Saturday, 30 August 2008

Suzy Menkes' Trans-Atlantic appeal

Ahead of the the New York Fashion Week, The New York Daily News has published a list of New York's Fashion's 50 Most Powerful list.

What's striking is that there is no one from the New York Times, and no Suzy Menkes.

Suzy isn't based in New York, admittedly, but if the IHT is expected to make international stars of NYT columnists, it being the global edition of the NYT, the NYT isn't expected to make American stars of the IHT's columnists. One way traffic, clearly.

What's more, and this doesn't say much for the role of MSM print media, of the list's nine fashion media folk, the majority of them work in some type of digital fashion media.

Anyway, here they are:

1) Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
6) IMG Fashion senior vice president
Fern Mallis
9) Ruth Finley, who aged nearly 90 made her move from print to online and began posting her Fashion Calendar (publishing continuously since 1941!) online starting in June 2007.
12) People's Revolution founder
Kelly Cutrone.
Candy Pratts Price, executive director of and winner of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Eugenia Sheppard Award for excellence in journalism this year.
19) Fashion and celebrity photographer
Patrick McMullan's Web administrator Candice McCarthy,
28) Brandusa Niro, editor-in-chief of The Daily
29) The Sartorialist, photographer and blogger Scott Schuman
39) senior editor
Leslie Price

You'd have to say the NYT is missing a bit of a trick here.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Friday, 29 August 2008

"As the media industry slowly dies around us" (Media Bistro)

I've posted before on the prevailing sense of gloom, or at least that perception among media commentators and analysts, regarding the newspaper industry. It's hard to gauge exactly how this is impacting consumer confidence (in this case advertisers) in MSM like the NYT and the IHT, but there is no doubt there is a buzz in Manhattan that things are very, very bad.

Read investment bank analyst reports, read of endless newsroom cuts in the U.S.A., newspapers sharing content to counter increased A.P rates, credit ratings, share performance, it's hard to know where to turn to find a happy spin. Other of course from the naturally upbeat announcements and interviews of people like Mr. Sulzberger.

To give yet another example, this headline and opening sentence from an article from Media Bistro, one of the better barometers of the U.S media scene.

Finding Sunshine Among the New Media Clouds

As the media industry slowly dies around us, we'll happily overplay any positive story to make us feel even marginally better about our chosen career. As such, we're pleased to report that the Web site of U.S. News & World Report had a record day with over 15 million page views last week after the publication of its annual college rankings survey. All this despite the fact that fewer and fewer colleges want to participate.
Additionally, bolstered by the Olympics,
Runner's World's site posted its best page view week ever with 5.14 million.
Of course, such gains only lead to success if you can monetize it.
[My emphasis] While traffic to the running mag's site is up 68 percent over last year, revenue is only up 23 percent.
Then again, if even The New York Times is struggling to make money, what hope do the rest of us have?
We'll deal with that later.

"As the media industry slowly dies around us"?

Herein lies the two problems: advertiser confidence perhaps reaching a tipping point from which it won't recover and the unresolved problem of of HOW TO MONETIZE TRAFFIC.

Neither the IHT nor the NYT can monetize traffic at sufficient rates of CPM or indeed achieve significant growth in revenue, to offset the fixed costs of their newsroom operations.

So what's the solution if it isn't the Internet?

It's publishing a succesful newspaper which pulls back in print advertising AS WELL AS growing a succesful Internet operation.

That requires a major strategic rethink, and coming up with Newspaper 2.0 because Newspaper 1.0 is dead or dieing. Why newspapers can't get their heads around the fact that their core product is increasingly reduntant and change it from sail to steam remains a mystery.

No one like to let go of a piece of driftwood (however big and seemingly solid) and swim to a lifeboat in the distance, but that's the challenge.

The good news is that people will pay over the top money for seemingly reduntant items or items where there is plenty of good quality cheaper competition (a Chanel handbag for example, a watch when everyone has a clock on their cell phone).

It's brand and design and timely content: not much wrong with the IHT's content that a little tinkering with timeliness and design won't sort out. Timeliness means more articles about today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

Yesterday's news is yesterdays news.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Thursday, 28 August 2008

New York Times Falls In Love With All Things 'Bloggy'

Now this is a question posed by Media Bistro that actually WOULD make me read William Safire's language column, if he had the answer.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

International Herald Tribune: Trib or IHT?

