Saturday, 13 September 2008

Coldplay and Sulzberger: It wasn't a dream

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slim and Sulzberger - the new Slim Shady Show

Where to begin?!

First off the New York Post and SLIM CHANCE FOR TIMES which has Sulzberger praising Slim. (You've gotta love a Murdoch Aussie editor headline!)

It also claims that Sulzberger's annual State of the Times address was "was the typical rah-rah stuff. You'd think it was the early '90s."

(Did I hear somewhere that Sulzberger did a slide show at the annual meeting of all the paper's Pulitzers to the soundtrack of a Coldplay song or did I dream that? No, that must have been a dream.)


IN his annual "State of the Times" address to employees yesterday, New York Times Chairman Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger painted a rosy picture of the company and its newest investor, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim - but Wall Street still seems skeptical.
Slim, ranked by Forbes as the second-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $60 billion, on Tuesday disclosed that he had purchased 9.1 million Class A shares, which gave him 6.4 percent of the company stock.
That makes him the third-largest stockholder who is not a member of the controlling Ochs-Sulzberger family.
"He [Sulzberger] said that they were aware of it and felt it was a good thing," said one insider who was present at the meeting.
The question on everyone's mind is what Slim will do as a Times shareholder.
Wall Street seemed intrigued but not overly optimistic that Slim, who made his fortune in the Latin American telecommunications industry, will force great change on the struggling newspaper giant.
The stock closed yesterday at $15.23, up $1.27, or 9 percent. Yet the Times' shares are still off 13 percent this year.
"We would not interpret his investment as a precursor to some form of restructuring action by the company, given NYT's dual-class stock structure and the Sulzberger family's control via their ownership of 90 percent of the super-voting B shares," wrote Goldman Sachs analysts Peter Appert and Stephanie Withers in a report yesterday.
"We like NYT's national franchise and long-term strategy to drive increasing Internet revenues; we do not like the valuation of stock, particularly in light of near-term earnings challenges. Key risks to our price target include ad-market trends and a family-controlled board."
Added another Wall Street source, "I don't know what [Slim] adds to the party."
This source noted that two activist stockholders, Harbinger Capital and Firebrand Partners, have already obtained seats on the board.
"I don't see him [Slim] accelerating the pace of change," said the analyst. "We'll see what happens, but frankly, I don't get it."
At Sulzberger's "State of the Times" meeting, one source said, "It was the typical rah-rah stuff. You'd think it was the early '90s."
One source asked Sulzberger if he would cut the company's dividend to shareholders and divert money to the distressed Newspaper Guild-administered health plan.
Sulzberger said he would not negotiate worker issues at the Town Hall style meeting.
At another point, he declined to say whether any future cuts would include managers.
"It depends on the manager," Sulzberger said.

The WSJ has a quote from Slim's spokesman Arturo, and the NYT not commenting to the WSJ journalists, which is odd, given his apparent comments at The State of the Times meeting, where, according to the NYPost Sulzberger "said that they were aware of it and felt it was a good thing."


You see that .WSJ cover in the picture above, with the model wearing a dress made out of WSJ front pages?

Well, they nicked that idea off the IHT which used a picture of a model wearing a dress from pages of the IHT in a brand campaign.

Unlike .WSJ who I think had the dress and shot custom made for their launch, the IHT was able to approach the designer who had already designed and modeled the IHT dress in their collection and ask for their permission, permission which was freely given.

Just in passing.

Slim Brings Eye for Value To New York Times Co.
Billionaire Viewed Price as Attractive In Taking Big Stake
By DAVID LUHNOW and RUSSELL ADAMSSeptember 12, 2008; Page B3
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has become one of the world's three wealthiest men through a combination of hard-nosed business practices and a legendary eye for spotting value.

