will pull and keep for my scrap-book.
I don't wish to say that the photos run in the IHT haven't got a hole lot better in the last few years, but as this report shows, there is still some way to go.
And if a newspaper can't choose good photos for print, it sure ain't equipped to choose good ones for other media platforms which demand even more of them.
Question: do www.iht.com and the print edition share the same photo editors? My guess is no, but please do enlighten me.
Apcar was a guest speaker at the INSEAD Business Journalists Seminar held at the Asia campus in Singapore in October. You can read in full an article about his talk at http://knowledge.insead.edu/Apcar.cfm?vid=14
but here are the main take outs of things we can learn about the IHT and it's thinking:
- cannibalisation of print newspaper sales by the online paper had "happened around the edges", the paper's online presence has helped boost online readership growth and, consequently, online advertising.
- there is "very little overlap" among the readers of the online and print newspaper
readers of the online paper "want a different experience" and tend to use the "search-and-obtain" function of the Internet to scan the headlines or get a quick overview of the news.
- print edition readers are accustomed to a "lean back, open the paper and read" sensibility.
- "you can make up the difference of the subscription route by advertisements on the web, as readers come in greater volume,"
On Murdoch's acquisition of Dow Jones
- Murdoch faces strong competition from newspapers such as the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times.
- "Nobody will be easily pushed over. And he has to pick a spot.I don't think he can take us all on in every different way. Nobody's going to run away. It's a competitive playing field and we'll have to wait and see what his first moves will be".
- newsrooms around the world are "becoming truly platform-agnostic"
- journalists will have to employ much more diverse methods of reporting.
- "I always used to say when I was web editor ‘we've got to tell stories in ways the paper cannot tell them.'"
- blogs have added a lot to journalism, but says he thinks that they will be "succeeded by something else.”
- For instance, he believes the popularity of video blogs will continue to grow
- "We always have to remember that we are in the business of giving people information. And we're going to give it to them the way they want to get it. And if they want it on a particular device, we'll be there.”
My views on Apcar's comments are as follows:
- if he thinks Murdoch isn't capable of taking on the IHT, the FT, and NYT all at the same time, in every way, he's way, way off base;
- Murdoch is probably coming straight at the IHT if he has any smarts about him on international publishing. NYT Manhattan is focused on Manhattan (WSJ/NYT) but my guess Murdoch is focused on London and Paris (The Times of London/FT/IHT)
My friend made a number of good points and I'll try and sum them up as best I can.
Firstly, the decision to hold the conference on Luxury (now in it's 7th year and one of the IHT's most profitable franchises) in Moscow, was made over a year ago, clearly at a time when the IHT had no idea that it would be the week before the elections. Had they known the date of the Russian elections it is unlikely they would have held the conference the week before the Sunday's vote.
As for elections themselves, we were in agreement that the IHT's coverage of them, and Russia in general, has been very good.
Secondly, like it or not, the fashion business is an industry, and an industry with a turnover of billions of dollars. Why would one not expect the IHT to cover the industry, and as for following the money, what business, in this case their conference business, would or should not?
The participation of IHT senior journalists was, in this context, completely legitimate, and, as somebody who had attended the conference, my friend reported that the IHT editors that moderated various panel discussions were there as journalists, asking some tough questions (for example on ethics) and were not there simply as fawning talking-heads.
Interestingly, the IHT's conference on fashion has become one of the biggest in the industry, and it's not as if its competitors - like the Financial Times - aren't doing the same: the FT have done 4 or 5, most recently in Italy, again with the participation of their journalists on panels, such as Michael Wolf and Lionel Barber.
I hope that's a fair summary of my friends' viewpoint, and I have to say, I can't argue with much of it.
However, was the timing of the conference unfortunate?
Yes, IMHO, it was.
Should they have rescheduled when they knew the election date?
That's a tough call to make when you're trying to run a profitable newspaper, and luckily it wasn't on my watch that that decision had to be made or not.
Yes, the joys of being a blogger: you can shoot your mouth off, and you don't have to take any real responsibility for the institution, business or issue you are blogging about.
I think I'm going to have to revisit this issue of the IHT and Luxury & the readership group known in the advertising world as High Net Worth Individuals. More to ponder on, especially given my recent posting of Mr. Frommer's view on luxury travel.
Thursday, 20 December 2007
Mr. Frommer has taken a pretty dim view of "last weekend's New York Times travel section, and then spread out over part of seven more pages. Its headline read: "The 53 Places to Go in 2008." But instead of citing culture, history, natural wonders, political interest, or interaction with people, as the primary reason for its 53 geographical choices, it clearly implied that the arrival of upscale deluxe hotels was the main reason for visiting most of its nominees."
Mr. Frommer is not happy:
"If you, like many, are not interested in ultra-costly hotels, is there anything for you to read in the travel section of The New York Times? Precious little. I wonder whether any major editor of the Times scans those pages or is even faintly aware of what that section has become. As someone with a regard for travel, who looks upon travel as a precious birthright of our generation, I want to protest against what a new team of mindless poseurs have done to the once-esteemed travel pages of our leading newspaper."
I'm sorry, but I can't find the link to Mr. Frommer, and anyway, he's just got to be quoted in full because the IHT riffed from the NYT piece on December 10, 2007. http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/12/10/travel/09where.php
The 53 places to go in 2008 December 12, 2007
Over to you Mr. Frommer:
"St. Lucia? You go there because "big-name resorts with $1,000 rooms are on the way."
