Friday, 25 July 2008

Wall Street is wrong on newspaper stocks

The following piece of market media commentary is a nice example of how Wall Street don't get the problems newspapers are facing, and newspapers don't get it either.

The conventional wisdom is expressed thus, here by JON FRIEDMAN'S MEDIA WEB at

In Wall Street parlance, when analysts say they're "cautious" about a high-profile industry, you can often infer that they're actually quite pessimistic. At times, some analysts almost seem to do the limbo to unearth something -- anything -- positive to convey to prospective investors.
DiClemente, one of the most thoughtful analysts in the securities industry, frets about media companies, especially in the entertainment sphere. He worries that they just can't seem to make as much money in a digital world as in a traditional media environment.
Analysts are often at a loss to come up with any magical cures for the industry's ills, too.
Media companies are sagging under the pressure of the miserable print advertising market. Auto, retail and securities companies have been hurting badly and aren't spending nearly as much on advertising as they once did.
"New Media is doing relatively well in a tough environment," pointed out Youssef Squali, an analyst with Jefferies Group.

Earnings blues
Newspaper publishers are feeling the biggest strain of all in the media biz.
This week, the New York Times Co. which publishes the New York Times and Boston Globe, reported that income from continuing operations fell 5.5% to $20.9 million. Those numbers exclude its television-station group, which was sold in 2007.

Factoring in the results of the broadcasting operation, net income plunged 82% to $21.1 million, or 15 cents a share, down from $118.4 million, or 82 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue dropped 6% to $742 million.
Internet-ad revenue jumped 18.3% in the quarter, and its total Internet businesses accounted for 12.3% of the company's revenue in the period.
On Wednesday, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services jolted investors when it warned it might lower its rating on New York Times Co. to junk status. S&P is pessimistic because the Times Co. earned 15 cents a share for the latest three-month span, when the Street had called for 22 cents a share.

As they say, misery loves company -- and the Times, of course, has plenty of it these days.
Sam Zell, the chief executive officer of Tribune Co., which publishes the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and other dailies, was quoted in the Sun as saying that the newspaper business is "looking at some of the worst advertising numbers in the history of the world."

Let's face it: That's a long history.
On Thursday, McClatchy said its second-quarter earnings plummeted 44%, and Lee Enterprises Lee Enterprises, Incorporated noted that its earnings fell in the recent three-month period. At Lee, print ad revenue fell 8.2% while online ad revenue was up 5.3%. McClatchy's online ad revenue gained 12.5% during the quarter and total ad revenue declined 16.8%.
Making matters worse, the media companies entered 2008 with high hopes. And why not? A year highlighted by a presidential election and the Summer Olympics has historically been a bonanza for ad-hungry companies.
"This should be a good year," DiClemente of Lehman Brothers said, pointing out that 2008 has not met expectations.

Misery does, indeed, love company in the media world.
MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is Wall Street judging media stocks fairly?

Well, I think I can answer that one. If fairly means incorrectly, then no.

There is no magic cure to revenue to be found on the Net, that's my position.

Wall Street haven't got this yet (no surprise, nor have the companies the analysts fret about) because being down on media stocks will go on until the companies go bust if analysts truly think the newspaper industry CAN come up with a way to make big profits from the Internet. They can't. Internet = free = low CPMs. Full stop.

A lot of smart people have been working on trying to get round that reality, including Wall Street analysts. If there was a magic Net potion, trust me, someone would have found it by now.

If anyone thinks they are going to, or are able to, make as much money in a digital world as in a traditional media environment, they'll be waiting a very long time.

The growth rates (as contribution to overall revenue) are miserable, contribution to overall revenue is also miserable.

The solution lies indeed in part in being smart on new platforms, but what the situation actually demands is that the newspaper industry gets smart about their core product - print.

When the age of the fast clippers came to an end through steam powered ships, did we see the shipping industry go out of business? Did sea transport end? No.

What happened is that those shipping companies that converted to steam from sail in a timely manner survived, those that didn't were sunk.

The ships still floated, and the parallel here is not that steam = Internet, but that steam = Newspaper 2.0: a product people want to buy and be seen with, with a design and brand environment which advertisers value.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Not all bad news

More propaganda about newspaper growth from the WAN, as reported in The Economist.

Not all bad news
Jul 24th 2008From The Economist print edition
Newspapers are thriving in many developing countries

IT MAY not be much consolation to the hard-pressed hacks of the rich world, but in many developing countries the newspaper business is booming. According to figures released in June by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), an industry body based in Paris, newspaper sales in Brazil increased by some 12% last year. Over the past five years, circulation has gone up by more than 22%. In India, sales rose by 11%, bringing the five-year increase to more than 35%. Pakistan’s newspaper market grew by almost as much in the same period. The trend is similar elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.

The demand for news tends to go up as people enter the workforce, earn more money, invest it and so begin to feel that they have more of a stake in their society. Literacy rates also rise in tandem with wealth. For the newly literate, flipping through a newspaper in public is a potent and satisfying symbol of achievement.

Literacy campaigns by the government and NGOs account for much of the increase in sales of Indian newspapers, according to Ashok Dasgupta of the Hindu, a big Indian daily based in Chennai. Hiring is brisk, he says, and new papers and magazines are “cropping up every day”. Most are small, but the number of big, high-quality national business dailies has risen from four in 2006 to six today. A seventh will appear later this year.
Publishers in India benefit from a long tradition of press freedom. But papers in countries with more meddling governments are also, by and large, doing well. This is especially true of small newspapers. Governments with limited resources are often ill-equipped to monitor a profusion of local and regional newspapers. In Mali, for example, newspapers are popping up “like mushrooms”, says Souleymane Kanté, the local manager for World Education, an American NGO that aims to eradicate illiteracy. The Malian government keeps large national publications in line, Mr Kanté says, but local and regional papers have some breathing room.
China’s vast oversight apparatus keeps tabs on big and small outlets alike. But newspapers are thriving there, too. In the past five years sales have increased by more than 20% to 107m copies a day. (By comparison, daily sales in America amount to some 50m.) China’s growing wealth helps to explain this. So does a high level of literacy, thanks in part to the Communist Party’s investment in education.
Shaun Rein, of the China Market Research Group in Shanghai, says there are also other factors at work. Because all Chinese newspapers are state-owned, they will probably remain cheap even as costs increase and advertisers move online. And Beijing’s struggle to limit corruption may also play a part. Some officials see local publications as allies in the effort to unmask crooked regional and municipal authorities, and so favour lengthening reporters’ leashes. Others seem to disapprove, leading to rumours of a debate within the upper echelons of the party—unreported by Chinese media, of course.

Newspapers are doing well in middle-income countries, too, according to WAN. In Argentina, for example, newspaper circulation jumped more than 7% last year. Manuel Mora y Araujo, of IPSOS, a consultancy, says media groups from America and other rich countries have not been investing in Argentine news organisations, possibly because their own problems mean that they cannot afford to. Nonetheless, he says, “The press isn’t worried—there’s tons of advertising.”

The stand out remark how I have put in bold above: who has the deep enough pockets, and the nerve, to invest in these growth markets? There may well be 'tons of advertising' but I can't imagine the rate cards come within a country mile of the NYT Media Group, and that means high acquisition costs for relatively low returns.

Not that I suppose that will put Rupe off.

Question is, will it put Mr. Sulzberger off?

But what's really interesting is this line from the report: flipping through a newspaper in public is a potent and satisfying symbol of achievement.

Newspapers have to create Newspaper 2.0 which deliver exactly that - a public consumer symbol - and not for newly literate, but for the very literate Internet generation: content and brands that make a public consumer statement, in much the same way a Channel handbag does.

