Saturday, 1 November 2008

Things aren't looking too good are they? Are we in fact on the brink?

I just completed my own narrative of Friday, 31st October 2008 and there are things that worry me a great deal more than the future of newspapers.

But on the media side, things aren't looking too good are they?
An ex-executive editor of the International Herald Tribune told me this week that he had something called a BQ (for blog quotient) and that it was pretty full. He reads HuffPost, RealClearPolitics, the Daily Beast, and one private one.

I noted he didn't read Porfolio, if we can call it a blog, which I suppose we can if we can call HuffPost one; below is some info on the dodgy future of Portfolio.

What interested me most is that the blogs this ex-IHT boss mentioned aren't really blogs (like this one) but simply non-MSM on the Internet. He might not be reading a lot (and I don't know what his MSM quotient is) but he's reading it. A MSM guy to the core and he's not in his 20s.
If we take the advertising forecasts for '09, let alone '10 which no one is daring to even speak of I note, and we add in these sea change reading habits, I just can't see how the NYT/IHT are going to get by without some really smart thinking and some pretty smart thinking right now.
In today's IHT, the op-ed page, for the first time used the term 'Afghanistan on the Brink'.
Well, if you've been reading your IHT carefully this year, it's a wonder to you probably why it's taken until the beginning of November for such op-ed pieces to appear under such a headline.
I feel much the same way about the NYT/IHT strategy. We are at an 'on the brink' moment for the future of two newspapers that I and many readers of this blog love.
What I don't see is an acknowledgement of that. But I'm well on the outside, so don't give that idea too much weight. Who knows what their smart Ivys and MBAers in R&D and Strat Plan have up their sleeves?
However, sitting there in their huge (and massively expensive and bottom-line useless/mistake) H.Q building in Manhattan, with a million circulation, being the number one newspaper site and just immersed in the incredible self-belief of American, sorry, NYT, exceptionalism, it's not difficult to see how that headline might not appear in your head: "NYT on the brink".
But I'm pretty sure that's exactly where it is.
Ironically, NYT Company stock, having dipped below the '$10-for-me-on-the-brink-price', ended the month exactly, to the cent, there: it closed out Friday at $10. A 22% drop in the last three months.

New York Times Co
NYT on other Exchanges
10.00 USD Last
+0.07 +0.70% Change
Data as of October 31, 2008 16:03 exchange time.
I'm going to take a break from Think! next week, elections being one reason, my wife being in Australia and me looking after my two boys being another.
I'll be back. I think.

Condé Nast cuts profile of 2 magazines
By Richard Pérez-Peña
Friday, October 31, 2008
Condé Nast Publications will make deep staff cuts at two magazines, Portfolio and Men's Vogue, and publish them less often while cutting budgets across the company by 5 percent, company executives said Thursday.
Men's Vogue will all but disappear as a separate operation. It will be folded into Vogue and will be published twice a year instead of 10 times, the company said. Employees said they were told Thursday that most of the magazine's staff would be laid off.
The business magazine Portfolio will be published 10 times a year instead of 12. Employees said they were told Thursday that most of Portfolio's Web site staff would be dismissed and that much of the content unique to the site would be dropped.
The company's official position was that it had not yet determined where it would cut Portfolio, or how deeply, but executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to go into detail said they expected that 15 to 20 percent of the magazine's jobs would be eliminated. Some of the cuts will involve Portfolio's online operations, including advertising sales, which will be folded into those of Wired magazine.
The cuts at Condé Nast demonstrate that the belt-tightening at American magazines has reached even those that rely on luxury product advertising — a segment of the industry that has held up better than most.
"We still like the magazines," said David Carey, a group president at Condé Nast who directs several magazines, including Portfolio. "What we don't like is the revenue trend across all sectors of the business."
Through the first nine months of the year, ad pages in all U.S. magazines were down 9.5 percent from the same period in 2007. Most magazines produced by Condé Nast — including Vogue, GQ, Architectural Digest and Wired — have had much smaller declines, but they are also among the most expensive magazines to produce.
Portfolio, started last year amid much fanfare, is Condé Nast's first business magazine and its most expensive new project in years. Executives said the company was willing to lose more than $100 million on it.
It had an average circulation of 415,000 in the first half of the year and 445 ad pages through nine months — good figures for a new magazine but still far short of profitability. It hired a staff of prominent editors and reporters at high salaries but has been roiled by internal disputes and high turnover. Men's Vogue, started in 2006, has circulation of almost 370,000 and 449 ad pages through nine months.
Condé Nast executives said spending had been under budget, with several positions unfilled, which would limit the effect of the 5 percent budget cut.
Aside from Men's Vogue and Portfolio, they said, staff cuts would mostly be achieved by attrition, though they said there would be some layoffs.


"Books about cosmopolitan urbanites discovering the joys of country life are two a penny, but this one is worth a second glance. Walthew's vivid description of the moral stress induced by his job as a high-flying executive with the International Herald Tribune newspaper is worth the cover price alone…. Highly recommended."
The Oxford Times

For more reviews visit

Business trip to the IHT in Paris or friends and family coming to visit you? Fed up with hotels? Bring the family (sleeps 6) to superb Montmartre apartment - weekend nights free of charge if minimum of 3 work nights booked;. Cable TV; wifi, free phone calls in France (landlines); large DVD and book library; kids toys, books, travel cot and beds; two double bedrooms; all mod cons; half an hour to Neuilly and 12 mins walk from Eurostar. T&E valid invoices.
10% Discount for NYT employees; 15% Discount for IHT Employees

International Herald Tribune
New York Times
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