His bet on New York Times Co. prompted a rare flurry of affection for the publisher's stock Thursday. The shares rose 1.27, or 9.1%, to $15.23 at 4 p.m. in heavy volume on the New York Stock Exchange after Mr. Slim emerged as the third-largest institutional holder of Class A shares with the acquisition of a 6.4% stake, overtaking even the company's chairman on the list of top institutional shareholders.
Mr. Slim's spokesman, Arturo Elias, said the investment was merely financial and that the 68-year-old billionaire had no plans to take a role in the company's management or board.
"We felt that the price was attractive, and that this is a great company," Mr. Elias said in an interview.
New York Times Co. declined to comment.
Mr. Slim, the owner of Mexico's former telephone monopoly and Latin America's biggest cellphone firm by subscribers, is the second investor in the past year to amass a large stake in the publisher, which is more vulnerable than ever to outside pressure to change course.
Mexicans called Mr. Slim "Midas" in the 1980s for his ability to buy companies on the cheap and turn them around. But more recently, he has taken a hands-off approach to most of his portfolio investments and doesn't intervene in a company's management. He often cites Warren Buffett as an inspiration, as well as legendary value investor Benjamin Graham.
New York Times Co. was set up to largely insulate its owners from external forces: The Ochs-Sulzberger family maintains control through ownership of a special class of supervoting shares that elect 70% of the board.
But the newspaper publisher's recent performance -- print-ad revenue was down 14% in the first half from a year earlier, and the stock recently fell to its lowest point in a decade -- has caused the Sulzbergers to loosen their grip. In March, New York Times Co. granted two board seats to an activist investor group led by the hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners and investment company Firebrand Partners LLC, ending a three-month proxy battle. The two seats gave representation to a group that has urged the company to invest in new-media properties and divest itself of underperforming assets, like the Boston Globe, but it didn't substantially ease the family's ultimate control of the board.
The billionaire's approach to investing in the U.S. has been to look for undervalued stocks and buy as an investment. He owns 11.2% of retailer
Saks Inc., for instance, according to regulatory filings.
Mr. Slim bought about 3% of
Apple Inc. in 1997, shortly before the company launched its hit iMac. Within a year, Apple's shares had soared more than fivefold and Mr. Slim gradually reduced his stake. In late 2002, he began buying about $700 million of cut-rate bonds from WorldCom Inc., the telephone company that later emerged from bankruptcy protection with the MCI name. Fewer than three years later, Mr. Slim earned more than $500 million in profit when Verizon Communications Inc. bought the carrier.
In an interview last year, Mr. Slim said he enjoys poring over companies' financial statements and occasionally comes across something that catches his eye. "Obviously, the telephone industry is one I am comfortable with, but it depends on what I see," he said.
Mr. Slim's telephone companies have driven most rivals out of business, charging them high fees to complete their calls through Telmex's existing network and tying up any legal challenges in Mexico's Byzantine courts.
Mr. Slim's holdings, including his New York Times Co. acquisition, are worth an estimated $58.5 billion, according to Sentido Común, a Mexican financial Web site that tracks his wealth.

The Independent of London (a paper famously modeled on its ambition to be the British version of the International Herald Tribune) provides a European perspective.

Battle for the New York Times
Carlos Slim's purchase of 6 per cent of the Old Grey Lady has triggered yet more speculation about the sale of the newspaper, coveted by moguls from Michael Bloomberg to Rupert Murdoch.