Over the years there have been many internal discussions at the IHT about how to refer to the IHT. Seems like a funny thing for people not to be in agreement over what to call their product (I don't think there is a Pear camp at Apple) but there you are.

It wasn't oft helped by marketing people spending millions on calling it the International Herald Tribune and then publishers, editors and owners (normally Americans) getting up and calling it, on the record, or even in press releases from their offices, the Tribune or the Trib.

Naturally the Internet put something of a brake on such internal discussions, given the need to own, but most American readers and employees still refer to it as The Trib. French call it the Herald or the Herald Tribune, and Japanese people, it was often claimed by the Asian office, were incapable of pronouncing the International Herald Tribune even if they were supposed to be able to read it.

Now that we may be coming to an end of with the active workings already of then perhaps Trib could be back on the table.

No, it couldn't could it because it isn't the Trib anymore, it's the Global Edition of the New York Times. Isn't it? Heck, now I am confused what to call it. The Times Trib?

Let's not also forget the repeated reference by NYT people to the NYT as 'the Times'.

This is great if you're marketing the paper in Manhattan or even Denver, but a bit of a problem if you're marketing the IHT/Trib/Times Trib/Global Edition/Herald/Herald Tribune/Tribune in important markets like India and the U.K,. where if you say 'the Times' - and what follows may be difficult conceptually for many NYT people to grasp - the NYT doesn't come rushing to the consumer's front of mind.

Anyway, can we now officially scratch any ideas for official external use of The Trib now that this is exactly what the Chicago Tribune may be doing (according to E&P; usual denials, i.e. yes)?

Ironically: what many long term IHT (editorial, and in some cases and at some times, business) executives have argued for in the past for the IHT.

What remains on the table is the brand name, that's for sure.

And typographically the raised International on the masthead has never worked - clearly - and hasn't done so since the paper changed its name to the International Herald Tribune in the 1960s.

The first strategic questions any business asks itself is Who we are and what do we want to achieve?

At the NYT, right now, I don't think you could find total agreement on what the the IHT should even be called, let alone a deeper answer to the Who we are bit of the above, which doesn't bode well for the type of strategic plan the NYT will need to have for the IHT for it to succeed.

'Chicago Tribune' Redesign Prototype Boasts 'Trib' Nickname -- Here's a Glimpse
By Joe Strupp
Published: August 27, 2008 11:55 AM ET updated Wednesday

The Chicago Tribune has long been nicknamed "The Trib."

But if a redesign prototype being passed around the Web becomes the final choice, that nickname will be a formal part of the paper.

A prototype image obtained by E&P offers a radical change to the Tribune's legendary flag, with the older "Chicago Tribune" title placed in small letters at the top and a blown-up "trib" (in lower case type) set in white against a black background.

The redesign version, which is likely one of many being reviewed, is dated Aug. 4, 2008, with a Page One story about Barack Obama's advisor and friend Valerie Jarrett, an investigation into the use of school computers, and a teaser to a Chicago Bears story inside.

The slogan "HOME OF THE MIDWEST'S LARGEST REPORTING TEAM" is placed under the flag, along with a reminder that the paper's news is available "24 HOURS A DAY AT CHICAGOTRIBUNE.COM."

"I would caution you against accepting anything you have as anything other than a work in progress," said Tribune Co. Senior Vice President/Corporate Relations Gary Weitman. When asked if the prototype was among those still being considered, he said: "We are just not talking about it until it is debuted."

Weitman said the redesign is expected to debut before the end of September. So far this year, the company's Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore Sun have debuted redesigns. The new Sun-Sentinel boasts a large "S" in its new flag.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Crisis of confidence in the New York Times and Newspapers

It's not just that results are bad for the New York Times, but also that what is claimed by many (wrongly in my view) to be the silver bullet solution to their problems has also completely stalled: online growth.

But what is really bad is how the media industry and the trade media write and speak about the NYT (and by extension the IHT).

Purely online trade media (let's take Media Bistro as an example) relish in seeing the NYT in trouble.

But it's worse than that.

Print media like Advertising Age also relentlessly spot trouble and see clouds of doom and gloom in anything NYT related.

Two problems are at play here.

Firstly, the NYT corporate communications operation (which is not run on a shoe string) is losing the battle for hearts and minds, if it hasn't already done so.

The second problem is that the hearts and minds - in this case advertisers - are under a non-stop tap of 'NYT in trouble stories', and that simply doesn't help the foot-soldiers sell ads.