Verbier, in Switzerland? It "will get decidedly more upper class" when Richard Branson's latest chalet-hotel opens, charging "as little as £35,250 a week, well over $70,000."
Courchevel in the French Alps? Developers are upping the ante with "rustic-chic apartments starting at ... $1.95 million."And so it read on nearly all of the seven pages of its travel section. You went to Tunisia because it is undergoing a "luxury makeover" that will attract "well-heeled travelers;" to Laos for its "seriously upscale" hotels; to Prague, where the youth hostels are "being squeezed by luxe hotels;" to Munich for "cushy living;" to Playa Blanca in Panama where a "tres chic beach club" of Miami is opening a gated resort; to Rimini, Italy, currently drawing "style-conscious Romans to its?designer hotels;" to Kuwait City ("opulent hotels"); to Easter Island acquiring its "first luxury resort;" to Virgin Gorda, where a new resort will offer "weekly rates starting at $12,500;" or to Itacare, Brazil, visited by "celebrities and the elite of Rio de Janeiro."In no fewer than 34 of the 43 destinations listed in its printed travel section (the other 10 appeared online), luxury living was singled out as the obvious draw of the destination. The words "luxury," "upscale," "high end," "Ritz-Carlton," "lavish," "well-heeled," "ultra-exclusive," "high ticket," "chic," "upper class," "posh," "opulent," and the like, appear either repeatedly ("luxury" and "luxurious" are big favorites) or at least once in the great majority of write-ups; and the more noble goals of travel, a learning experience that expands understanding, are mainly dismissed in favor of the pleasures of discos and designer hotels."
I have to say I didn't even read the IHT piece because I knew I couldn't afford any of them anyway, and any where, in any list, of places to go in 2008/before you die/win the lottery/whatever are AUTOMATICALLY OFF my list of places to go for the precise reason that I am going to meet the "mindless poseurs" who read and write this rubbish.
I think Tyler B. had a similar list which I naturally skimmed then skipped for much the same reason and which included best bars and riveting info such as "best in-hotel gym."
But the IHT advertising department will be thrilled because when the show this type of copy to IHT SUPREME-LUXURY-MEGA-LOADED-CASHED-UP-WITH-RUSSIAN PETRODOLLAR-INCOME ADVERTISERS they go absolutely mad for it, and the luxury resort/watches/fashion advertising comes flying through the window.
How many IHT readers are or will be in agreement with Mr. Frommer, and how many will simply not understand what on earth he is talking about?
This has always been the IHT's central business problem: balancing who its readers ARE with who its advertising department WANT them to be.
How to square that circle is not so easy, because:
a) most of the Paris newsroom privately believes most of the readership is like them - modest income American expats;
b) the international advertising community want indigenous senior business decision makers at large companies for readers;
c) the circulation department just want to sell copies to whomever they damn well can;
d) the editor thinks the paper is read by the most powerful and influential people in the world (which it is, but who unfortunately do not buy large network computer systems or make decisions about which airline their government will use).
e) the strategic brains at the NYT know the world through visiting places on the list Mr. Frommer is so critical of, during their one one-week overseas vacation per year.
So what to do?
The problem is known as brand management, and the IHT, frankly, is completely at sea, has been for years and will continue to be so until someone in NY wakes up, smells the coffee, and realises that this baby ain't going to fly as a profitable business proposition without a lot more smart people and ideas on the job.
What we're seeing with this type of copy and the new back of the book concentration on travel and 'luxury' is an attempt to win advertising from new advertisers and be less reliant on the typical base of the IHT's potential advertisers - those wanting to reach international senior business decision makers. Who needs the latest corporate campaign from UPS when we can get enough pages from Rolex and resorts in St. Lucia?
The problem becomes that the newspaper, for readers, begins to fall between two stools.
It isn't the general interest read that provides the broader business perspective for senior international business decision makers and it isn't quite yet the newspaper of 'mark' (rather than record) to be seen with tucked under your arm at your St. Lucia resort.
Making the transition from something that never was (a newspaper of record for international business people - the FT did and do own that) to something that might still not deliver enough revenue (the newspaper for the luxury gang) is pretty tricky stuff.
I've always felt it would take the NYT about five years to realise some of these structural problems (which someone should have worked out or explained to them before they bought the IHT 100%), during which time they would pour just enough money in to make it better but without coming up with some really smart strategic thinking that would save the paper.
And by which time it would be too late and they would either then sell it to a vanity publisher or just accept that the paper is a cost of doing business for their foreign news desk and leave it at that.
We'll see.....2008 is going to be quite a year at the IHT.
Another thought: I thought Americans and American expats were supposed to be feeling the pinch from the fall in the value of the dollar.
Not according to the elitist travel editors at the IHT/NYT.
But is it credible?
Indeed our belief in the credibility of the International Herald Tribune is probably what makes us such loyal readers, and credibility has to be one of the IHT's central brand assets.
A blog about 'News Credibility, Media 2.0 and the Social Media Revolution', NewsCred Blog, http://blog.newscred.com/?p=52 claims that "a Google Ad that was automatically served up when I looked up the definition online" and the advert was for the IHT!
I tried (twice) the reference source NewsCred Blog mentioned (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language http://www.bartleby.com/61/) and no IHT advert popped up.