Now what is the statement made by reading the IHT in public?

You're probably an American expat.

What's the statement made by reading the NYT in public?

You're old and not very hip.

International Herald Tribune


New York Times


Shouldn't Judy Miller have gracefully retired by now?

Given Ms. Miller's role in acting as a voice-box for phoney White House gen on WMD, shouldn't this ex-NYT correspondent have just gone off and gracefully retired?

I had assumed so, but no: she is now an 'expert on bio-terrorism', giving lectures at the Foreign Press Club in Hong Kong. Nice work if you can get it, but why should we believe anything she writes?

And lectures on a US shield law. I'm with the programme, but I don't think this cause is served with her as its spokesperson.

Veteran NYTimes reporter calls for US shield law
1 day ago
HONG KONG (AFP) — Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller on Thursday called on the US Congress to enact a federal shield law that would protect journalists from being forced to disclose their sources.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who was jailed for 85 days in 2005 after refusing to tell prosecutors which of her sources had outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, said the US was now shrouded in secrecy in the post-9/11 era.
A vast amount of information which had been accessible to the public was made confidential by the administration of US President George W. Bush, she said in a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club here.
"I have never seen such an abuse of secrecy in the name of national security since I arrived in Washington, DC, 35 years ago," said Miller, who specialises in covering bio-terrorism.
"No country that calls itself free should jail journalists for doing their job," she added.
"The danger now is that it's so difficult to get any bill through the US Congress. But we need to pass the bill on a federal shield law."
Various forms of media shield law are in place in 49 of the 50 US states. The US House of Representatives passed its version of the shield bill in October. The Senate is expected to debate the bill sometime this month.
Both of the presumptive presidential nominees, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, have endorsed the Senate version of the legislation.
But Miller warned Obama supporters that he might not be the perfect guardian of press freedoms, saying: "Obama is not very press-friendly. He's very suspicious of the press, and I think that it's true of all presidents."
Since her imprisonment, 3,000 reporters have received subpoenas to testify in court, the 60-year-old veteran said, noting that 80 percent of those cases had nothing to do with national security.
Miller was set free after her source -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff -- waived her pledge of confidentiality. She subsequently testified in front of a grand jury at a federal court.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Or Norwegian?

Mecom seen looking to sell Norway unit
OSLO: UK-based European newspaper publisher Mecom is looking to sell its Norwegian newspaper division Edda Media just two years after it bought the business, Norwegian financial daily Dagens Naeringsliv reported.
Mecom, headed by former Mirror Group chief David Montgomery, bought the Norwegian papers from conglomerate Orkla in 2006 for 7.5 billion Norwegian crowns (729 million pounds).
Montgomery, who told Dagens Naeringsliv in March he was not selling Edda Media, has come under pressure from shareholders disappointed with the steep drop in London-listed Mecom's share price, the paper said.
Mecom shares, which fell 2.5 percent to 19.25 pounds on the London Stock Exchange, have lost 62 percent this year and are down 80 percent from a peak in July last year.
"The Mecom board has not yet decided to sell Edda Media," Dagens Naringsliv said.

"Behind the scenes, however, an informal sales process has been put in motion," it said, adding that activity around a sale had grown more intense in recent weeks.
"If the price is high enough, everything points to a sale," the newspaper said.
A Mecom spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called a market rumour.
Possible buyers are Norwegian media groups A-Pressen and Berner Gruppen and directory services firm Opplysningen, Dagens Naeringsliv said.
Edda Media has 49 newspapers, a number of websites, interests in local radio and television stations and 1,750 employees, Dagens Naeringsliv said.
The acquisition by Mecom in 2006 caused a big stir in Norway and fears for the future of local newspapers.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Sell the IHT to an Indian Company?

Trinity Mirror rises on talk of Bennett interest
LONDON: Shares in media group Trinity Mirror jumped more than 5 percent on Thursday on market talk of bid interest from India's Bennett, Coleman.
Trinity Mirror declined to comment.
At 4:03 p.m., its stock was up 5.4 percent at 93.5 pence, the fifth-biggest gainer on the FTSE 250 mid-cap index , which was down 1.8 percent.
Bennett, Coleman is the group behind the Times of India and the Economic Times newspapers.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

IHT and NYT do finally report their earnings.

I criticised the IHT for not publishing online or in print on Wednesday or Thursday figures that were published on Wednesday.

Today however they have and here it is below. Why the delay though, and again, is it appropriate for NYT journalists to report on their own company when no end of wire stories were available for use from Wednesday?

They managed to get up the appointment of a new IHT exec. editor pretty damn fast, so what was the journalist doing on the piece below? Running it past Janet Robinson for the O.K?

Time to dig out that fat old NYT journalistic ethics book I think.

There might be a Chinese Wall between advertisers and edit, but I don't see much evidence of one between edit and management when it comes to reporting their own company.

I think it's fair to say that in contrast to other reports and media commentators, the NYT journalist puts the best possible face on things. No 'plummet' in the earning decline headline, no mention of 'down 82%' in the first para, just for example. (I've flagged some other positive spin in bold below.)

Earnings decline at New York Times
The New York Times Company reported net income on Wednesday of $21.1 million in the second quarter, down from $118.4 million in the quarter a year ago, when it recorded revenue from the sale of the company's television stations.
Excluding one-time gains and losses from asset sales in the quarter a year ago, earnings from continuing operations fell to 15 cents a share, from 29 cents, on sharply lower advertising revenue.
Excluding costs for job cuts, the results slightly exceeded analyst expectations.
The New York Times newspaper will increase its daily newsstand price by 25 cents, to $1.50, effective Aug. 18, Janet Robinson, the president and chief executive, announced in a conference call with analysts. The company had already announced a 4.5 percent subscription price increase that begins this month. It raised both subscription and newsstand prices in July 2007.
The company, like the entire newspaper industry, continues to be battered by the economic downturn and the long-term shift of readers and advertisers from print to the Internet, and Robinson warned of more rough sledding ahead.
"We expect to see a tough second half if the economy continues to act as it's acting now," she said. "I think there still is increased difficulty with regard to the ad market going forward."
Revenue in the quarter dropped 6 percent, to $741.9 million, from $788.9 million, and operating costs fell 2.1 percent, to $701.6 million, from $717 million. Excluding depreciation, amortization and buyout costs, operating costs dropped 3.6 percent.
Excluding costs for employee buyouts of $15.7 million after taxes, or 11 cents a share, earnings were 26 cents.
On that basis, analysts had expected 22 cents.
Analysts say that 2008 is shaping up as the worst year for the newspaper business since the Depression, and the second quarter is clearly worse than the first.
Overall newspaper revenue at the Times Company was $713.3 million, down from $764.2 million. Operating profit was $44.5 million; in the quarter a year earlier it was $46.7 million or, excluding the effect of asset sales, $71.9 million.
The company's newspapers recorded a drop of 11.8 percent, to $427.6 million, in combined print and online advertising revenue in the quarter, including a 17.8 percent fall in June — a dismal showing, yet better than average for the industry.
The Gannett Company, the country's largest newspaper chain, reported last week that newspaper ad revenue in the second quarter fell 13.5 percent from a year earlier. Media General, another major newspaper publisher, recorded a 17.1 percent decline.
The Times newspaper continued to fare better than others in the company, in keeping with the pattern of recent years.
The New York Times Media Group, which consists of The Times and the International Herald Tribune, had a 9.5 percent decline in ad revenue in the last quarter.
Ad revenue fell 15.1 percent at the New England Media Group, which includes The Boston Globe, and 16 percent at the Regional Media Group.
Internet revenue at the company rose 12.8 percent in the quarter, to $91.3 million, and online advertising rose 18.3 percent, to $80.8 million. That represented about 12.3 percent of the company's total revenue in the quarter, compared with 10.3 percent a year ago.
Revenue rose 15.8 percent, to $28.6 million, at the About Group, which includes, and operating profit climbed 7.1 percent, to $9.1 million.
Circulation revenue, which is falling at most newspaper companies, rose 2.5 percent, to $224.2 million, primarily because of a price increase at The Times.
While revenue fell below analysts' expectations, so did expenses. The company said it would exceed the goal set last year of cutting annual costs by $230 million by the end of 2008. It signaled that the cost of staff reductions would be greater than previously anticipated, predicting buyout costs in the second half of $40 million to $50 million, up from the earlier estimate of $30 million to $35 million.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Thursday, 24 July 2008