Stephen Foley reports

Carlos Slim has an eye for a bargain. The Mexican magnate clawed himself to the No 2 spot on the world's rich list with purchases that stretch from cigarette manufacturers, to restaurant chains, to car parts distributors, to – most lucratively – telecoms companies. When he plunks down $120m on a big new corporate bet, people take notice. When that bet is on a 6.4 per cent holding in the beacon of the United States newspaper business, The New York Times Company, people take a lot of notice.
The Old Grey Lady, as The New York Times is known, is looking a bit wrinkled around the eyes at the moment, and the investors who once loved her have slipped away, despairing of the future of the newspaper industry. So what does Mr Slim see in her?
The company's shares perked up noticeably yesterday on news of his interest. By lunchtime they were 7 per cent higher. His purchase of 9.1 million shares had been disclosed in a late-hours regulatory filing on Wednesday, which declared the investment a passive stake. Inevitably, though, speculators hoped that the stakebuilding might ultimately lead to a takeover of the family-run company, if not by Mr Slim then by another party he eggs on in the hope of netting a quick profit.
Mr Slim has another newspaper industry interest: a stake of more than 1 per cent in Independent News & Media, owner of The Independent.
In Mexico City, the billionaire told reporters that his interest in The New York Times Co was purely "financial". A spokesman said it was a great business at an attractive valuation and added that he may snap up more shares. Previous profitable forays into the US stock market have included stakes in Philip Morris, the tobacco group in which he bought a $90m stake after its shares hit a four-year low in 2000. He has also profitably dabbled in Apple and the telecoms company MCI.
His investment in The New York Times Co is certainly contrarian. Other investors have abandoned the company in the teeth of a sharp slide in advertising revenue and pressures on circulations not just at its flagship broadsheet in New York, but also at sister papers in the regions, including the Boston Globe.
In July, the most recent month for which figures are available, The New York Times posted an ad sales decline of 15.3 per cent; at the regional papers, the figure was almost one-quarter. The New York Times made its first ever redundancies in the newsroom this year, and last week said it was outsourcing its distribution business, with the loss of 550 more jobs. Nonetheless, The New York Times remains one of the most powerful newspaper brands in America, third in circulation to USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. It also has by far the most popular newspaper site in the US, with 19.5 million visitors in July, up 38 per cent on a year ago, and has promised to invest heavily in the internet and new technologies.
The power and influence The New York Times would give an owner is enough to induce covetousness on the part of numerous billionaires. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York and founder of the financial information company that bears his name, let run a few days of speculation that he was interested in bidding for the company earlier this year, before ultimately denying it. Rupert Murdoch swallowed the Wall Street Journal in a takeover deal last year, and is musing aloud about marrying it with the Old Grey Lady. Unfortunately for the billionaire dreamers (and leaving aside that regulators might strangle either takeover), The New York Times is not for sale. The parent company is controlled by the Ochs Sulzberger family through a special class of shares that gives them a stranglehold on decision making. Despite having a less than 20 per cent economic interest in the company, the family appoint more than half the board, and remain committed to the public service ideal that has guided their ownership for 112 years.
Unlike the Bancroft family, which sold the WSJ to Mr Murdoch after he wooed them with a 60 per cent premium to the prevailing share price, the Ochs Sulzbergers are involved in the day-to-day running of the company, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jnr is its publisher and public face. Also unlike the Bancrofts, the family appears tightly knit.
Year-on-year attempts by some shareholders to pressure the family into giving up their power failed when their ring-leader, Hassan Elmasry, a fund manager at Morgan Stanley, which had a 7 per cent stake, sold out last year. This year, two rebel shareholders, the hedge funds Harbinger Capital and Firebrand Partners, bought 19 per cent of the company and won two board seats after demanding asset sales and a financial shake-up. They didn't, however, challenge the Ochs Sulzbergers' control. It is that financial shake-up on which those remaining bulls on The New York Times Co share price are pinning their hopes, and which may well determine whether Mr Slim turns a profit on his daring investment. One option oft debated on Wall Street is the possibility that the family itself will take the company, or perhaps just the paper, into private ownership.
But bears think all the options are unpalatable. "In light of the fundamental challenges facing the company we do not believe that restructuring action (such as asset sales, a go-private transaction, etc.) would necessarily translate into a valuation meaningfully higher than the current share price," Peter Appert, an analyst at Goldman Sachs told clients yesterday. The Ochs Sulzbergers have long seen their controlling interest as a bulwark against the short-termism of Wall Street investors. Mr Slim, too, may be looking to the longer term. Rick Edmonds, the media business analyst at the Florida-based Poynter Institute, a Florida school for journalists, said the short-run pressures are immense and growing, now that the advertising slowdown has hit online sales, too.
"But there are new possibilities emerging, particularly now we are getting to a period where mobile devices such as the iPhone and Amazon's Kindle can do more things," Mr Edmonds said. "The extent to which people will want news and ads on their devices is not fully clear yet, but newspapers are very logically positioned to serve the local part of that. These technologies are picking up steam, and while they are not there yet, it seems that newspapers no longer have to put all their eggs in the basket of online."
The telecoms billionaire always on the look-out for a bargain
For the past two years, the cigar-puffing Carlos Slim Helú has tussled with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for the title of the world's richest man, but the Mexican telecoms magnate had some less than flattering things to say about his rivals' famous philanthropy.
"Poverty isn't solved with donations," he said last year at the launch of his own health initiative in northern Mexico. "Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, not to go around like Santa Claus."
Mr Slim's own philanthropic efforts in Mexico dovetail neatly with his business interests. Plans to build giant hospitals would aid his construction firm, for example. But such is the complexity and contradictory nature of the man.
When Forbes magazine, the official arbiter of these things, last took a snapshot in March, he came in at No 2, behind Mr Buffett and ahead of Mr Gates, with a fortune of $60bn (£34.2bn).
The magnate inherited a small fortune from his father, an immigrant from Lebanon, who ran a general store in Mexico City and began investing in property. But it was the younger Mr Slim's eye for a corporate bargain that sent that legacy into the stratosphere – and his aggressive, critics would say monopolistic, business practices which kept it growing.
He picked up industrial companies at fractions of their book value when investors fled Mexico after its 1982 financial crisis, and then his political associations helped him to win control of the privatised monopoly Telefonos de Mexico in 1990. The company has a market share of 90 per cent, while his mobile arm has a 73 per cent share.
In recent years, his companies have expanded fast in the other emerging markets south of the Mexican border, from Guatemala to Argentina, and his American Movil group is the largest mobile provider in Latin America.
Mr Slim rededicated himself to his business interests following the death of his wife, Soumaya, in 1999 – to whom he has dedicated a museum showing the couple's extensive art collection.
Now 68 years old, the father of six is also an avid collector of baseball memorabilia.
Mr Slim eschews many of the trappings of wealth and the luxuries that his fortune would afford him. He has three sons, all of whom run significant parts of the empire and are expected to succeed him.