Leaving this credibility gap aside, I did find NewsCred's posting interesting. They had run an on-line survey, and asked their readers to "try and define ‘Credibility’ in a few words? Go ahead, be creative."
Here is a list of "the most interesting responses, in random order" that NewsCred received:
Reliability, authenticity, gung ho?
Credibility is to remove of doubt/confusion
Information that is believable and realistic
A time-proven reputation for accuracy and fairness
Telling the truth all the time
Whom we can trust and believe…
Is the information verifiable from other sources
Reliable, absolutely true to the facts
Facts identified as true traced to primary source
Disposition of honesty, integrity and consistency
Something i can believe and trust
Trustworthy, objective, fact-based
The validity of facts; the actual truth
Well sourced, within a context, siteable
The foundation our beliefs are built on
News is authentic, sources well cited
The result of an honest work.
Inverse of propaganda
Something you can rely on, you can trust
Can be corroborated by multiple independent agents
Diversity of news (not just US or Euro-centric)
Calm tone/language; believability; trustworthiness
Something that is not a lie nor made up
Having a unbiased and factual quality
Reliable, Trustworthy and Honest
Trustworthy, unbiased, innovative not fictitious
The measure of how believable something is.
I think the IHT stacks up pretty well against that list, but then I am a fan.
Anyway, for those nostalgic for the Wells/Wells days, here's a book review of Patricia's latest book.
The Demotivationsist seems to think so and wonders why.
Personally I think it's nonsense: there are frequent editorials against tax breaks for the super rich in the USA, but then you only have to read their coverage on travel, luxury and style to know that they hardly 'pick on them'.
Anyway, here's what http://demotivationist.blogspot.com/2007/12/everyday-i-read-new-york-times-and.html has to say:
"Everyday I read The New York Times, and everyday I ask myself why? This paper, run by billionaire Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., whose family owns more than 19 percent of the company, comes up with new ways to attack his friends—the rich—everyday. And, what I find most surprising is that his rich friends are still prepared to talk to him."
Andy Abramson, co-host of the "World Technology RoundUp" on a daily basis and the weekly audio magazine, "Speculations" with Ken Rutkowski on KenRadio (http://www.kenradio.com) and CEO of Comunicano, Inc. an advertising, marketing and public relations agency, based in Del Mar, CA, tells you how at http://andyabramson.blogs.com/voipwatch/2007/12/in-the-internat.html
To see the result check-out http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/12/20/america/NA-FEA-TRV-Airline-Beds.php
What's interesting is how he reveals that the AP piece the IHT used first appeared in USA Today, then on CNN Money and TWO WEEKS LATER in the IHT.
I have to say, that wasn't the take out I got from her excellent piece but here's what American Thinker is saying:
Violent religion?; Anita Inder Singh, London (Nationality: Swedish)
Bio: Anita Inder Singh, D. Phil., University of Oxford, is (or was) Fellow in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is a Swedish citizen. She is also is (or was) Ford Foundation Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is a writer on international affairs and has published, among others, Democracy, Ethnic Diversity and Security in Post-communist Europe.
Previous letters: http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/11/01/opinion/edlet.t.php ? (sent from New Delhi, November 1, 2005
IHT Blogs: Managing Globalization Blog, Q&A with Jeffrey Sachs http://blogs.iht.com/tribtalk/business/globalization/?p=216
Russia and the West; Michael Averko Malverne Park, New York (Nationality: French?)
Letter to NYT, January 20, 1995 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE2DB103FF933A15752C0A963958260
Letter to WSJ, February 9, 2005
Dealing with dictators; Bernard Henry, Suresnes, France
Bio: Not clear - some suggestion he may be a teacher and FN supporter, but this is entirely supposition based on Google searching.
Which Clinton is running? Robert F. Illing, Porto, Portugal (Nationality: American?)
Bio: Academic? Associated with Instituto Portugues de Heraldica; Alumni of Berkley Class of '55?; Friend of the Bancroft Library?
Letter to NYT, June 8, 1985 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DEEDD143DF933A15755C0A960948260
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
If you sent a letter to the IHT and is wasn't published, send it to email@example.com and I'll try and see if I can find a place for it.
3-5 letters a day isn't much space in the paper, and http://www.iht.com/ doesn't make much more.
Also the IHT doesn't like to tell us who their readers are, so where possible, and within a reasonable certainty, I'll try and tell you, up until the IHT adopts the same transparent policy as the FT.
If you are one of the featured letter writers and I have your bio details wrong, or you would like to add to them, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday's letters: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/12/18/opinion/edlet.php
The sinking dollar; John E. Casnellie, Porto, Portugal (Nationality: ?)
Bio: Last letter to the IHT - August 2, 3007 re Robots: The future of personal tech?" (July 28)
New teaching models; Carlos Pomalaza-Ráez Oulu, Finland (Nationality: ?)
Bio: Dr. Carlos Pomalaza-Ráez is an electrical engineering professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, USA. Currently, under the auspices of a Nokia-Fulbright Scholar Award, he is a visiting professor at the Centre for Wireless Communications, University of Oulu, Finland. http://www.cwc.oulu.fi/home/biocarlos.html
The wrong analogy? G. van Benthem van den Bergh, The Hague (Nationality: Dutch)
Bio: In his seventies (Born Jan 27, 1933) Professor G. van Benthem van den Bergh is (or was) a member of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs, an advisory body for the Dutch government and parliament. He is (or was) a Professor at the University of Rotterdam.