News from Wall Street

From Media Bistro

Former WSJ Editor Says Rupe Doing a Great Job, Mr. Hyde So Far a No-Show

Is Rupert Murdoch single-handedly keeping the WSJ a bastion of journalistic integrity? Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall St. Journal, the last one, in fact, to serve before Rupert Murdoch took over, says that he knows "something about the economics of that paper. It is not making money. [Rupe] is pouring money into that paper to try and upgrade it."
Steiger, who has since gone on launch
ProPublica, seems to have nothing but nice things to say about the changes Rupe has wrought since taking over the Journal last year: "I think, as a reader, that the Journal is doing a terrific job." Furthermore, judging from the current state of the Journal Steiger told an audience he sees no evidence of "Bad Rupert" raising his head: "I see no evidence, nor do my friends there report any evidence, of the bad Rupert showing up, trying to move the coverage in a way that advances his business interests. So, to me, my fears haven't been realized."

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Reuters journalists and headlines versus NYT/IHT

I've mooted the idea before that if Reuters can handle the IHT's business section (largely) why not give them the general news gathering job, for three reasons.

Firstly, their reporting is not American centric, secondly they tend to employ more locals, thirdly they seem to write better for a truly international audience.

As an example, lets look at the reporting of the comments of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, speaking on Iranian state TV on Wednesday.

The first article, which frankly has a headline in the 'stir the pot' category, is written by IHT journalist Alan Cowell, rather cleverly from Paris. I don't imagine he speaks the language, and relies on the wires to tell him what the story is.

The second article, same story, is from local Reuters correspondent in Tehran, who finds something a little more positive.

Consider: they are both reporting on exactly the same speech broadcast live on state television from the city of Yasuj.

Cowell is using wire reports - he admits this - and we must presume he looked at Reuters.

Interestingly, from Paris, Yasuj is a city in western Iran, whereas the Reuters reporter has Yasuj in the south.

Now where is Yasuj?

On to Google Maps I go, and I find out it is exactly due south of Tehran, and indeed in the south, and, quite clearly, not in the west of Iran.

So why do we need Cowell's bias, why do we need his expensive salary, why do we need his sloppy cut and pasting and non-fact checking of this story.

Why not just run with Reuters, from Tehran, and be done with it?

There is a huge difference between these North/South stories. They both cover the same facts - Iranian stubborness and praise for Americans - but give precisely opposite emphasis. I find the Reuters article the better.

Iran being stubborn over nuclear ambitions isn't news; the President of Iran saying something good about the U.S, well that was news to me.

Iran won't relent on nuclear program
Published: July 23, 2008
PARIS: As world powers await Iran's reply to proposals concerning its nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted on Wednesday that Tehran would not "retreat one iota" from its atomic work, which includes the enrichment of uranium.
Ahmadinejad was speaking in a televised address during a visit to the western town of Yasouj, according to news agency reports from Tehran that also quoted him as sending more conciliatory messages alongside his familiar, firebrand oratory.
Ahmadinejad says U.S. envoy showed Iran respect
By Zahra Hosseinian Reuters
Published: July 23, 2008
TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday praised U.S. participation in last week's talks with Tehran on its disputed nuclear programme as "a positive step" and said its arch foe had shown respect.
"I advise you not to spoil this positive step ... by using the language of colonial times and by bullying," Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
But Ahmadinejad, who was unusually complimentary in his comments about a representative of a country Iran's clerical leaders see as "the Great Satan", made clear Tehran would not halt atomic work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.
At Saturday's meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in Geneva, six world powers gave Iran two weeks to answer calls to rein in its nuclear activities or face more sanctions.
"If you imagine that by some threats, sanctions and pressure you can make the Iranian nation retreat, you are again making a mistake," Ahmadinejad said in the southern city of Yasuj.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Lost in editing: the point

A superb article about the loss of the old quarters of Beijing is a story of loss, of change, of rapacious capitalism, front page play indeed. Just the sort of off-the-news, in-depth reporting that can make newspapers relevant again.

But on it gets the headline below and is relegated to the Travel and Dining Section.

That's two very different plays, neatly illustrating how stories are regarded on where it did not make the home page headlines.

Lost in the new Beijing: The old neighborhood

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Bad News is No News

Unless I've missed something, yesterday's reported 82% drop in quarterly profits at the NYT didn't make the pages of today's IHT, nor

The appointment of Bill Schmidt did.

The piece ran in the IHT was basically the IHT's/NYT's press release. On it was given billing as the 8th most important business story in the business section. In the IHT it was given prominent play in the front of the book, not even held for the business pages.

I think this does raise a question of how the IHT covers itself.

Perhaps best left to Reuters for example.

This type of corporate churnalism is a) against the journalistic ethics of the NYT and b) does their reputation for not churning corporate press releases no favours.

Top editor named at IHT
PARIS: William Schmidt, an assistant managing editor at The New York Times, has been appointed to take over as the top editor at the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times and the IHT announced Wednesday.
Schmidt, a veteran foreign correspondent and newsroom administrator at The Times, has been named editor, global editions. He will move to Paris, where the newspaper is based, by the end of the year, taking over from Martin Gottlieb, who has been serving in that capacity on an interim basis. Gottlieb will return to New York to continue the work of integrating the two newspapers.
"Bill's career is rich in both journalistic and management experience," Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said in a statement. "He has reported from a variety of foreign and domestic bureaus - Moscow, Cairo and London, Chicago, Miami, Denver and Atlanta.
"As a member of The Times's masthead, Bill has participated in most of the major decisions about our newsroom," Keller added. "One of his key achievements has been the significant improvements he has made to the management, fiscal discipline and training of The Times's newsroom."
Schmidt has been at The Times since 1981. In 1995, he became deputy national editor at The Times, and he has been a member of the senior management in the newsroom since 1997.

In 1987, Schmidt was part of a team of reporters that shared the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for articles about the causes of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. In 1977 he shared an award from the Overseas Press Club for his reporting on the war in Lebanon.
Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, publisher of the IHT, said in the statement that Schmidt would "set the strategic direction and maintain our high standards of news coverage."
"His appointment reaffirms The New York Times's commitment to the IHT as a critical part of its global strategy," Dunbar-Johnson said.
The IHT, the global edition of The New York Times, is printed at 35 sites throughout the world, and is sold in more than 180 countries. It has been based in Paris since 1887.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Change your business plan

Interesting this one. Here we have a broadly consumer brand newspaper company with increased revenues. Thanks to the business-to business division

Lesson for NYT? Get out of consumer information?

Murdoch didn't try and persuade the Sulzbergers because he thought them too hard to persuade; he went after the Bancrofts and their business-to-business properties, and their businessperson 'consumer' brand.

