Saturday, 13 September 2008

Coldplay and Sulzberger: It wasn't a dream

Cheery Arthur Sulzberger Jr. Delivers Address to Times Employees; Sets Opening Slideshow to Coldplay, No One Applauds

by John Koblin September 12, 2008
Yesterday, on Sept. 11, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. held a meeting with Times employees to give the latest report on the State of the Times. There were two meetings, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, and we spoke to three people who attended the afternoon session.
Mr. Sulzberger, who wasn't wearing a wedding ring, began the meeting with a slideshow that was set to the background of Coldplay's "Clocks." The slideshow highlighted all the Pultizers the paper won this year, and the paper's T magazines, its Web stuff. And by time it was over, no one clapped.
Mr. Sulzberger responded with a little smile, and said, "Coldplay."
A few people giggled.
He said that the paper has recently picked up 820,000 subscribers who signed on for two years or more, and The Times has the highest trafficked newspaper Web site.
He said that he does not track any competitor's Web traffic numbers--like USA Today--since The Times has such an enormous lead.
"Considering what's been going on," said our source, "his bravado seemed tone deaf."
He seemed aware of that fact, and said, "Is this the kind of stuff the publisher and chairman is supposed to say? Yes. Do I also believe it? Yes."
A man asked, very directly, why the company doesn't sell its regional newspapers.
It seemed to catch him off guard. "Here, meet my family," he said, by way of distraction. "Take my daughter." There was silence. "Not in that way," he followed up. Awkward laughter.
Other quotes: "Even as The Journal moves away from its core business mission, we are strengthening our operation."
And: "I promise you, with all my heart, that our beloved New York Times will prevail."
He kept driving home the point that the paper has an influential audience, and with brands like the T magazines, they're bringing in even more influential readers.
Someone asked if the paper would eventually turn into a brochure for the Web site. He said no.
He said the moment when digital gains offset print declines is "within sight," but then added a lot of caveats.
Someone asked Mr. Sulzberger a question about The Times' newest investor, Carlos Slim, who just purchased a 6.4 percent stake of the company.
Per our source: "Arthur said something like, 'They made such an investment because they believe in this company. And you know what?' Pause for emphasis. 'They're RIGHT.'"
"The whole thing was camp," the source concluded.


And now for some comments by readers of the NYObserver.
But for the record, I haven't seen, read or heard any evidence that there is anyone more qualified to be the publisher of the NYT, at the NYT, or in the industry, or in the investment community, than Mr. Sulzberger.
That doesn't mean to say I agree with his strategy, it's just that having him as a fair-ground target for the NYT's problems, for that matter the entire newspaper industry's problems, is extremely convenient for a lot of employees, investors, readers and newspaper execs (from other newspapers) and that's not fair or reasonable.
But what is clear is that Newspaper 1.0 isn't working for any newspaper that I know of, so time to come up with Newspaper 2.o.
Now back to those comments....

Esin Emko (not verified) says:
It is sad. He has absolutely no understanding of how to run a business. He is tone deaf to society around him. He's not even a very nice person.
Sad, really sad.September 12, 2008 11:41 AM

Anonymous (not verified) says:
"with brands like the T magazines, they're bringing in even more influential readers."
What "influential reader" would ever spend more than about thirty seconds looking at any of the T magazines, unless it's an advertising executive checking ad placement? Sulzberger prints house organs for the wealthy twit population. Of course, that's what's become of half of the daily paper anyway.September 12, 2008 11:54 AM

Anonymous (not verified) says:
After trying for several months to receive The NYT in Wisconsin, their circualtion department told us they just couldn't deliver their national edition to us,cancelled our order and gave us credit for our prepay. We turned around and order The WSJ. No delivery issues. How can Mr. Sulzberger grow his product without an excellent delivery service in place? September 12, 2008 12:20 PM

Dan (not verified) says:
The Times circulation dept is incompetent and makes me wonder why they even bother to try to deliver a newspaper outside the NYC Metro area. I live in Massachusetts and subscribed to The Times for 25 years. Suddenly, they said they could no longer deliver the Sunday paper to me before 10 a.m. in the morning when it had been arriving hours earlier for years. The same carrier delivers two other Times newspapers -- The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette -- and those can get delivered earlier. After several calls to Circulation -- and getting several different answers -- I canceled. And guess what? I don't miss it. Not for a minute. And I'm saving $600 a year. September 12, 2008 1:11 PM