NOTE TO ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT: Spot the EBRS/ABRS readers.
He invites you to 'read them over them and let me know if I’m onto something here or if I’m just on something.'
You can reach him at MJC@LandforaCause.com)
Here are the three articles:
Peters Gellings December 5th article on Indonesian Deforestation :
Elizabeth Martin on December 17th from Rome:
Andrew Martin on the 18th of this month:
"In reading about the new rules passed by the Feds to tighten lending standards, I noticed something very interesting. In the initial New York Times story written by David Stoudt about 1:00 pm (and no longer available on the main NYT site, but still available on the International Herald Tribune (the international paper which is owned by the NYT and shares its correspondents)
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday proposed new rules intended to protect would-be home buyers from unscrupulous lenders and, in a sense, from themselves.
Reacting to the crisis spawned by the proliferation of subprime mortgages to people who could not afford them, the Federal Reserve Board voted, 5 to 0, to endorse several protections for those thinking of getting “higher-priced mortgage loans.”
But at 4:26 p.m. an updated version of the story, this time co-written by Edmund Andrews and David Stoudt that was almost identical to the earlier story, but with this language.
Federal Reserve moved Tuesday to impose new restrictions intended to curb unfair and deceptive home-lending practices and prevent a recurrence of this year’s meltdown in subprime mortgages.
By a 5-to-0 vote, the Fed approved a plan that would tighten provisions meant to protect borrowers and apply them to a far larger share of home loans — whether from banks, mortgage companies or other lenders — than under current regulations."
The Ankle Biter invites readers to spot the difference and goes to suggest some reasons why the changes were made.
The blog Russia in the media: Reviews of Russia coverage in English language media http://fkriuk.blogspot.com/2007/12/brave-kremlinologist-too-bad-for-him.html
takes exception to the piece and provides an alternative view, accusing the two 'Kreminologists of lies' in their use of statistics.
Equally interesting are the postings in defence of the two contributors to the IHT's piece. Here's a flavour of them:
I don't think you understand the meaning of the word "source." First of all, you can't just say "Rosstat." You have to give a link to the specific published information you cite, only then does it become a "source." Most high school students are aware of this requirement. Second, if I'm not mistaken "Rosstat" is part of the Russian government, which would have a motive to fudge data that makes them look bad. So it's quite possible that the author you discuss is relying on some other source, and you give no explanation as to why you think the Russian government can be believed.People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Your claims are at least as shoddy as those you purport to expose.
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
I am at a loss. The question is: will I go onto www.iht.com and take a look?
I once told David Ignatius, a previous editor of the IHT, that my postal subscription to the IHT arrived at my home in rural England mostly on Day B or C.
He seemed surprised that it could still be of much interest or value to me, arriving so late.
But I think he underestimated the appeal of his own newspaper: so much of the content is non-day specific.
As to the web there are many other better resourced, better staffed 24/7 news web sites if you want fresh bread (the BBC's International edition website for example or just a direct feed to AP).
I don't actually want fresh bread - two or three days old is fine; I just want to know what on earth is going on out there and have the time to think about it and my own reactions to it.
The more print newspapers become like daily magazines the longer they will survive, but that's a big subject and I want to go outside and play.
And anyway, no matter how fast the world turns and people rush around, in the immortal words of my 84-year old neighbour Jean-Baptiste, "we're all going to arrive at December 31st at exactly the same time."
So, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O-ah8zheBM
(Is it just me, or did Crampton deploy a typical hand gesture indicative of mendacity - a wipe of the nose with his finger - when asked to explain just how fantastic the co-operation was between the IHT and the NYT?)
Sorry about that, IHT folk.
So can we take it as a given that unless I do pick up on something about the International Herald Tribune that I wasn't happy with as a reader, that I remain, for most editions, a contented reader full of admiration for the IHT?
It will take a long time to show why I believe the IHT is the greatest newspaper in the world, so what I am going to do, and only once, because it is going to take me a really long time, is to take one issue of the paper and try and show IHT readers and non-IHT readers alike, why it is just so damn good.
I read the IHT pretty much cover to cover; every article at least the first two paras, if not to conclusion; the majority read in full. Which is why the edition of Saturday-Sunday, December 15-16, 2007 is perhaps worthy of a mention.
I might make a few observations to myself as I read, but the ideal edition for me is one where one can literally take a red pen and draw a continual line, connecting the dots between different articles; then put the paper in the recyling bin with the sense that from my remote mountain outpost I have a fairly good handle on world affairs, opinions and trends.
I'm a fast reader, I don't watch TV (at all) so it's not too onerous a task to find the time each day to do this. The Saturday paper I often keep until Sunday to read.
Last Saturday's early European edition (four stars and closed at around 8.30 pm CET I think), led with 'Paid in Dollars, expats struggle to make a living', which captured, better than many articles I have read on the subject, the existential crisis facing many Americans as the dollar plunges.