Daily Mail revenue up on strong B2B performance
LONDON: Publishing group Daily Mail & General Trust said third-quarter revenue rose 5 percent on last year as growth in the group's business-to- business division offset weak advertising revenue.
The group, which publishes the Daily Mail and Evening Standard newspapers, said advertising revenue for the national Associated unit fell by 3 percent and was down by 11 percent for the regional Northcliffe division.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

T Magazine - the future?

If you like T you'll like this:

Is the Future of Newspapers Glossy?

Meet Andrew Essex, during the nineties he was a hot, young, journalist thing with an impressive career trajectory until he ditched it all for a lucrative job in advertising. Is his path the way of newspapers in general? It certainly looks that way judging by all the newspaper glossies set to hit newsstands this fall. (The Observer calls them "very pretty publications...with heavy paper stock, big perfectly bound spines, and shiny pictures of spinnakers and gourmet chocolate.")

Behold: The Wall Street Journal is launching WSJ; WaPo is delving into the fashion market with FW; the Los Angeles Times is reintroducing its magazine, and then there's Manhattan.

Why is an industry that is plummeting towards its doom focusing on the luxury market?

According to Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio, the publisher of WSJ, "Our economy has grown so much through the luxury space that it just makes sense that there is more of a highlight on that sector in [publishing] as well."
And what price all this gloss? There is some concern that the line between advertising and editorial is being crossed, that the editor has merely become a well-connected affable businessman, and luxury advertisers will begin to dictate content.

Not true! says Asmodeo-Giglio. However, as Andrew Essex points out, "The editor's to keep a book alive...It is not to massage semicolons. Now some people at ASME or Mr. Ross or Mr. Shawn may vomit at that statement, but it's better than not having any book at all."

Firstly, I'd agree with that statement about the book (although I have blogged about my issues with T, quickly corrected by a word from some IHT insiders).

Secondly, as to why an industry that is "plummeting towards its doom is focusing on the luxury market"? That seems pretty obvious to me.

Because that is where the money is, and no Internet advert I have ever seen has the shelf-life, impact and jump off the page 'impression' than a full-colour advert in a well-produced glossy. Which is why so many of the (non-newspaper) glossies are doing relatively well.

It's all about following the money, and as long as the IHT keeps reporting the income disparity behind the elites that are interested in these glossies and the rest of us, that's fine by me.

If you have a well-documented, good demographic readership already there, which takes out ALL of the start up costs traditionally associated with new launch glossies, then why on earth not?

And if a load of old bollocks about $5,000 bottles of perfume pays for my daily IHT, I'll live with it.

P.S "Our economy has grown so much through the luxury space" - my word, the ability of senior media execs to still speak in ever evoloving BS language is quite remarkable.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Newspapers: It's Officially, Officially, Very, Very Bad

More cheery views from Media Bistro:

We're just going to assume that everyone who reads FBNY is acutely aware (more than a number of you probably first-hand) that the newspaper industry is in a free fall. It's a rare day that at least one of our posts does not cover some lay-off here, or some shuttering there. And today is no different. Just worse. In fact it's possible that the future of newspapers glass is still a bit too full. According to the Observer this may be the "worst year in modern newspaper history."
But as bad as newspapers have been doing — it's been conventional wisdom for a few years now — the industry is actually doing much worse than most ever anticipated, and that's become painfully clear over the past two months.
Which brings us to the just reported New York Times Co. second-quarter earnings. Times Co. stocks have fallen 82% from last year. Here's the numbers per the AP: "Net income dropped to $21.1 million, or 15 cents per share, from $118.4 million, or 82 cents per share, a year ago." However! (despite everything we happen to be glass-half-full people) the company does report a gain in revenue from its internet properties, which "jumped 13 percent to $91.3 million and accounted for about 12 percent of total revenue."
All this talk of dropping brings us to
Sam Zell, current agent-of-doom for all things Tribune Co., and he's not apologizing.

We're looking at some of the worst advertising numbers in the history of the world. I have a responsibility ... to keep this business alive when cash flow has eroded at a prodigious level. We're not interested in trial by torture, not interested in dying by a thousand cuts...We're doing everything we can to make this downsizing happen as quickly and as painlessly as possible."
Quick? Frighteningly so. Painless? Not so much

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Expect a price hike?

If you think you're already paying a fair whack for your IHT every day...then you should subscribe.

But if you still find that pricey....then you should pay by monthly direct debit (very reasonable).

But if you still find that a little heavy on your wallet then I should be ready to expect a price increase.

The NYT seems to be following a popular trend which is this: daily newspaper readers may be declining, no one will pay for online content (witness TimesSelect), but they can still milk the loyal cash cow readers.

Which, if you are reading this blog, is probably you.

Here's this from Media Bistro (Wednesday 23rd July, 2008)

Up, Up, and Away: NYT to Raise Newsstand Price

That was fast. Just this morning the Times released its (demoralizing) second quarter earnings and shortly thereafter on a conference call to discuss the report New York Times Co. president and CEO Janet Robinson announced that as of Aug. 18 the paper would be raising its newsstand prices from $1.25 to $1.50.
Newsstand price hikes are all the rage these days, it seems. Just last week the WSJ
announced it was upping its price by fifty cents, and this past May the NYPost doubled its price. We're not schooled in the background economics of these decisions, however, is it really a good idea to make something that less people want that much harder to get?

Quite. MediaBistro are not schooled in the background economics of these decisions, but actually, to my mind, it is a good idea. If 25cents is going to lose a reader, they will migrate to the web where their 25cents will probably be earned back in page views.

Plus, the more they charge the reader the more they can go on to advertisers about core readers/loyalty/real page impressions. In short even a smaller circulation can earn more money if the CPMs go up (cost per thousands) and the demographic of the print product moves up-scale. Plus they save money on print and circulation costs. NB Circulation revenues for the NYT rose 1.2% (if my memory serves me) in Q2 and the woman in charge of their marketing is a circulation genius who will almost certainly one day be the head honcho of the NYT newspaper, and eventually, company. Yasmin Namini is the name and a very bright spark.

So in short the NYT moves towards an existing IHT model - you might not be a HNWI (Hight Net Worth Individual) but that's sure what the ad sales team are telling the print advertisers, most of whom now are either 'green energy' advertisers OR luxury goods.

Interational Herald Tribune
New York Times

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The full gory detail

You can find the full gory detail at

What I note is no special mention of the International Herald Tribune, but I will quote in full the results of the News Media Group.

News Media Group
Total News Media Group revenues decreased 6.7 percent to $713.3 million from $764.2 million.
Advertising revenues decreased 11.8 percent due to weakness in print advertising across the News Media Group, partially offset by higher online advertising revenues.
Circulation revenues rose 2.5 percent, mainly because of higher prices at The New York Times offset in part by volume declines across the News Media Group.
Other revenues increased 1.4 percent primarily because of revenues from rental income and commercial printing, partially offset by the elimination of subscription revenues for TimesSelect, an online product offering that was discontinued in September 2007.
Total News Media Group operating costs decreased 2.9 percent to $668.8 million from $689.0 million. Excluding depreciation and amortization and buyouts, operating costs decreased 4.4 percent to $614.1 million from $642.6 million, mainly as a result of the items noted in the operating costs section above.
Operating profit for the News Media Group decreased 4.7 percent to $44.5 million from $46.7 million. Excluding depreciation and amortization and the special items identified above, operating profit for the News Media Group decreased 38.3 percent to $72.0 million from $116.7 million, because of lower print advertising revenues.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

82% drop in earnings and a new editor for the IHT

I don't presume that the appointment of a new editor to the IHT is bad news, but a funny day to make the announcment, given all the noise about the results.