Not to be outdone by the New York Post's witty headline Newsweek goes with the equally not very complimentary headline SLIM PICKINGS.

The NYT wouldn't speak to Newsweek either, but Newsweek, unlike the WSJ (is there some sort of a secret non-aggression pact between the WSJ and the NYT?) managed to do the type of journalism also found at the New York Post.

They found an inside also willing to speak about the 'State of the Times' meeting, who said Sulzberger was "confident and comfortable," and disclosed that he and Slim's representatives "had been talking for a while." The Newsweek source "added that Slim or Slim's representative had alerted Sulzberger of the pending investment. The Times boss told the gathering of employees that he and Slim were "on the same wavelength" in their positive outlook about the company's future, and that Slim "wants to be along or with us for the ride."

Slim Pickings

Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helú has purchased a 6.4 percent stake of the New York Times Co.
Johnnie L. Roberts Newsweek Web Exclusive
Sep 11, 2008 Updated: 7:01 p.m. ET Sep 11, 2008

Ordinarily, anxiety would seize the entrenched management of a financially challenged public company when an outsider suddenly shows up with a sizeable new holding of its battered stock. But not Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman and scion of the beleaguered New York Times Co., which has increasingly become the target of investor angst and ire.
In a previously scheduled town-hall meeting Thursday at New York Times headquarters, Sulzberger disclosed that the purchase of a 6.4 percent stake in the Times Co. by Mexican telecommunications billionaire
Carlos Slim Helú and his family came as no surprise. According to staffers who attended the meeting, Sulzberger said he'd been aware of the potential for an investment as a result of previous conversations he'd had with Slim's representatives about the Times's plight and prospects.
Sulzberger, who in addition to his top corporate role is the newspaper's publisher, was "confident and comfortable," said one staffer at the meeting, and disclosed that he and Slim's representatives "had been talking for a while." The source added that Slim or Slim's representative had alerted Sulzberger of the pending investment. The Times boss told the gathering of employees that he and Slim were "on the same wavelength" in their positive outlook about the company's future, and that Slim "wants to be along or with us for the ride."
The investment first came to public light in a regulatory filing Wednesday. Based on the publishing company's share price of almost $14 at the end of trading Wednesday, Slim's holding was valued at $127 million. A spokesman for Slim's telecommunications empirem, Telmex, confirmed the investment Wednesday in a statement to the newswire Agence-France Presse, describing the holding as "a financial investment like many others by the Slim family." The spokesman said the family doesn't intend to try to involve itself in the management of the publishing company. A spokesperson for the New York Times didn't respond to an e-mail or phone message before NEWSWEEK's deadline.
The Times has watched its share price collapse in recent years from a peak of almost $53 in 2002 (the publishing company's shares closed at $15.23 in New York Stock Exchange trading Thursday, up more than 9 percent on news of the Slim investment). Such dramatic deterioration in share prices has swept the entire industry in recent years as newspapers struggle with a profound shift in the business of journalism—and specifically its financial lifeblood, advertising—to the Internet and as the economy has softened. Slim is one of several investors in recent years to acquire a Times stake large enough to require disclosure under U.S. securities regulations. Morgan Stanley sold its 7.2 percent New York Times stake in 2007 after a fruitless two-year campaign to force the company to end its dual-class voting shares; under the structure, Class B shareholders—of which the Sulzbergers are the predominant members—elect 70 percent of the board of directors, while Class A shareholders vote in the rest. On the heels of Morgan Stanley's rebuff, a pair of hedge funds acquired a stake of more than 20 percent in the Times. Initially seeking to install four directors through a proxy fight, Harbinger Capital and Firebrand Partners negotiated a compromise with company management for two board seats, ending a hostile bid to shake up the company.