(Written by IHT Paris journalist Doreen Carvajal - who is on record as saying she tends to write about things that interest her - it did strike me whether this was in fact a front page appeal to the owners of the IHT to increase the salaries of any IHT employees - and there are a few; Doreen are you one of them? Full disclosure? - whose contracts are negotiated in dollars. Did the interview with the CEO of U.S.-backed Radio Free Europe based in Prague, serve as a substitute for an interview with IHT Publisher Michael Golden, head of another American owned, if not State-backed media organisation with its HQ in Europe? I think Doreen might have mentioned how many IHT employees in Paris have US$ denominated contracts as part of the piece....But anyway, I am sure the powers-that-be got the point.)
There below it was a neatly placed reefer to an article on page 13 giving the flip-side of this story - For Europeans, the US is one big discount mall, side by side with the jump from Doreen's article. Perfect.
Effortlessly moving across a column on page 13 I found Dilemma for central banks as prices rise, a great piece by the IHT's Carter Dougherty and Julia Werdigier which pulled us away from the individual experiences of the current global financial crisis into the realm of macro-economics and monetary policy. It concluded with two paras on the effect of the most recent inflation figures on the value of the dollar and the appeal of dollar-denominated investments, with a reefer to a page 14 article on U.S Inflation data help give dollar a lift.
Off to Page 14:
Now I'm firmly ensconced in Weekend Business, I take a quick stroll around the global markets, not too much info but enough to confirm my beginning of the year decision to move into Turkish stocks (based considerably on the IHT's coverage of Turkey) and then have my eye caught by a catchy headline on the market for Christmas trees: It's like growing gold.
I briefly reflect on how expensive Doreen's Christmas tree is going to be, before mulling over whether I should be planting up a small plantation I own (and have recently had clear felled and sold the pine) with Nordmanns. I wonder if Nordmanns would fair well in our soil and altitude - must look into it.
I'm also interested to note that in Denmark alone, 15% of their farmers have stopped growing trees since the EU stopped subsidizing the industry in 2005.
Then it's a quick zoom down the Briefing column: glad to see the Danone/Wahaha story is still being followed - one of my great complaints with most newspapers is how they run important stories and then just forget about them - and find out about Knol, Google's new competitor to Wikipedia: must check that out.
Also interested to see that OPEC don't have a very optimistic view on the U.S economy for next year; as an author but not a member of the Writers Guild of America, interested to follow the strike, just a snippet is all I need, and I like the sound, if not the result, of Thai consumer activists fighting PPT.
The Christmas tree story has reminded me that it is indeed getting close to Christmas so I must get out into the forest and cut a small tree; turn the page and into Christmas retail stories and impact on stocks.
Christmas consumer stories aren't my thing because I'm not a great consumer, but Conrade de Aenlle on Nintento is fascinating - I'm more interested in the new trend in gaming he reports, than the stock price:
"Nintendo's ability to appeal to a wider base of players, some of whom are old enough to shave."
More interesting to me is the expensive quarter page advertisement placed by http://www.betancourt.info/ appealing to Americans to help him free Ingrid Betancourt.
(I can't say I even glanced at the watch advert on the facing page.)
I wonder if the IHT gave the Betancout advert away for free? Or discounted it? I would have, the IHT I worked for would have.
(The news pages often have holes that need filling where an advert for example has appeared in the Asia edition but is not planned to run in Atlantic, and thus the layout folk hold a host of charity adverts for these occasions. My guess is Florence Bourges had a hand in this. Any comments from IHT advertising welcome either on this post or to email@example.com)
The Betancout advert was an extraordinary appeal, had me check out the site, but it did occur to me what all those IHT ad sales people would make of it - an advert placed in the IHT entitled Good Morning America (replete with the stars and stripes), on a day when the front page lead is about American expats.
Hardly helpful in their ongoing battle to persuade the international advertising community that the paper is not just read by American expats.
Over the page and into sports on page 16:
a beautifully placed report at the top of the Roundup column on Manchester United boss 'Fergusson banned for two matches' for using 'abusive and/or insulting words towards' a referee, placed right next to a story about NBA fans being banned for using abusive and insulting words towards Knicks coach Isiah Thomas.
Two sports, two continents, same problem, flip-side of the story again. Perfect.
My eye runs right to England turning to Capello as manager: I don't like football (sorry, soccer) but every morning on market day I have a coffee in a cafe in town, and the owner always likes to discuss English soccer with me (knowing I am English), ever since he turned down a bet on the outcome of the England/France game during the rugby world cup.
He assumes I must like football, I don't want to disappoint him, so I am pleaed to note that I will be on top of this story for next Thursday. That's called, as Mr. Oreskes would say, being equipped to take part in the global conversation.
Onto page 17, and a report on Bud Selig's reaction to the Mitchell report.
Confession and question: if the majority of the IHT readers are NOT American, and if the IHT is cognizante of every country, captive of none, how come so much room in the sports pages is still given over to US sports?
I have no interest in NFL, NBA or Baseball, and am yet to read an article about these sports that are written with the assumption that the reader is not familiar with even the rules.
Does the IHT hold data that its non-American readership is particularly interested in these sports?
Do American sports make up part of the global conversation?
On this occasion I make an exception and read more than the usual first two paras - doping in sports is part of the global conversation.
Interesting article, even if the names of the teams and players cited mean little to me, and little context is provided by IHT copy editors for the uninformed.
(One small beef: I notice that the picture caption of Selig is "Bud Selig, commissioner of baseball, tried to drown the the Mitchell report in legalese". Actually the article stated that Selig dodged and weaved through a press conference, and that it was only later that Donald Fehr of the player's association, tried to 'drown the report with typical legalese'. Attention photo editors please.)