Anyway, his name is William Schmidt. What I don't quite understand is why he won't take over until the end of this year? No sense of urgency then?

Also interesting that the man for the global job hasn't worked outside the U.S.A since at least 1995 if I read the below correctly. A lot has happened since then.

International Herald Tribune Names William Schmidt Editor, Global Editions
Paris, July 23, 2008: The International Herald Tribune (IHT) announced today that William Schmidt, assistant managing editor for The New York Times, has been named editor, global editions. He will move to Paris and take over from Martin Gottlieb at the end of the year.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said: “Bill’s career is rich in both journalistic and management experience. He has reported from a variety of foreign and domestic bureaus – Moscow, Cairo and London, Chicago, Miami, Denver and Atlanta. As a member of The Times’s masthead, Bill has participated in most of the major decisions about our newsroom. One of his key achievements has been the significant improvements he has made to the management, fiscal discipline and training of The Times’s newsroom.”
Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, publisher of the IHT, said: “In his new job, Bill will set the strategic direction and maintain our high standards of news coverage. He will be the principal liaison with Bill Keller and me. His appointment reaffirms The New York Times’s commitment to the IHT as a critical part of its global strategy.”
Mr. Schmidt worked as a correspondent for Newsweek and, since 1981, The New York Times. In 1995 he became The Times's deputy national editor, and he has been a member of the senior management in the newsroom since 1997.
Mr. Schmidt shared the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1987, the George Polk Award for national reporting in 1971, and in 1977 he shared an award from the Overseas Press Club for his reporting on the war in Lebanon.

The News Is In

OK, pretty much what we were expecting. My emphasis in bold, comments in italics.

New York Times Company Profits Plummet, 82% Drop In One Year

NEW YORK — New York Times Co.'s second-quarter earnings fell 82 percent from a year ago, when it saw a one-time gain from the sale of a unit, but print advertising continued to shrink and pulled down operating income, the publisher said Wednesday.

Net income dropped to $21.1 million, or 15 cents per share, from $118.4 million, or 82 cents per share, a year ago. In the second quarter of 2007, the company got a 66-cents-per-share boost from selling its broadcast media group but also took a 14-cent hit from other one-time items.

The results for 2008's second quarter include a one-time charge of $15.7 million, or 11 cents per share, to cover staff buyouts. Times Co., like many publishers looking to curb spending as ad revenues continue plummeting, is reducing its staff. The cut of 100 people this year is expected to produce up to $40 million in related costs over fiscal 2008.

Earnings from continuing operations slid 6 percent to $20.9 million, or 15 cents per share. Excluding one-time items, that amounts to 26 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial on average expected profit of 22 cents per share. Most of their forecasts excluded an estimate for buyout charges, making them more comparable to the Times' 26-cent figure.

Revenue fell 6 percent to $741.9 million and missed the Wall Street projection of $754 million.

Ad revenue dropped 11 percent, hurt mostly by a continuing decline in classified advertising.

Higher newsstand and subscription prices for the Times boosted circulation revenue 2.5 percent. [IW: so there's money in print still?]

"We saw the continued effect on our businesses of the U.S. economic slowdown and secular forces playing out across the media industry," Chief Executive Janet Robinson said in a statement. [IW: that's a nice touch - blame the economy and put down the failure of your business model to 'secular forces', unspecified.]

The flagship New York Times paper brought in 10 percent lower advertising revenue, even as industry watchers say the Times is better positioned than most >
newspapers to weather the migration of ad spending to the Internet because of its broad national appeal.

Revenue from the company's Internet properties _ which include newspaper Web sites and the consumer information site _ jumped 13 percent to $91.3 million [IW: great]and accounted for about 12 percent of total revenue [IW: not so great].

That is [IW: might we say here ONLY and NOT NEARLY ENOUGH] 2 percentage points more than in the same period a year ago, but the group is not growing quickly enough to offset the decline in print ad revenue. [IW: At 2% growth for revenue that is only 12 percent of total revenue, why this obsession with the Internet?]

Times Co. cut operating costs by 2 percent [IW: well that ain't gonna do it], mostly from employing fewer staff, paying fewer bonuses [IW: Fewer? Well who's getting one?] and reducing newsprint consumption [IW = smaller newspaper, smaller news hole].

Robinson said the worsening economy and higher energy prices have continued to hit the company so far in July. Airlines, hotel operators and automakers have all curbed advertising spending, she said, adding, "We expect that will continue for some time." [IW: like a decade?]

IW: Bottom line, we're in trouble. And we better come up with smart ideas fast.
That 2% growth on Internet earnings, when it's only 12% of revenue tells me the answer does not lie in the Internet. I'll leave the mathmeticians among you to work out how long, at this rate - and a rate which might slow or stagnate, even decline - it will take the millions of dollars and hours of time poured into the Internet to compensate for the drop in print revenue.

What's needed is Newspaper 2.0.

And pretty soon I'd say.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Compare and Contrast

Same news conference, in Amman, Jordan, attended by the Reuters correspondent and by Jeff Zeleny of the NYT. Reports from both journalists can be found at

Obama says committed to Iraq withdrawal plan
AMMAN: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was committed to a 16-month timetable for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, after a trip in which he met Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials.
Obama was speaking in the Jordanian capital as part of a tour of the region in which he has sought to shift the focus of U.S. military efforts from Iraq to Afghanistan, where al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent.
The question of when to withdraw some 147,000 U.S. troops in Iraq overshadowed the first term senator's trip. Obama has made his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 a centrepiece of his election campaign.
"What I have proposed is a steady, deliberate draw down over the course of 16 months," he told a news conference in Amman.
Obama has said the draw down would enable more troops to be deployed in Afghanistan, where insurgent attacks in the past two months have killed more U.S. soldiers than in Iraq.
He described the situation in Afghanistan as "perilous and urgent" and said al Qaeda and the Taliban were planning more attacks in the United States."

In Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan, al Qaeda and the Taliban are mounting a growing offensive against the security of the Afghan people and increasingly the Pakistani people, while plotting new attacks against the United States," he said.

Obama says he would not hesitate to overrule American commanders
AMMAN: Senator Barack Obama said Tuesday that there was "no doubt security has improved in Iraq," but that he would not hesitate to overrule American commanders and redirect forces to fight what he called "a perilous and urgent" battle against terrorism in Afghanistan.
"My job as a candidate for president and a potential commander in chief extends beyond Iraq," Obama told reporters in Jordan after finishing a three-day tour of Iraq and Afghanistan.Obama, who is on a weeklong trip through the Middle East and Western Europe, lauded the efforts of the U.S. military to reduce violence in Iraq.
He conceded that top U.S. commanders had said they resisted the idea of a timetable for withdrawing troops, saying that they wanted to "retain as much flexibility as possible."
Asked whether he intended to ignore their advice, Obama declared: "No, I'm factoring in their advice, but placing it in this broader strategic framework that's required."

The different lead elements of their respective stories, and the different focus of the headlines, show to me that Reuters have a much better understanding of writing for a global audience than the American-centric (almost tabloid like headline), domestic politics approach of the NYT.

Which poses this question:

If Reuters is deemed good enough to be the backbone of the IHT's business coverage, and given the appalling mess the NYT is in financially (and on basically any metric you care to mention), why don't they just hand over the foreign news gathering to Reuters too?

It would save a lot of money. And at the majority of foreign news is ALREADY coming from Reuters (and other wire services).