Let's take as an example this article from Advertising Age, which was headlined (probably accurately, but that's not the point here):

New York Times Shocker: Online Ad Growth Stalls

Now if Advertising Age are headlining NYTs stories as 'shockers' then the NYT has real problems, both with how it is perceived and the reality behind that perception.

Here's what they had to say:

New York Times Shocker: Online Ad Growth Stalls
July Results Show Drastic Drop to Just 1%
By Nat Ives Published: August 26, 2008 NEW YORK ( -- When The New York Times Company released its July results today, one could be forgiven for shrugging when spotting the 17.9% decline in ad revenue at its news media group. It's been that kind of cycle -- on top of a general rise in challenges to print newspapers.
But the media group's internet ad revenue turns out to be a real shock: It grew less than 1% as, in the words of the company, "more moderate growth in display advertising was partially offset by continued weakness in online recruitment advertising."

Growth had been stellar

That's the big bad economy coming to undermine traditional media's best hope for the future. Compare that 0.9% increase in July with a bumper 21.5% increase in internet ad revenue for June and jumps of 14.2% in May, 25.6% in April, 14.8% in March, 14.4% in February and 8.6% in January. With its anemic digital showing for July, The Times Co. suddenly looks at risk to join some other major newspaper players in wondering where the golden goose has gone. As Ad Age reported earlier this month, Tribune Co., Lee Enterprises and E.W. Scripps all reported declines in web advertising during the most recent quarter. "The decline in print has been so pervasive that it's taking the online stuff with it," analyst Ed Atorino said at the time. "This is the worst market we've seen." For the Times, July may be just a low mark for now. The company said internet ad sales were looking better in August as demand for display advertising grew. And New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has built teams of geeks and gurus to secure the best possible position on whatever business landscapes emerge.
"July's digital results were due to a relative weak month in display advertising, coupled with weaker-than-expected help-wanted advertising across the News Media Group," a Times spokeswoman said. "We are expecting better performance in display advertising at in August. To date in August, online advertising for the News Media Group is trending up in the low double digits."

A believer in print

It's unlikely that Mr. Sulzberger is sweating July's slower ad growth online too much. He believes that print still anchors everything, including the move into digital formats. And 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 told us last month.
"Think about that as a solid print base to lever yourself into your digital future," he said.

Geeks and gurus? Who are they and have they got a real strategy beyond faith and platform/base/leverage?

I'll come back to that.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Things aren't getting better

New York Times Co. July revenue falls 10.1 percent
Tuesday August 26, 10:01 am ET

Ad revenue drops 16.2 percent at New York Times Co., sending July revenue down 10.1 percent

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York Times Co. said Tuesday that its July revenue from continuing operations fell 10.1 percent this year as advertising revenue slipped 16.2 percent.
Overall revenue dropped to $235.9 million in July from $262.3 million in July 2007, the publisher said.
A continuing drop in classified ads and cutbacks in spending by movie studios, car companies and hotels were offset only partially by a rise in revenue from media, financial services, advocacy and health care ads for a net drop of 16.2 percent.
The company's flagship The New York Times paper had 15.3 percent lower ad revenue. At its New England media group, which includes The Boston Globe, July ad revenue dropped 24.5 percent.
Newspapers across the country have seen revenue decline as advertisers shift spending online and circulation slips.
Total online ad revenue rose 0.9 percent in the company's News Media Group, and circulation revenue fell 0.5 percent.
The company said its overall Internet revenue rose 2.6 percent with online ad revenue adding 5.5 percent, boosted by gains at its Web site.
For the year to date, total revenue from continuing operations has fallen 6.1 percent to $1.73 billion.
The company said online advertising for its News Media Group is rising in August with improvement in display advertising revenue at
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


If you read this post about the beginning of the end for signalled by the fact that there is a new url out there called (that I said doesn't work) then you read a complete load of tosh.

An ever alert Think! reader has pointed out to me that does work, it's that doesn't.

Perhaps the beginning of the end after all.

So there we have it. Gripping stuff.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Thinner, More Expensive

If the International Herald Tribune is to be the global edition of the New York Times, then one might argue, given how comparatively expensive the IHT is to local, much thicker newspapers, that IHT readers should now expect a bit more bang for their buck.

Personally I like concise, regarding it as one of the key attributes of the IHT. But I do think it needs to be at a minimum of 30pp (excluding any advertising sections) to be competitive with local newspapers, whilst at the same time easily remaining 'concise' relative to the competition.