Then I finish up sports with an NFL story about a team that lost all its games in 1976 - now that's a sports story that any sports fan would be interested in.
So for me, a great sports section.
In fairness to Peter Berlin, a Brit who is the IHT's fantastic sports editor, he has made enormous strides in making the sports pages more international and less American, since the days of the editorship of the sports-mad John Vinocur. His successor, Mike Getler, wasn't much interested in sports, I don't think, which made Peter's efforts at internationalising the sports pages that much easier.
Peter would argue that one of his problems is that on many days of the week there is very little European sports action, so he is almost forced to cover US sports more extensively than he would if he really believed the majority of the IHT's readership is non-American.
But nevertheless, to me the sports pages contain way too much American sport, with too little context, that is of no interest at all to the majority of IHT readers. The problem for the IHT, apart from the fact that on most days the IHT gives sports fans information they aren't interested in, is the perception all this US sport creates in the minds of the advertising community in Paris, London and elsewhere: this is a paper for American expats.
(Personally I would rather read more about Asian sports than American sports. I mean, the next Olympics are in Beijging? What sports are they doing well in? Who are their stars? Who is going to be the next big thing in African distance running? More on the turmoil in NZ rugby after their quarter final world cup defeat? What is the Japanese soccer league all about? Is there an Asia equivalent of the Champions League? Horce racing in Hong Kong, equinne flue in Australia; what is the national sport of Indonesia or Vietnam? I have endless questions about international sports that the IHT just isn't answering but the details of a sport played largely in America only, even at the level of between universities in the United States - well, then I can be bang up to speed. Something badly amiss here.)
But back to my perfect edition - this edition's sports had American sport's stories of clear interest to non-American readers like me. Perfect. What now?
Down to the comics/cartoons depending on what type of English you speak.
I read them all with three exceptions: Beetle Bailey which just isn't funny, Dennis the Menace which I presume is for children only and Non Sequitur which is just too damned small to read.
Does anyone play Jumble? Please step forward and declare your interest in this infantile word game. I think you are in a minority of IHT readers, but were it dropped, like for example Peanuts once was, you would write so many letters and emails that the editor would mistake the loud voice of a minority crowd for the voice of reason, and reinstate it.
Comics done, back page:
I will not being going to any of the exhibitions listed but I will speak with people who have or will, so it's good to have a quick scan just to make sure people don't think I really am the hick I really am. Plus beautiful illustrations, in colour. Wonderful.
Elisabeth Hopkins does a great job compiling this page, but I wonder if it couldn't be helped by adding a line or two of critical review of the exhibitions. The IHT could add some value here. Minor beef, but it would help me pretend I have attended the exhibitions if I could drop some compliment or criticism of them into my conversations.
Now down to Globespotters, Urban Advice from people that live their.
As you have no doubt noted, grammar is not my field, but Urban advice? Urbane? Advice about cities? Urban advice - I'm not sure, a bit too Tyler B for me.
Beautifully, and effortlessly, I have been returned full circle to where I started:
US expats (again) fretting about the value of the dollar and the same journalist, Doreen Carvajal (in the company of another IHT Paris journalist, Katrin Benhold), suggesting going to expensive restaurants in Paris for cheaper lunches. (Now I really do think Doreen is on a US$ salary and it's time for full disclosure.)
But some interesting tips, before sliding over to Berlin and the 'pay what you want' honor-system at some wine bars in Prenzlauer Berg. Trend spotting and reminded me of the piece on Radiohead doing the same with their latest album, the fact the NTY ditched Times Select, and made me wonder what would happen if the IHT applied the same system to their cover price at the kiosk.
Back of the book partly done, back naturally to where I started: Page 1.
Thankfully for us IHT readers, Katrin Benhold has temporarily forsaken her dollar saving lunches with her colleague Doreen at the Tour d'Argent, and hoped onto a plane to Algiers to report on life after the suicide bombings, which she had also reported on the day before. I don't know what contacts Benhold has in Algiers or if she speaks Arabic, but her two pieces, this one included, are fascinating.
(Warning: I like the IHT because generally its foreign news coverage is supplied by long-time foreign correspondents in places like Algiers who have been there for a few years before an event like the recent bombing; hence they are better equipped to write the type of follow-up piece Benhold has, who, as far as I know, is not based in Algiers. There is a taste of what I call CNN Christianne Annapour journalism here; someone flying in at short notice to wherever the latest big story has broken, and it's usually appallingly thin. Benhold stands up well, but I'm not sure I wouldn't rather hear from a permanent AP reporter in Algiers on this, ideally a NYT one.)
'Life goes on after deadly attacks' her article is headlined as it jumps to page 6.
Now, I don't really like jumps unless they always take you to the same page in the book, and they are jumped with stories of a similar nature.
In this edition, this is what has happened, so I'm happy: the front page article which I also began to read ('Civilians forced to fight Ethiopian rebels') is also a piece that digs deeper, goes behind the headlines or indeed creates non-day specific headlines, and when you look in the blogosphere, this is the type of MSM reporting that the bloggers love - stuff no one else is doing and which they can't get elsewhere.
The two stories read, I see another page one jump on the Bali climate talks, so back to Page 1 to read the beginning of that, and then back to Page 6 to finish it up - all jumps on the same page, so I am happy.