(Another question is why Reuters don't run their own consumer news brand site? I've put that out there before, and it's a good question. I think that's the risk of letting them gain a greater consumer profile in the pages of the IHT.)

Punch is talking about aggregating content from other news rivals. Well, if he's up for that, why not save a heap of money and just go with Reuters?

Then allocate NYT editors, from cheaper State-side locations or less expensive and less demanding 'off-the-news bureaus', to sit back and write more off-the-news analysis.

Just a thought.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Listen up or mobilise? Lost in translation

A nice example of how one media source can differ from another, and all merged at

"The general mobilisation of ants... (I) hope citizens receiving this message will not take bus lines 54, 64 and 84 tomorrow morning," the Southern Metropolitan Daily quoted the message as saying.

"Listen up, ants," the text started, according to the newspaper. "If you receive this message, please don't take bus route 54, 64 or 84."

Reuters offers the general mobilsation call, the NYT correspondent goes for a more, dare I say it, American take: Listen up (dudes).

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

As I blog about the International Herald Tribune

As I blog about the International Herald Tribune, this caught my eye:

Companies face 'groundswell' threat on Internet
At business conferences in the 1990s, it was common to hear that "the Internet changes everything." This was meant as a warning that companies slow to set up Web sites and sell their products online were doomed to be road kill on the information superhighway.
Ten years later, the superhighway has ballooned into something more akin to a data galaxy. Numerous companies have Web sites, engage in e-commerce and dabble in e-mail marketing. But there is a new fear afoot: that despite all these moves, businesses are in danger of losing control of the Internet-fueled conversation about their products and services, putting their corporate reputations at risk.
The explosion of blogs, wikis, podcasts, online videos, social networking sites and Internet chat rooms that has upended the traditional relationship between companies and their customers is the subject of a new book by two top analysts from Forrester Research.
In "Groundswell - Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies," published this past spring by Harvard Business School Press, Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li lay out the threats and opportunities posed by this unmediated, 24/7, often anonymous cacophony.
Bernoff and Li define this groundswell as a grass-roots movement of people deploying online tools to connect and trade information, tips and rumors about products and support.

"The groundswell," they write, "is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies. If you're in a company, this is a challenge." But, of course, there is no turning the clock back. The trend can not be ignored by executives responsible for their brands.
"This is the largest thing to happen to American business since the Internet came in," said Bernoff, a vice president and principal analyst for Forrester in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Li, who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, left Forrester last week to devote more time to her family, she said in a blog post.
Companies can get broadsided by the groundswell.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

'A Midsummer Harvest of Bogus Trend Stories'


A Midsummer Harvest of Bogus Trend Stories
Drivel from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.By Jack Shafer

The bogus trend story thrives thanks to the journalists who never let the facts get in the way when they think they've discovered some new social tendency. Take, for example, the story on Page One in today's New York Times titled "A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss." Its first sentence declares, "Eating locally raised food is a growing trend."
Although the piece collects anecdotes from San Francisco; New York City; Santa Fe, N.M.; Berkeley, Calif.; Mill Valley, Calif.; the Hamptons, N.Y.; and Vermont, it presents no evidence of a rise in the consumption of locally raised food. The closest the piece comes to quantifying its assertion that backyard gardens, "cow pooling" arrangements, and vegetable subscription programs are taking off is the fuzzy sentiment sourced to a Bellevue, Wash., research firm that for a "growing number of diners, a food's provenance is more important than its brand name," and a National Restaurant Association survey of 1,200 chefs working at chain restaurants or large food companies. The survey found that locally grown produce was the second-hottest food trend—right after bite-sized desserts.
The Times was beaten to this bogus trend by sister paper the Boston Globe on
June 3 in a piece titled "Amid City Streets, a Growing Trend: High Produce Prices Send Urbanites in Search of a Spade and Handful of Seeds."
The Globe's proof that a million gardens are blooming comes from two companies: American Seed, which shipped 18 percent more vegetable seeds to dealers this year, and New England Seed, which says its vegetable seed sales are up about 20 percent from last year. But a one-year increase in seeds shipped or seeds sold by two companies doesn't necessarily constitute a trend. Has a competitor gone out of business, leaving the two firms with more market share? Were the frigging seeds even planted? Will they be brought to harvest? Or, as with every garden I've planted, will the sprouts fry themselves into ribbons of cellulose by August?
The Globe story makes much about the waiting list of 41 names at one Boston area community garden. Is that up or down from last year? The story doesn't say. But if you're interested in long-term trends, please see this
2002 business story in the Times about the seed business, which indicates that the American backyard garden is a wisp of its former self. In that story, the research director of the National Gardening Association tells the Times that the average backyard garden shrank from nearly 800 feet to 100 feet over the last quarter-century, attributing the decline to the wider selection of fruits and vegetables—including organic—in supermarkets. Both the Globe and the Times dispatches capture more noise than data.
The dailies find evidence that rising gas prices have prompted several trends. In a
June 11 piece, the New York Times links higher gas prices to a dramatic increase in online college-class enrollment ("High Cost of Driving Ignites Online Classes Boom"). The Times reports:
At Bristol Community College in Fall River, Mass., for instance, online enrollments were up 114 percent this summer over last, and half the students queried cited gas costs or some other transportation obstacle as a reason for signing up to study over the Internet, said April Bellafiore, an assistant dean there.
The article finds similar online enrollment trends at other colleges around the country, but are increased gas prices really driving enrollment?
Adjust gas prices for inflation, and the commodity isn't that much more expensive today than in previous decades. Maybe rising online enrollment has more to do with the increased availability of online classes, growing broadband use, and word of mouth. In other words, if gasoline prices had stayed steady, would we still be experiencing a surge of online education? Probably. Once schools purchase computer servers and compose the Web pages, they have every incentive to steer students to online courses because they're cheaper to run than meatspace classes.

'Black and White, Red All Over: Is 2008 the Worst Year in Modern Newspaper History?'


