Tuesday, 24 June 2008

NYT and IHT study Web merger

I don't want to be overly critical of any IHT journalist, but Doreen Carvajal has done an absolutely stand up job here of churnalism (see full article below): that is to say, rewriting corporate press releases and/or spouting the official line, with the sole exception of saying that "Dunbar-Johnson and Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, cast the merger as a proposal at this stage, until the Paris-based IHT's works council was consulted, in accordance with French law. But discussions on a merger have been under way for months, along with work on a new design for the print version of the Herald Tribune."

What this means is that it's a done deal, this is just the spin to get by French law, and if you like the look and feel of IHT.com then kiss it goobye, because it's over baby.

That there is only a 'small core of loyal readers' who use http://www.iht.com/ is an assertion left unchallenged by Doreen. Might she have asked how many? Might she also have reported the name of the new editor to be announced in few days?

Anyway, I can't be too critical. I knew this was coming, alluded to it in recent previous posts, didn't spell it out because my sources asked me not to. (Do bloggers really have to stick to the rules of journalism given how rude journalists are about bloggers anyway? I may have to revisit this.)

Clearly there are going to be a lot of dissappointed people at http://www.iht.com/ (some of whom have been long unhappy with their overall treatment by the newspaper, how kept out of the loop they have been and the general complete lack of communication between print and digital.)

How many loyal readers are going to be upset to have to look at international sections of nytimes.com remains unknown and frankly nobody cares (because apparently, they're aren't many of you) and no letters of complaint will be supplied to this blog by the IHT, nor printed or published on-line. So I suggest you forget writing to the IHT and write to me.

The notion that the nytimes.com might need a TOTAL AND COMPLETE DESIGN OVERHAUL before it is "advertised outside the United States or created sections aimed at international readers" or takes over from http://www.iht.com/ is obviously not touched upon at all. Ummmm.

Nor does Doreen seek to find out how exactly many of the 58 million readers of nytimes.com are international (OBVIOUSLY EXCLUDING AMERICANS OVERSEAS OR TRAVELLING OVERSEAS), nor does she seek to find out how many of those international readers are 'core loyal readers' as "compared with the number of [international] users arriving at the [nytimes.com] site through search engines and other links".

I suppose one question would be this: of the 7 million IHT.com readers, how many of them are core loyal readers (who do not arrive through search engines and other links) as compared with the number of (non-American) international core loyal readers for nytimes.com (who do not arrive through search engines and other links).

I'd certainly like to know the answers to these questions, and have some very good research on how young Europeans and Asians find the hopelessly archaic design of nytimes.com before rushing to shut down http://www.iht.com/.

But, hey, take me out and shoot me - I used to be a planner.

I think SDJ has it right in what he says, concerning the business practicalities of all this. It did not make sense for the global edition of a newspaper to have a site called http://www.iht.com/ anymore than it would for CNN domestic to have an international site called http://www.coldfish.com/ - ditto, as I have blogged about, the BBC.

This is going to make advertising sales a lot easier for SOME brands, a lot harder for others (luxury, for example, who want to be associated with Suzy/Souren/IHT brand heritage).

The USA (and despite all claims to the contrary, that is, I think, what http://www.nytimes.com/ spells) for the luxury market at the moment - and let's face it, this is where most of the IHT's current advertising is coming from - is basically a peso-packing third world wasteland with the exception of a couple of west coast hot spots.

But what remains to be seen is the offering to international readers of the NYT or its global edition in terms of DESIGN and CONTENT.

And equally for the print edition, it remains to be seen whether the NYT realise that global news needs to be reported in a different way and with a different perspective to the way global news is reported for US citizens.

As to design, sadly, it is unlikely that anyone any time soon in NY is going to issue the following statement:

"Given that the future expansion of the nytimes.com lies outside the USA, clearly we have to re-design our website for a more design sophisticated audience in Europe and Asia. As a result, nytimes.com will be using the design and information hierarchy of www.iht.com as the base from which to build on, because it is, after all, an international site, instead of trying to turn a domestic site into an international one. Accordingly we are promoting the people in charge of www.iht.com to run nytimes.com because our people in Manhattan have yet to get to New Jersey, let alone Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris or London."

Enough: let us not judge too hastily. Let's see what happens.