Then time to compete the jump page, starting with a terrifically comprehensive wrap-up of what's going on in EU politics: the differences of opinion between Sarko and Brown on the committee to to examine the challenges confronting the EU and the agreement in principle to send an 1,800 security mission to Kosovo (the IHT has been brilliant on Kosovo - I don't think Smale has forgotten her Balkan years, nor the break up of the Soviet Union: the IHT is all over the possibility and problems of new EU nation states from the Basque Country, Scotland to Belgium).
The piece included reports from Spanish media that the committee chairman (former Spanish PM, Gonzalez was on record as saying in 2004 that the EU enlargement should "stop at the borders of Turkey" because of social and cultural differences. (Kosovo is of course before the borders of Turkey even if it may well share the same social and cultural differences with the existing EU as Turkey does.) All in all, a great, tight, comprehensive piece from Castle and Bilefsky.
Finally for the jump page, a quick scan of Briefly column: a good list of follow up stories to ones the IHT has already extensively covered, keeping me up to speed on the stories that matter, even if they may have temporarily fallen off the front page - UK vs. Russia over Litvinenko, separatists in the Philipinnes (cf Algiers article and the still unfixed global map); North Korea responding to Bush's letter; death penalty in the US; sexual abuse in South Africa, far right in Europe, and illegal immigration into the EU.
Done. Back to Page 1
Where to go now? No less than 8 reefers to take my fancy: fraud at Siemens; Central Bank Dilemma (read that already); Hamas arrest; US House defies Bush on interrogation tactics; Chinese fish farmers and then there are the skyboxes: Souren Melikian on art; Tyler B, and a special report on the year in sports.
I go with Chinese fish farmers - because its on page 2.
Over the page: and what a page 2
Howard French, brilliant as ever on China, reporting on attitudes to mining disasters (For mining victims, pages quickly turned - what an echo the 'Get over it' and 'eating bitterness' ethos provide to 'life moving on in Algiers'; then the overwhelming calamity of China choking on growth (having already read about an astounding 300 miners a month dieing in China); this time it's rivers and lakes due to intensive fish farming and polluted water:
'MORE THAN HALF THE RIVERS IN CHINA ARE TOO POLLUTED TO SERVE AS A SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER' (my caps).
Then, all on the same page, and placed alongside these Chinese human and environmental stories, a geo-political news analysis of US-Chinese relations. (U.S. Hitting difficulties in relations with China.)
'The wheels in the U.S.-China relationship are wobbly right now," said a professor of IR at Georgetown and former Asia Affairs director at the NSC under Bush I [that'll do me as a source] "They're not coming off, but they're wobbly."
A perfect page 2, and a quick read of In Our Pages. Done.
Onto Page 3 - what had caught my eye about the article referred to on Page 1 (House acts to ban CIA questioning techniques) was how close the vote was 222-199, largely along party lines.
That explained perfectly to me what a clear choice US presidential voters will be faced with in 2008: a party that thinks water-boarding is OK, and a party that thinks it's not.
No one reading that article can be immune to the importance of the next president of the U.S.A, so quickly over a column to an article on the Democratic primaries (Tough Moment or two in the debate).
Is Obama or Clinton best placed to resolve the Middle East/Palestine problem, comprehensively covered, and as always, balanced, by Steven Erlanger (Hamas arrests aide to West Bank leader: Seized in Gaza, he is to be interrogated).
The interrogation part of this headline took me back to CIA questioning techniques. Who in the USA government can criticise Hamas if they induldge in a little water-boarding?
Finally, at the bottom of the page, an article on Bolivia on alert over states' autonomy push.
Kosovo, Bolivia. Two continents, same dynmanics and the IHT all over it.
On to Page 4: Editorials and Commentaries.
I still think it is a great shame that the IHT does not write its own editorials because there is no doubt they would bring a tremendous depth of perspective. But the NYT seldom dissapoints, calling the Global War on terror as it is (Notes from the global war) and if there is still any doubt that the IHT is more cognizant of American readers than others, an editorial on the Mitchell report.
I don't think the IHT would write an editorial on the Mitchell report.
Mildly dissatisfied, but what remains in the Commentaries section more than makes up for it.
A terrific analysis of Qaddafi in Paris, a fascinating piece on counterfeit drugs ('Medicines purchased over the Internet from sites that conceal their address - and many do - are counterfeit in over 50 percent of cases" - I didn't know that; one of the several times an edition I say those words) and an interesting piece from the associate chief counsel at the U.S Food and Drug Administration on 'Fear versus Science' in the biotech foods debate.
Then the facing page: Krugman on fire-ing form (After the money is gone') and then back to the dollar: As the dollar slides by Howard Watchel.
Let's not worry about Doreen's lunch bills, here's the real question:
"Has the tipping point arrived when the dollar ceases to be the pre-eminent reserve currency in the global economy?"
Now that's a first sentence of an opinion piece I have to read...
Down to the letters to the editor.
Here it's always a bit confused I think as to what the IHT is trying to do here - give space to a global conversation and the opinions of others or let readers comment freely on the IHT, as this blog does.
It seems to me to be neither one thing or the other, heavily biased towards the former.
The only problem is, that unlike in the FT, we don't know who these readers are; what are their credentials to pass comment on world affairs.
What I liked about today's letters were the comments on the CIA/Tapes scandal and someone pulling up David Brooks on one of his pieces.