In summary we have a tabloid doing the most interesting reporting, particularly regarding the Street; the WSJ providing very little in the way of added value; Slim and Sulzberger on "the same wavelength" with Slim having "no plans to take a role in the company's management or board".

So what wavelength is that? Sulzberger having no plans to take a role in the company's management or board?

Only joking of course.

But there could be (and this is pure speculation) a wavelength to split up the business or at least offer more B-shares in certain NYT Company assets, such as the Boston Globe or the International Herald Tribune.

So, where does the International Herald Tribune stand in all this?

As ever, I have absolutely no idea, although I did note the IHT ran a heavily edited version of the NYT's own piece about all this.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times
Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Friday, 12 September 2008

Annoying Pop-up Ads on

Two annoying pop-up ads have recently been bugging the hell out of me on

The first is a subscription advertisement, one of the worst I have ever seen online, which was so big and intrusive that I can only imagine very few people clicked through. Tell me if I am wrong.

The second comes from a watch manufacturer, Jaeger LeCoultre.

While trying to read A.O Scott on In Toronto, sampling realism's resurgence, their advertisment popped out and obscured the article no less than 7 times, each time I closing it, before I gave up trying to read the article online.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

The NYT's Slim Story

The Big Man Himself...

Billionaire acquires stake in The New York Times Co.
By Richard Pérez-Peña and Elizabeth Malkin
Thursday, September 11, 2008
NEW YORK: Carlos Slim Helú, a Mexican telecommunications billionaire, and his family have acquired a 6.4 percent stake in The New York Times Co., according to a regulatory filing.
Slim, one of the wealthiest people in the world, controls cellular and landline phone companies and has major investments in retail, construction, banking, insurance, railroads and mining. In March, Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $60 billion, behind only the $62 billion of Warren Buffet.
Slim's spokesman was not available for comment after the filing Wednesday. His primary company, Teléfonos de México, declined to comment.
The Times Co., which owns 19 newspapers including The New York Times and its global edition, the International Herald Tribune, also declined to comment. Its stock closed Wednesday at $13.96 a share, down 4 cents, giving the Slim family's 9.1 million shares a value of $127 million.
Slim has a history of buying depressed assets he can later sell at a profit, and several analysts familiar with his investments say they see the purchase of Times Co. stock in that vein.
In recent years, he has acquired stakes in several companies in the United States, where he has not been known to take a direct role. Those companies have included Saks, owner of the Saks Fifth Avenue stores; the tobacco company Altria; and the telecommunications company Global Crossing.
In 2004, he became the largest shareholder in MCI, the troubled long-distance carrier, and he made a healthy profit the next year when Verizon took over MCI.
Lately, he has turned his attention to media properties. In May, he bought a stake of 1 percent in the company that owns The Independent in Britain.
Slim's investment is the second indication in less than a year that the falling stock price of the Times Co. has attracted interest from deep-pocketed outsiders. Two hedge funds, Harbinger Capital and Firebrand Partners, bought a little more than 20 percent of the company's Class A stock and secured two seats on its board this year, promising to shake up its business strategy.

...and the Not Quite So Big Man.
The family of Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman of the Times Co., owns most of the Class B shares and elects a majority of the board, giving the family control of the company. As recently as 2005, the company's Class A stock traded at more than $40 a share.
In 1990, Slim headed the group of investors that bought the Mexican government's fixed-line phone company, Teléfonos de México, which he still controls. He also controls the largest cellphone company in Latin America, América Móvil.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Friction between edit and the B-Side at NYT?