On Wednesday morning at 11 a.m., Arthur Sulzberger and Janet Robinson will be managing a conference call that, from the looks of it, won't be much fun. They'll be reporting The New York Times Company's second-quarter earnings. Last time they did one of quarterly earnings calls, The Times reported big losses; there was a plan to cut 100 newsroom jobs, some through straight-up layoffs rather than superannuation and retirement deals. And in the past few weeks, it's only gotten worse: the company's stock has fallen to a decade low, and tumbled more than 15 percent in just this month. The Times is hardly alone. It trickles in day by day: more news of lost jobs and tumbling stocks for major newspapers and their parent companies. But as bad as newspapers have been doing—it's been conventional wisdom for a few years now—the industry is actually doing much worse than most ever anticipated, and that's become painfully clear over the past two months. At the beginning of the year, things didn't look so bad. There was bad news, but it seemed consistent with what we've been getting warnings about for years now: In February, The New York Times announced it would cut 100 jobs from its newsroom, including laying people off for the first time ever. That same month, the L.A. Times publisher David Hiller sent out an announcement as well: He said up to 150 jobs would be lost across the L.A. Times media group (which includes Spanish paper Hoy and other community papers). When Russ Stanton was named the paper's editor a day after that memo was sent out, he said he was "hopping mad over this seemingly endless ‘Groundhog Day' nightmare. We in the newsroom need to figure out how to break this self-defeating cycle before it does indeed result in our defeat." Sam Zell, the brand new owner of the paper's parent company, the Tribune Company, said: "Unfortunately, I can't turn this ship from its course of the past 10 years within just a few months." He added, "But, make no mistake. This is not my ultimate strategy for our company." The February cuts at The Times and the other Tribune papers looked like a one-time deal. Despite the undeniable blow to all these newsrooms, it seemed Mr. Zell was just clearing out some fat, and if there were future cuts, maybe they'd happen next year. And indeed, things were beginning to look up. In June, Russ Stanton told MediaBistro that morale was starting to reappear at the paper and that people were "focused solely on doing great work and good stories and terrific journalism." And then Sam Zell threw all that out the window the next day. "What has become clear as we have gotten intimately familiar with the business is that the model for newspapers no longer works," he said in a memo. Ad revenue, as bad as its been in recent years, fell to levels that no one had anticipated either at Tribune papers or in the industry overall. Last year, ad revenue dropped 8 percent from 2006; this year there has been a double-digit decline from even that poor performance. "It's going a lot worse than anybody predicted, and if we have double-digit ad declines for two years, some newspapers will be in real financial jeopardy," Edward Atorino, an analyst at the Benchmark Company, told The New York Times in June. After gutting those 150 jobs earlier in the year, the L.A. Times fired 150 more people from its newsroom this past week. And the body count is getting larger all around the Tribune. This year, The Baltimore Sun is cutting about 100 jobs; the Chicago Tribune announced recently it would cut 80; the Sun-Sentinel about 50; the Hartford Courant would cut 57; and the Orlando Senintel about 50. Last week, newsroom employees at the Sun picketed their building, carrying slogans calling for Mr. Zell's ouster. But, of course, these problems are not just slamming Mr. Zell. There was that business last week with Times stock dropping 15 percent in one week, to a decade low. Over the past week or so, the paper's stock has consistently been hovering in the $12 range, whereas it was batting around $14 just a few weeks ago. The company's stock began to fall after Craig Huber, an analyst for Lehman Brothers, wrote earlier this month in a letter to clients about his surprise that ad revenue is projecting a 9.1 percent decline this year, more than the 7.2 percent previously projected. Ad sales next year probably will fall 7.5 percent, compared with his earlier estimate of 6 percent, he said. Last year's purchase of Dow Jones Inc. by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was seen as a sign that something interesting could still happen with newspapers. Mr. Murdoch andThe Wall Street Journal's managing editor Robert Thomson have been promising to invest money in the paper. But they also cut 50 jobs last week, and closed most of the paper's editorial operations in South Brunswick, an emotionally fraught decision since that was the paper's home base after the Sept. 11 attacks closed their downtown newsroom for months. It's obviously easy to look at ad revenues and a tanking economy and point toward that and blame this year on that. But there are other theories. "Because we are in the newspaper industry, we spend a lot of time writing about the demise of newspapers," Katharine Weymouth, the new publisher of The Washington Post, told The Observer last week. "Nobody—I mean, we never see Katie Couric doing a 20-minute segment on the evening news talking about the audience that the nightly news is losing. I mean, they just don't do those stories, right? We write a little obsessively about our own industry, I think. But when you look at the real story with what's happening with newspapers, is there a seismic shift going on? Absolutely. Are ad revenues plummeting? Absolutely. But there is still a very good story." But even she conceded: "This is not me being Pollyannaish," she said. "It's real." Good luck, Arthur and Janet

'NYT Offering You the Chance to be Even More LinkedIn'


More social networking news to report. The announced today that it's forming a "strategic relationship" with LinkedIn that will give LinkedIn members a "more focused and personalized experience on the Business and Technology pages of" According to the press release LinkedIn users will be able to have news "relevant to their professional industries (based on "non-personally identifiable attributes") recommended to them on the Business and Technology pages of"
Sounds great, right? We know, we know, streamlined social networking is the wave of the future. But still, there's something about all this strategic targeting, and relevant information that makes us nervous. Would it really be so bad if one were "recommended" articles that had nothing whatsoever to do with one's personalized interests? (or "non-personally identifiable attributes"). You know like how newspapers used to be printed all willy-nilly without specific sections. If someone were able to develop a newspaper reader like that online we bet we'd have a lot better understanding of Wall St. and a little less awareness of Upper East Side weddings. Anyway! Considering that LinkedIn has 25 million users, in the grand scheme of things this is probably a good plan for the Times.

'The Future of Newspapers: Gazing into the Crystal Kindle Ball'

Well it looks like at least one person is keeping a positive outlook on the future of newspapers. She even seems to have some "ideas." Who is this crazy Pollyanna? Well that would be new WaPo publisher Katharine Weymouth (she was recently profiled by Lloyd Grove for Portfolio) who appeared rather upbeat when she spoke with On the Media the other day about the future of the industry. Here's some of what she had to say.

I guess I think there's a lot of hope, right? I mean, you know, 600 odd thousand people every single day buy our paper, and that's the actual physical copy.
We have 9 million unique visitors every month on the Web. You know, my daughter, who's eight, is reading books on the Kindle. And I went on vacation a week ago and I took the Kindle with me, because I couldn't get the Washington Post, and I read the Washington Post every day on the Kindle.
I mean, I think the world is changing. But we've seen movies go through this, we're seeing music go through this. Other industries have evolved and survived to see another day, and I think we will be one of them.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

He's also a stalwart

Leading in Turbulent Times
Sulzberger Navigates Between Past, Present at the Once Old Gray Lady

Published: July 21, 2008 NEW YORK ( --

How fast, and how treacherous, are the currents sweeping over The New York Times? This September, its home page -- some of the most valuable real estate on the web -- will start automatically displaying links to competitors' takes on big news. That's not your traditional paper of record.
But don't scrap every old way yet. Craigslist's Craig Newmark, of all people, recently subscribed to the print edition for the first time. He wanted to get better informed about the presidential election, he said. "Hence, subscribing to the Times." The publisher trying to simultaneously navigate the future and the present is Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who nonetheless showed his characteristic bounce when we visited. He smiled when we mentioned Mr. Newmark, who has casually helped destroy newspapers' classified-ad business. "He's such a mensch, isn't he?" Mr. Sulzberger said. "Did he tell you he was now a subscriber to the Times?" Mr. Sulzberger, 56, has been publisher since 1992 and chairman of the family business since 1997 but still gets called "Young Arthur" sometimes. It's partly that enthusiasm and tone that strike some people as insufficiently Timesian. Changed landscapeBut something interesting is happening. The light on him started changing after the Chandlers cashed out of Tribune's troubles and the Bancrofts sold Dow Jones to Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Sulzberger, by comparison, blocked a push from Morgan Stanley Investment Management to end his family's control.
The family yanked major money from Morgan Stanley in apparent retaliation. He doesn't seem different; the environment definitely does.