Tom Holzel (not verified) says:
The Times reporting on the presidential campaign has become a parody of fairness that even Monty Python could not surpass. For a look at what to expect from the editors in the last two months of the campaign,(which is unfortunately not a joke), take a look at how they rigged the photographs of the two previous presidential hopefuls at: 12, 2008 4:47 PM

Candice Beetrue (not verified) says:
First Class Rich Kid Doofus.
With any other parents, this guy would be sweeping floors.September 12, 2008 8:07 PM

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sulzberger choked on the question about the regional newspapers because he has little left to sell. Likely, he wishes he had sold them 2 or 3 years ago, when the company might have received real value for the properties.NYT is aggressively destroying the regionals, sucking all of the profits out of them and leaving only a shell left over for the local community. It arguably won't be but a few years more before all but the largest of the regionals will be gone.In name, there are 15 or so regionals. But with the consolidation of printing, ad production and now news production, most of these properties no longer can stand on their own. As I say, there is little left to sell.September 12, 2008 9:29 PM

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Do the Editors of The Observer screen every message ensuring only the ones which are determined to crucify this guy get through? Where would you direct all that anger if the members of this family, and Mr. Sulzberger specifically, determined you were right, and decided to fold the newspaper, take their inheritances and sit back and criticize like you? Where would this country be with out the New York Times? I for one fear for a country whose citizens prefer the bile fed to us by most other news sources and the idiocy fed us by most of the rest of the magazines on the news stands. Does your vituperative stance extend to the Dick Fulds, Daniel Mudds and Richard Syrons of the world who have lost ALL their shareholders investments and who will all walk away with big bonuses for doing so? Maybe your anger at the people who hang in their with their companies while they are going through apocalyptic change and who toil every day to find and create value out of what they believe in irks you because you know you would not do the same. I don't know, but when I read these comments day after day in the Observer, it makes me wish you would consider closing your doors, taking your severance and leaving the world a better place. We'll see if this gets published.September 12, 2008 9:52 PM

Anonymous (not verified) says:
You are at a newspaper site, so we can only trust that you actually care about the same.There is a huge difference when one is talking about the legacy of The New York Times and when one is discussing Sulzberger Jr.As one who has worked for both Sulzberger Sr. and Sulzberger Jr, I must report that the difference between the two could not be more profound. Under Sr., reporters and editor were expected to park their opinions at the door. As Sr's lead editor, A.M. Rosenthal, once told us: "I don't care what you feel about the situation, just tell us what actually happened." We were expected to have a sociological perspective on the world. Our opinions never were to enter the newsroom. "Save those for the bar," Rosenthal said.Under Jr., opinion is all that matters. The entire world believes that it knows what Jr. "feels" about the world, and the paper appears to follow suit. This approach has undermined the credibility of The Times, and lowered the value of the franchise. The company desperately needs another Rosenthal and another Sulzberger Sr.Worse, Jr. appears to be an inept business person. He is the sort of business person who announces to the world that his company's chief product - one printed on paper - is dead long before he has any product that even would begin to replace the current one. The company has done nothing - nothing at all - to shore up the foundation of the current profitable product as it transitions to a new era.As for the notion that Sulzberger Jr. simply would "fold the newspaper," come on, give us all a break! The Times itself still has great value. No one - not even a rich person - simply would fold it. That would be stupid. Sulzberger Jr. may be many things, but he is not stupid. There are many of us, however, who would welcome the sale of the paper and the exit of the Sulzberger-Ochs family.September 12, 2008 10:51 PM

Bramps (not verified) says:
I am from the Boston area. I haven't read the Boston Globe for 15 years or any other news rag for at least 10. The posts by Anonymous 9/12/08, 9:52 and 10:51 are so true and disheartening.For many years I would enjoy the morning trip into Boston with my coffee and Globe sitting comfortably on the train getting filled in on the news of the day, local, regional, national, and international. All done very well. I felt very priveliged to have the opportunity to read the NY Times. I'm sure there are many people today attempting to do the same thing. The trains are still running, the paper is still printed. The only difference is the Sulzberger Jr. slant on it all. Total and thorough garbage. It is sad, but hopefully will end soon. I can't predict how, but it is so bad, it has to end.Those who still feel they are getting unbiased, accurate coverage from those papers must have different inner workings than I. September 12, 2008 11:40 PM

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