I recently posted on the decision to cut back the stand alone sports and metro sections at the NYT.

To which I received this anonymous comment, which I think we can assume comes from a B-side employee of the NYT/IHT.

Am I sensing some friction here or is it just me?

"Don't give them their own section? And all to save a mere $5 - $6 million dollars
(these figures are always produced by the business side and should be automatically reduced by 25-50% depending on who told them to you)."

To this poster above - It seems the business side employees have taken the greatest share of the hits and cuts though buyouts and closed B-units, out-sourced to India and sparing you unpleasantness you could never bear. Maybe the creative (Ha) side need just a little bit more angst to be more successful - maybe cut 200 more writers so that the remaining ones are more productive? Outsource editing to Mumbai writers - they do superb work for the B-side you know. After Jason was found to call in stories from Iraq from W44 St, saloon, the public voted by passing up at the newsstand in the AM.

Just for the record, the 'you' referred to above is 'me' and I think that I am presumed to be an editorial employee of the NYT/IHT, which I am not. Nor am I B-side. I'm a reader.

But I do agree with 'you' about Jason and very possibly cutting some more writers/outsourcing copy-editing.

I think there is A LOT to be said for outsourcing the IHT's Paris copy-editing, but they need more writers, more journalists. The IHT editorial ship, from the perspective of the numbers of people actually out there generating stories for IHT readers that the NYT isn't delivering, is slim. With Asian and multiple editions the senior writers are working pretty hard, at least that's my reading of it, and they probably don't need any more angst. As for NY, I can't say.

As for IHT Paris copy-editors who have been in place since before Gordon B was born, that's another matter. Mumbai away.

However that won't save the NYT/IHT either.

Neither the edit side nor the B-Side have as yet worked out that for the long haul they're both currently engaged in producing and marketing Newspaper 1.0 when what is needed is Newspaper 2.0.

I think blame for this can probably be assigned more or less equally, leaning slightly towards the 'creative' side who are stuck in a journalistic rut that is not of our age.

P.S Did Jason really call in stories from Iraq!!?? I knew I should have read that self-flagellating report more carefully. Here was I thinking that the reason people started passing on the NYT at the newsstand was because Judy was calling in stories from the Veep's office.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Murdoch: I Won't Put the 'Times' Out of Business (Portfolio/Vanity Fair)

No, he'll buy it!

Mixed Media
by Jeff Bercovici

Sep 10 2008 2:28PM EDT
Murdoch: I Won't Put the 'Times' Out of Business
Excerpting his upcoming book in Vanity Fair this month, Michael Wolff claims that Rupert Murdoch has become embarrassed of Fox News, and, in particular, of its biggest star, Bill O'Reilly. But it sure doesn't seem that way in a lengthy Q&A Esquire conducted with the 77-year-old News Corp. chairman for its October issue.

More Murdoch:

-"It's bullshit to say we're going to dumb down The Wall Street Journal. We didn't dumb down the London Times -- we made the London Times. The Sunday Times, too. Are they a little more popular than they were? Yes. They are populist papers. You've got to listen to readers."

-"I don't think for a minute that we're going to put The New York Times out of business. I think they have a future, too. But there's certainly room for an alternative."

-"I think that [Times publisher] Arthur Sulzberger, over the years, has made it very clear that he wants a very liberal paper, and that he wants a staff that reflects that community. For five years, he didn't want any white, heterosexual men hired. He was sending a clear message."

-"It's a libel to say that I use my newspapers to support my other business interests. The fact is, I haven't got any other business interests."


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Celebs, Hollywood and all that Jazz in the International Herald Tribune

Once upon a time the People column did me nicely. Now I don't even read that.

I do like the film festival reporting (especially the IHT's Joan Dupont) and the occassional MSM movie A.O Scott review.

And that's about all I want, personally. Things are going on in the world beyond Britney.

So I was a little alarmed to read this report about the creation of a dedicated media desk at the NYT.

One thing I can tell you, is that when the NYT did a stack load of research on IHT readers, they found out we love movies (true) and that led to more movie coverage. So that's all good. But please, no more Britney.