But don't count on more any time soon.

This article from caught my eye:

Sunday NYT in Denver: Thinner, More Expensive

Who knew the Sunday New York Times wasn't such a monstrosity for the entire country? Yesterday at the local Starbucks we encountered Denver's version of our weekly weight-lifting session and it was half the size. Not only that, it cost more. It's five dollars here.

What's interesting about the above piece is how out of touch media buzz professionals are with what's going on in Denver, let alone outside the U.S.A.

A nice example of the sort of Manhattan-centric media world that the lords and masters of the IHT's destiny inhabit.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Monday, 25 August 2008

Invest to survive...but who's going to lend the money

I've maintained for a long time that newspapers, and especially the International Herald Tribune, are going to require significant investment and short-term losses in order to survive and make the successful transition from Newspaper 1.0 to Newspaper 2.0.

The question is: who's going to lend the money given how little faith Wall Street has in newspapers, and the declining revenues of the mothership NYT.

This type of thing below hardly helps keep the faith:

Tribune Co. Faces 'Real Possibility' Of Debt Default
By Mark Fitzgerald
Published: August 22, 2008 3:15 PM ET

CHICAGO Tribune Co. faces a "real possibility" of defaulting on its $13.4 billion of debt, Fitch Ratings said Friday in a report that cut its credit rating deep into junk territory -- while warning a further downgrade is possible.
"Given the acceleration of declines in newspaper advertising revenue and cash flow at Tribune and no evidence from any participants in the industry regarding the prospects for current pressure relenting, Fitch believes Tribune's credit profile is consistent with a 'CCC' rating," Fitch said. Under Fitch's ratings definition, default is a "real possibility."
Fitch analyst Mike Simonton said in an interview that the ratings firm is not necessarily concerned about Tribune's near-term liquidity, but "operating trends" that no newspaper company can fully control -- especially the deterioration of newspaper's classified ad franchise. "Certainly there are some levers that the management tam can pull that can have a positive effect, but the one (factor) that's most important is the top-line operating trend, and that's the relentless pressure they're feeling in the classified space," Simonton said. "Until we see a reversal in those trends, default is a real possibility."
Default could mean anything from violating the debt level or repayment requirements of its loans to bankruptcy. The Chicago-based ratings firm downgraded its Issuer Default Rating to "CCC" from "B-," and said its ratings outlook is negative. Fitch downgraded all senior debt to "CCC," which the ratings firm said reflects its belief that lenders can expect to get from 31 cents to 50 cents on the dollar in a "distress scenario."
Senior debt has first priority to be paid off in a bankruptcy reorganization or other debt scenario. Fitch rated Tribune's subordinated debt as 'CC,' which it said "Fitch's estimate that 0% recovery is realistic in a distress scenario."
The credit assessment comes a week after Tribune Chairman and CEO Sam Zell -- who loaded on $8 billion in debt to take the Chicago media giant private last December -- announced the company had paid down $807 million of borrowing under is so-called Tranche X facility, and met all its obligation under that loan for the rest of the year. Tranche X's principal balance of $593 million comes due in June 2009.
"Tribune management has met or exceeded Fitch's expectations on the elements of its business over which it has more explicit control: expense containment, asset sales and exclusive dedication of cash flow toward debt repayment," said the report. "Fitch believes TRB (Tribune) management has distinguished itself from other newspaper management teams by taking aggressive actions across various areas of the company to attempt to preserve the longer term health of the company: bringing in new leadership from outside the industry, communicating directly with staff about the challenges facing the industry, reducing headcount, re-tooling incentive compensation for sales teams, redesigning the product, exploring asset monetization/utilization opportunities, and experimenting with new revenue streams."
But Fitch added it had profound doubts about the long-term prospects of Tribune.
The firm said Tribune will be "challenged to generate meaningful and consistent revenue growth." And Fitch added it "remains cautious" about the prospect of the newspaper industry's ability to capture and monetize the volume of ad dollars going to the Internet. The Fitch report portrays a company without much breathing room on its debt."
In the long run, Fitch is concerned about the company's ability to generate cash to meet its interest payments, principal amortization and maturities under its debt obligations in a timely manner," the firm said. Under Tribune's loan covenants, the ratio of debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) is 9 to 1, or 9 times, Fitch said. The firm said that as of June, its ratio is in the "low-to-mid 8 (times) range."
If business doesn't worsen, and Tribune sells the Chicago Cubs baseball team and a sports cable network as expected, it could stay under that leverage covenant, Fitch said. Even if it swings that, however, next year, the covenant ratio steps down to 8.75 times.
"While the company could receive an amendment or waiver from the banks if it breaches a covenant, in this credit environment Fitch is uncertain and cautious regarding the terms of such a potential negotiation for such a highly leveraged entity with deteriorating prospects," Fitch said. "
In this scenario, the receipt of a waiver or amendment without an upturn in business prospects is not likely to have a positive impact on the rating. However, failure to receive covenant relief could result in a restructuring -- not necessarily bankruptcy -- that would likely further pressure ratings."
Fitch also said it expected 2009 to be a "weak year" for TV broadcasting stations, in general, and especially for those, like several of Tribune's outlets, that are "affiliated with lower rated networks, e.g. The CW Network."
Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's editor-at-large.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Passing on Kakutani (CJR)