"The fecklessness of the Bancrofts reflected that Arthur had sharp values," a Times reporter said. "He may not be a business visionary, but he is stalwart in a way that they were not." You could even argue that visionaries aren't what they once were. Conditions are cloudy in the summer of 2008. The Fed chairman premised his testimony to Congress on July 15 on "considerable uncertainty." But Mr. Sulzberger remains on the hook for some things you can just feel -- especially if you just survived the newsroom's first-ever layoffs, a response to declining ad revenue, or you own company stock, which hit its lowest price since 1995 last week. The biggest is a brewing battle royal among international news brands. It isn't just Mr. Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, after all, racing to claim turf the Times will want to own. It's Thomson Reuters, CNN, the BBC, the Associated Press, even NBC, the Guardian and others. "There's a half-dozen to a dozen news entities that are growing into global shoes," said Ken Doctor, the newspaper vet turned media analyst for Outsell, a research and advisory firm. The Times has moved in the right directions in the past several years, he said, but needs to put a brick on the gas pedal. It just moved most of its weekly financial tables out of print July 13, not long after newsprint prices reached a 12-year high. "They came to the right decision, but they came to it slowly," Mr. Doctor said. "That is money that could have saved some of those jobs." Its dozens of blogs could be hundreds by now, Mr. Doctor added. The Houston Chronicle has 70 staff blogs and about the same number from community members. More business coverage
As it happens, the Times is about to dramatically expand its business coverage online, gradually introducing a slew of pages on subjects including the economy, energy, small business, personal finance and enterprise technology, according to Vivian Schiller, senior VP-general manager of
Built on the model of DealBook, Andrew Ross Sorkin's popular blog for the business section, each one will include original reporting and commentary from a dedicated staffer, news aggregated from elsewhere, relevant tools, e-mail newsletters, mobile applications and more. Despite this expansion into the Journal's core competency, Mr. Sulzberger avoids talk of direct confrontation. As a London correspondent for the AP from 1976 to 1978, when he joined the Times, he saw British papers react when Mr. Murdoch took over the Times of London.
"It didn't help them, because they stopped remembering who they were," he said. "We're not going to." His confidence in the brand can occasionally sound wishful.
"The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Newsday or any other competitor can't steal our readers," he said. "We can lose them. And we're not going to lose them." He doesn't mean this literally. Mr. Sulzberger is as aware as anyone that the Times reported paid weekday circulation of 1.1 million in the six months ending March 31, down 3.85% year on year. Paid Sunday circulation fell 9.26% to 1.5 million.
But the number of people who have subscribed at home for two years or more, a group that tends to keep subscribing, has risen to 820,000 from 550,000 three years ago, Mr. Sulzberger said.
"Think about that as a solid print base to lever yourself into your digital future."
Brand promise
The Times brand also still towers above most, a point not lost on advertisers, said Denise Warren, senior VP-chief advertising officer at The New York Times Media Group.
"That's what sets us apart in this kind of marketplace," she said. "They really get the brand promise of The New York Times and what it delivers."
As a guiding principle, however, "We're not going to lose them" may suffer a little from overconfidence. The company governs from the top down, but the fluidity out there requires a flatter structure, one editor said.
"Nobody's on top of the heap right now; everyone's still trying to figure it out," the editor said. "[And] in that process of figuring it out, you have to embrace that entrepreneurial spirit in everybody in the building."
If he hasn't made an entrepreneur of most, Mr. Sulzberger certainly has hired some innovators. The research-and-development group formed in January 2006 under Michael Zimbalist, former head of the Online Publishers Association, has stocked its lab with weird media gizmos to explore.
"You need to be adjusting course as you go," Mr. Zimbalist said. Mr. Sulzberger correctly predicted as much in a 1998 speech arguing that new media would require newspapers to manage severe change, drop their institutional remove and become more accessible to readers. Now that's becoming a concrete practice at the Times.
Marc Frons, chief technology officer for digital operations, described an ethos known internally as Times Open -- which includes the automated links to other sources, called Times Extra, going live in two months.
The idea is to weave the Times into the internet by making Times content friendlier to application developers, using distribution tools such as RSS readers and building community tools such as Times People, which lets friends recommend Times articles.
"We're competing by collaborating," Mr. Frons said.

Setting the agenda
The trick for the Times will be finding the right mix of competition and collaboration. Whether you love or hate the Times, it plays a big part in setting the national agenda. Its brand depends on maintaining that dynamic. Mr. Sulzberger is right to brag that its site is the most blogged-about news source in the country. Others, of course, have their own ideas about running the Times -- and its declining ad revenue and paid circulation have given them an unprecedented opening. After the challenge to family control from Morgan Stanley, two hedge funds accumulated a big stake and threatened to run their own candidates for the board. Mr. Sulzberger struck a compromise, giving them two seats. The directors, the first outsiders to reach the board since the company went public in 1967, promptly quieted down. One declined to comment to Ad Age, deferring to Mr. Sulzberger, and the other did not respond to messages.
"I really do believe that our two dissidents, if you will -- although we've now embraced them -- have come to understand that the issues we face are complex," he said.
Call that good news about bad news.
Those complex issues are the same ones throwing a new light Mr. Sulzberger's way. It's not just that he and his family have held the Times while other owners have quit newspapers, although keeping the next generation of the family together will be no small feat. There are 13 family members in his generation, the fourth, and 27 in the youngest; he convenes semiannual gatherings and other contacts as seems warranted.
But the challenges also force him to focus on strategic questions about the paper, its transformation to a digital-information company and the broader media business. That's preferable to episodes such as the Jayson Blair plagiarism and fabrication scandal. In an infamous incident, Mr. Sulzberger showed up at a company crisis meeting holding a toy stuffed moose. It was a gimmick meant to symbolize things that people were afraid to say, but nobody was in the mood for goofy shtick. He wouldn't repeat it.
"Obviously not," he said. "The anger that came out of that meeting, it was so palpable that the moose wasn't a necessary tool, it became clear," he said. "It just wasn't. Now, it had proven necessary in other situations, but it wasn't in that one, so no. "But look, if that's the biggest mistake I make as leader of The New York Times Co., this is a good thing."

All the news has print in fits
Times research-and-development chief Michael Zimbalist says the newspaper has to continue changing because the world keeps changing even faster -- and events last week seemed to support his point.
Two New York papers, Rupert Murdoch's Post and Mort Zuckerman's Daily News, set aside their vicious duel long enough to consider cooperating.
However, newspaper readership in the top 100 markets turned out to have grown for the second big Mediamark Research survey in a row, according to an analysis from the Newspaper National Network.
But are people turning to newspaper sites? A Northwestern University Readership Institute study said 62% of respondents had never visited their local daily's site.
Tribune Co., meanwhile, fired the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, David Hiller,on the same day his latest round of layoffs started.

And The Wall Street Journal, which Mr. Murdoch says is going after The New York Times, raised its newsstand price again -- and cut its edit staff.
We're all just trying to keep up.
For more updates, go to

Punch is not a 'business visionary'

Far be it from me to say it, but over at AdAge, that's the word....

Print Journalism Officially in a Crisis, Or, Put Your Hand in the Hand of Your Strongest Competitor?

Maybe just to make it all official, a recent study
was conducted on the effects that recent layoffs and budgets cuts are having on the country's newsrooms (spoiler alert: it's bad). The study concluded that newsrooms are smaller despite a greater online need for content, there is less foreign news now than there was three years ago (Lara Logan fans will already be aware of this), and there is even less national news (though as New Yorkers one wonders how long it would take for us to notice this). The good news? Well, there isn't much except that smaller papers seem to be doing better than larger ones.
Meanwhile, over at AdAge
Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger Jr. is talking to Nat Ives about how the New York Times is navigating these treacherous waters. In a word, co-operation. Starting this fall the Times plans on "automatically displaying links to competitors' takes on big news" on its home page, no less (how very HuffPo) as well as expanding its online business coverage a la Andrew Sorkin's DealBook model: "each one will include original reporting and commentary from a dedicated staffer, news aggregated from elsewhere, relevant tools, e-mail newsletters, mobile applications and more." And while Sulzberger has been the recipient of much criticism of late, particularly after NYT stocks fell to a record ten-year low last week, he has garnered some praise for keeping the Times in the family, "The fecklessness of the Bancrofts reflected that Arthur had sharp values...He may not be a business visionary, but he is stalwart in a way that they were not."

Just a note on this: the solution doesn't lie in aggregating other people's content, it lies in aggregating your own. Not that anyone really gets this. It's called STORY.