I must say, Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily isn't very complimentary about either the NYT's existing media coverage, nor the proposed structure and personnel of the new media desk.

The 411 Behind NYT's New Media Desk...

UPDATE: David Carr sends along this email to me: "My job has not changed. I do Culture/Oscars for Sam Sifton and a Monday media column for Bruce Headlam, two of the best editors in a building that has its share. I love working for both and will sit where ever they tell me to, although I don't think it matters much."

It's Business. It's Culture. It's Business. It's Culture... Finally, The New York Times is solving its Chinatown-like infotainment dilemma and setting up a dedicated Media desk physically and symbolically located between the other two sections on the paper's 3rd floor. "This culture clash between Business and Culture for years has annoyed the top of the masthead," an insider told me, referring to Bill Keller, Jill Abramson and John Geddes. "They think reporters have been working at cross purposes because there's nothing clearly defined where a certain kind of media story belongs. Look at our writers strike coverage: half went into Business, half went into Culture."

The Media editors and reporters announced Tuesday draw equally from the Business and Culture sections, including movies and television, yet there are some important names missing. (See below).

The official memo described the beat thusly: "Convergence is the biggest story in media and entertainment today. Hollywood studios are investing millions in online television, people are reading newspapers on their iPhones and bloggers and YouTube are turning even presidential election campaigns into homegrown affairs. By the end of the decade, we might all be watching Lost on our shoephones. Accordingly, we are doing some convergence of our own, and today announce the birth of a new and expanded media desk for The Times, joining reporters and editors from Business Day and Culture under one banner to cover media news for both desks... It will feed the news needs of both, as well as the feature wells of Sunday Business and Arts & Leisure, among other outlets."

The real story behind this move is that the paper's top editors want to shake the staff covering movies, TV, Big Media, advertising and related beats out of what is perceived as a stupor. "The top of the masthead want more media stories. They want newsier reporting and they want people to work harder," a source explained to me. "No one has said that, but it's obvious." (Certainly to me and the Wall Street Journal. But the last thing I want is for the NY Times and the LA Times to start covering the infotainment beat more aggressively. Because then there'd be less scoops for me to break.)

Bruce Headlam, currently the editor of the Monday edition of Business Day, will top edit the Media desk.

Underneath him will be editors Rick Lyman and Steve Reddicliffe.

The reporters will be Tim Arango, Brooks Barnes, Bill Carter, Michael Cieply, Stephanie Clifford, Stuart Elliott, Richard Perez-Pena, Motoko Rich, Jacques Steinberg, Brian Stelter, and Ed Wyatt.

Editors and writers alike will answer to both business editor Larry Ingrassia and culture editor Sam Sifton.

But that very fact seems to just re-create the turf war this Media desk was supposed to solve. What the fuck?

You'd think media reporter and part-time movie blogger David Carr would be the Media desk's star. Nope. I'm told he's staying put in Culture, where he'll become more of an all-around critic, although he's being copied on all the Media desk memos to keep him in the loop. (Carr does a lot of things well, but breaking news isn't one of them.)

As for movie editor Lorne Manly, who's also missing-in-action, his current status is even more confusing.

Manly came to the NYT as a media writer/editor, then became media editor, then became media writer, then became movie editor. Now there's a Media desk and he's not on it. (Understandable, because Manly's oversight has been more like undersight: his reporter Michael Cieply has missed major story after major story.) I'm told that he'll stay in Culture to edit features and some of the critics.

Plus, there's ex-Hollywood business reporter Laura Holson, who now covers mostly cell phone stuff out of the paper's headquarters and should be included in this attempt at convergence, but isn't.

Didn't the NYT memo specifically refer to shoephones? (Or else someone saw the Get Smart remake once too often...)

Look, if the NY Times editors really want to shake up the paper's coverage of infotainment, the way to do it ain't rocket science. Simply tell reporters to stop believing anything the CEOs tell them. (And I do mean Tim Arango and Bill Carter specifically. Arango's recent softball lobbed to Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes was an embarrassment. And Carter's never-ending regurgitation of every TV chief's corporate line crap is unforgiveable.) Only then can truth-telling start.