Personally I would like to see much more space given to letters, even if it means sacrificing the Meanwhile space, which frankly, is of variable quality.
Page 6 is done, straight to page 7.
Tyler B. actually writes a piece of some interest, even if he is a little unkind to 3-year old girls with lurid pink suitcases with ponies and princesses on the side of them. (Only Tyler B. would even notice that.)
The People column I read, just to make sure I don't recongise or know anything about too many of them. Very useful in maintaining my sanity in my mountain retreat.
If the people in one of the pieces are people I have never heard of - in this case Tony Parker, Eva Longoria Parker and Alexandra Paressant - then I know I'm still O.K.
So a good result from this edition.
Movies? I love them, as do most IHT readers, and I love their reviewers. I trust them and use them, in this case A.O Scott on I am Legend, which I will make sure I see.
Never been a crossword fan, so not a problem for me, but I do thnk that to do the NYT crossword, you need to be American or to have lived there for a long time.
What are the implications of this for majority of IHT readers who, we are told, are not or have not? No crossword, which makes me cross.
The IHT needs a global citizen crossword to be true to its claim to be The World's Daily Newspaper.
The Books & Ideas section in the back of the book is a wonderful addition to the IHT since the NYT took over. Interesting books, great reviews.
But as I have mentioned in previous poststs the fact that ONLY books published in the U.S.A AGAIN betrays the bias of the IHT AGAINST its non-American readers.
I've checked this out, and in some cases the books reviewed aren't even published and distributed OUTSIDE the U.S.A.
I know we can all use http://www.amazon.com/ and the U.S postal service, but really, come on! Ridiculous policy. Needs to be re-examined.
Then a great Special Report on the Year in Sports, put together by Peter Berlin, who is, I think, the most knowledgable person I know on world sports. I put it aside to read at bedtime, and it was great: with Hughes, Berlin, Clarey it would be.
But for now, on to Souren. Look, I don't buy £1,364,500 paintings by Ferdinand Bol but reading Souren Melikian on art and the art market has to be one of the reading highlights of my week. His effortless prose, his comprehensive knowledge, the way he weaves the beauty of art with the sometime ugliness of the art market is magical writing.
Just a sampler: the way he pulled up a Sotheby's categlogue description by experts who 'like to be accurate':
"A still life with a pewter jug and an overturned tazza [actually: it lies on its side]"
Page 10 is the daily advertisement for the performance of International Funds. Given the funds pay per line to be listed here, and this is one of the major sources of revenue for the paper (millions of dollars) it's a pity that
a) the page is not headlined Advertisement as all other advertisments are and
b) most of the funds I own aren't listed on this page.
No matter, if it pays for Benhold to go to Algiers and Souren to jet between Paris, London and New York, me no complain.
Then into Business.
The Business and Technolgy sections of the IHT just get better and better, and in the same way the general interest news provides a broader business perspective for businesspeople, the business section provides a broader social and political perspective for non-businesspeople like myself, who I suspect there are a lot of in the IHT readership.
Joe Nocera is consistently engaging, insightful and cuts through the noise to get to the bottom line.
The Craft Capitalism feature was superb. I had no idea there was a web site called Etsy selling the handmade crafts of some 70,000 artisans.
I turn the page and a fascinating interview with a market researcher on the subject of slow food and supermarkets (Spotlight: At the supermarket, shopping for better health).
For someone who avoids supermarkets and tries to buy artisanal produce, this is my weekend IHT edition from heaven.
Two jump outs:
"In the 1960s in France, it was 26 percent of the household budget [spent on food] and now its 16 percent."
Great, I am an 1960s Frenchman!
"In 1980 hypermarkets represented about 13 percent of the business by sales. Now it's about 36 percent."
Only consolation - that's not my fault!
I admit, I am moving fast now through business, as I always do, but I always check out On the Record:
"The last thing you want is to be in a crowded tube at 35,000 feet for two or three hours with some guy going on about his trip to Vegas" Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research, on voice calls on an airplane.
(True, but what about two or three hours with the three year old and her pink ponies or Tyler going on about his last trip to one of the three countries he manages to live in - how does one do that btw, live in three countries? It sounds very clever. And wasn't what happens in Vegas supposed to stay in Vegas, according to a recent article I read, I think in the IHT, about the marketing of Vegas to non-gamblers.)
That's a tricky one, to take seriously information provided by someone called Floyd, but once you get past that, he just does the job.
So, finally I arrive back at the beginning of my journey, page 13, where I finished up the page one appeal for higher IHT salaries.
Citigroup moves to rescue 7 funds - well, I've just read Krugman on this issue so that's interesting.
EU threatens to impose tarrifs on steel imports from China - ties in nicely to the article on U.S.-China relations.
And I finish off my perfect IHT edition with 'U.K. tops U.S. in donations to World Bank' which is useful for my global conversation with a communist I know who makes cheese.
Rather neatly of course, it's much ado about the dollar, and it is with the dollar I began my read and with the dollar I finish.
The last paragraph of this story, and my weekend paper read, ends with "Britain, whose aid budget has been swollen by the pound's rally, is increasingly spending on development to a record. The dollar's drop is eroding the value of the U.S contribution."
And Doreen's dining in Paris.
So, that's why I love the IHT.
I'm not going to take this amount of time again to show you why, but at least it's here for the record.
Now I can get back to nit-picking and being bitchy.