The NYT books reviewer should have nixed her profile of Jon Stewart
By Jane Kim Fri 22 Aug 2008 11:59 AM

Why, exactly, did Michiko Kakutani write a profile of Jon Stewart in this past Sunday’s New York Times?
The infamous Times books critic depicted Stewart and The Daily Show in a way that seemed an attempt at an imprimatur, a High Brow Stamp of Approval from the diva of literary reviews. It’s an attempt that produced something of a non-result.
Stewart has been profiled before, in the Times and elsewhere—among others, Frank Rich
did it in 2003, and Damien Cave did it in 2005. His portrait gains little luster from Kakutani’s standard mix of handpicked details and sweeping statements (how else do you review literary tomes?), because unlike even the most constant writers of our time (say, Updike, Roth, or even DeLillo), Stewart is almost constantly in the spotlight.
Kakutani’s stamp of approval is something of a Holy Grail for newbie authors, and her indictments of even the most canonic writers can almost reverse a flood of critical adoration. (Coming to mind is her recent review of Salman Rushdie’s newest book, which, she wrote, is “lacquered onto a plywood story with a heavy paintbrush that leaves lots of streaks and spots and results in a work that feels jerry-built, meretricious—and yes, quite devoid of magic.”)
Kakutani is a stranger to the world of comedy news shows, however, and while sending an outsider to report on an unfamiliar milieu can be a
brilliant editorial strategy, it doesn’t work here. (Incidentally, the observer role has, in the past, suited her fairly well. In October of 2001, when she described how the interconnectedness provided by cable and Internet served as a conduit for a collective fear, her detachment made for an interesting, if somewhat pedantic, panoramic read of those landscapes.)
With respect to the Stewart piece, it’s not just that there’s little new about it (a legitimate and concrete gripe). There’s a more significant disconnect here, one caused by the inability of Kakutani As Critic to do what she does best. For once, her stamp of approval doesn’t really matter (and that’s what her well-honed thing is). Take this summation:
“The Daily Show” resonates not only because it is wickedly funny but also because its keen sense of the absurd is perfectly attuned to an era in which cognitive dissonance has become a national epidemic.
It’s typical Kakutani: the distillation of a theme or plot or entire book (take your pick) into a smartly written, syntactically attractive sentence. But her words slide off the page like so many extraneous drops of water, because The Daily Show has been distilled, and the verdict, from a mélange of reporters, pundits and viewers, is already in. Her own verdict—however confidently awarded—means very little.
It would have made sense for someone like Kakutani to write a piece outside of her ordinary scope if there were further need for a cultural arbiter to assess and assign value to the show. But The Daily Show doesn’t need Michiko Kakutani to confirm its relevance. The other option was to report the hell out of the piece and actually offer up some new and interesting details about Stewart and the evolving operations of the show. Unfortunately, Kakutani, whether she was resting easy on her critic’s couch or leery of entering the world of scrappy reportage, didn’t do that, either. At one point in the profile, she calls what Stewart does on a nightly basis—informing and entertaining—an “ambidextrous feat.” Kakutani, at least this time around, appears a bit more one-handed in her efforts.

I switched on the computer after a holiday off-line, off-media, off-email, off-Olympics, off-blogs to be informed by a Think! reader that the end is nigh for at least judged by the following url which apparently works:

Well, today it doesn't but my source is admanant that it did work while I was on holiday.

A summer test day?

CORRECTION: 26th August 2008:
Thanks to alert Think! reader all of the above is rubbish. The truth is that does work.
Sorry about that.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times