P.S BTW Doreen, great article about Hachette Livre taking on Amazon, and quoting from an email from the Hachette Livre publisher to his authors. As it was me who supplied a colleague of yours with that email (as I am a Hachette Livre author), and as I have blogged about it, I was a bit put out to note that (a) you quoted someone as saying that 'authors were too afraid to speak out about the Amazon problem' whilst (b) not contacting the person who supplied you with the story, has spoken out about it and has blogged about it - me.

Here's Doreen's article below about the 'study' (could she at least not have put the word 'study' in inverted commas?)

PARIS: The New York Times Co. is developing plans to merge the Web site of the International Herald Tribune with that of The New York Times, in a bid to expand their global reach and deepen their appeal to advertisers.
In a wide-ranging announcement Monday, top executives of both newspapers said they intended to create a "co-branded international homepage" that would replace iht.com, the existing Web site of the International Herald Tribune. The New York Times Co. acquired full control of the Herald Tribune in 2003, and has been accelerating the integration of the two papers in recent months.
"We want to examine the potential to merge iht.com with nytimes.com," said Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, publisher of the Herald Tribune. "And the reason for that is that we believe that it will provide us with much more scale and will expose our journalism to a much larger audience. In terms of driving revenues from advertising, it will be a much more powerful proposition."
Dunbar-Johnson and Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, cast the merger as a proposal at this stage, until the Paris-based IHT's works council was consulted, in accordance with French law. But discussions on a merger have been under way for months, along with work on a new design for the print version of the Herald Tribune.
The two executives also announced a series of management changes aimed at deepening the cooperation; the Herald Tribune now describes itself on its front-page banner as "the global edition of The New York Times."

Martin Gottlieb, associate managing editor at The New York Times, was named to the newly created post of editor of the company's global editions, for an interim period of up to six months. An editor is expected to be appointed permanently to the position in the next few days, executives said.
Keller, who flew to Paris for the announcement, said the core of loyal followers of the Herald Tribune Web site was small compared with the number of users arriving at the site through search engines and other links. He also said that "nytimes.com is growing at a phenomenal rate."
While iht.com draws seven million visitors a month, nytimes.com has a global audience of 58 million, according to WebTrends, which tracks Internet traffic. Keller said a sizable portion of the nytimes.com audience was international, although the news organization has not advertised nytimes.com outside the United States or created sections aimed at international readers.
Web designers are preparing a new digital architecture for the Herald Tribune, with six to seven international sections, including business, culture, sports, luxury and travel. One possibility, executives said, is that the international edition of nytimes.com will carry both the Herald Tribune and New York Times brands, with readers arriving there by clicking on addresses for either iht.com or nytimes.com.
"We need to be agile," Dunbar-Johnson said, pledging "to compete much more aggressively, nose to nose, with The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and anybody else who is competing for our readers and advertisers."
Both of those newspapers have also been re-evaluating their Web sites. Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp., which recently acquired The Wall Street Journal and its parent, Dow Jones, had considered making access to the paper's site free, but decided to keep charging users for full access.

NB All important IHT announcements often fall before, during or directly after the French Open and the beginning of Wimbledon, which is nice for any senior NYT exec who has to come to Paris to make them. The same applies to the annual board meeting.

My personal take on this was to organise a meeting of critical importance in Hong Kong every time it was Hong Kong Rugby Sevens time. Tennis for the East Coast Elites, beer and rugby for grubby Brits like me.

I'd like to personally thank the IHT and the NYT for so thoughtfully flying me accross the world, business class, indeed one time first class Cathy Pacific, to watch my favourite sport, just as I am sure that the old IHT board with the likes of Punch, Kay Graham, Lewis, Bradlee etc would like to also make their thanks to the IHT for flying them to Paris via Concorde to watch their favourite sport.


1 comment:

OPL (Very Small But Very Loyal Reader) said...

So what are we to expect in the future? Could a look at another major global U.S.-based news organization enlighten us?

Should we expect a setup as awquard as the long lived--but never really streamlined--relationship CNN domestic has with its international arm both online and on air?
- Never really coordinated
- Little recognition of global audience coming from U.S.-produced programming and web content
- The U.S. feed always taking precedence over the international one (especially visible during live events when reporters first report to CNN domestic)
- Most reporters deliver U.S. perspective
- And how could I forget the misguided billing of Larry King Live as their flaship « international » talk show for over 20 years...