Vanity Publisher to Acquire the International Herald Tribune (perhaps)

Over the years, the one perenial conversation about the International Herald Tribune and its ownership is that one day it would be sold to a very rich vanity publisher, as and when the NYT gave up on our lovely paper.

So, it was not without some interest that this article from E&P caught my attention:

Slim's $123 Million Bet on the Future of The NYT Co.
By Mark Fitzgerald Published: September 10, 2008 9:45 PM ET
CHICAGO Carlos Slim Helu, who is, depending on who's counting, either the second or third richest man in the world, is most famous for assembling monopoly-like enterprises in Mexico, such as the Telmex telecommunications juggernaut.But there are two other things the U.S. newspaper industry should know about Slim, now that he and his family trust have in one fell swoop scooped up 6.4% of The New York Times Co.First, Slim has a nearly unerring eye for distressed companies that later deliver huge returns. Again, the most famous are Mexican companies such as Seguros de Mexico. He bought the nation's largest insurance company in 1982, when economic and political disarray caused by a collapsing oil price and government currency mismanagement looked to send Mexico back into basket case status. He paid $44 million for Seguros. Last year, The Wall Street Journal estimated it was worth "at least $2.5 billion."But as the Journal, in an August 2007 profile by David Luhnow, also noted that Midas touch can extend into El Norte as well. "From 2002 to 2004, he amassed a 13% stake in bankrupt carrier MCI, later selling it to Verizon Communications Corp. for $1.3 billion," Luhnow wrote. "He has never overpaid for anything," the article quotes a friend as saying.The second thing to know about Slim is that he's a fan and a disciple of the pop futurist Alvin Toffler. What he likes about the "Future Shock" author, he told the Journal, is his concept of identifying opportunities early.Slim's history suggests that he sees in the Times Co. something Wall Street is missing.The New York Times is undoubtedly the world's best newspaper franchise, and arguably the best franchise in news, period, yet its parent's stock price (NYSE: NYT) is trading at the lower end of its 52-week range of $12.08 to $21.14. Wednesday's closing price of $13.96 is nearly identical for its average closing price for October 1996, $13.68.There are reasons for that stock slump, of course, ranging from the cyclical economic downturn to the long-term migration of information and advertising to the Internet. And the Times Co. has the particular burden right now of publishing metro dailies in two especially harsh markets: Boston and Florida.Slim's SEC disclosure says the trust purchase was made Sept. 4, making it an approximately $123 million bet on the Times Co. There's no indication that Slim will be the kind of activist shareholder at Times Co. as the Harbinger Capital Partner/Firebrand combine has been with its purchase of about a one-fifth stake of the company's common stock.Instead, he appears content, for now anyway, to make the bet and see if the "Future Shock" in his first-ever venture into newspaper publishing is a pleasant or distressing one.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

An International Herald Tribune group pool on Flickr.

I have been accused of being somewhat obsessive about the IHT, which is perhaps true.

This blog is a combination of things but first and foremost a place to put my clippings and thoughts about the future of newspapers, the IHT above all, although that increasingly means following the fortunes of a newspaper I don't read, the NYT.

The reason? Because I cannot imagine living without it and I fantasize that NYT execs might check-in and read a few free thoughts on how exactly to get through all this.

However it seems that there is a small group of people even more obsessive than me perhaps - which is naturally a worry - and it's a a Group Pool on Flickr who are posting photos of the International Herald Tribune.

The group has, thus far, precisely 3 members (I'm not a member and would like to thank Graham at for tipping me off about this) but I for one will be joining. For that matter, I will be joining Flickr, a reason for which has never sprung to mind, and now one surely has.

The only downside is the somewhat gloomy motivation behind the IHT group on Flickr, and I quote:

About International Herald Tribune
Images from, of and about The International Herald Tribune. I suspect the paper will not exist by 2018 and so I thought I'd catalogue a wee bit of the paper's history day by day. I am a subscriber and I hope to remain one until the paper becomes paperless... or whatever.

Please join, and please also send any IHT photos in weird places putting faces to the readers of the IHT and their locales to

Actually, for IHT employees worried I am going to blow their cover and who don't communicate with me (and thanks to all those of you that do), Flickr could be a place to congregate.

I also think IHT employees should be in the business of taking photos of the IHT around the world, and posting them at Flickr.

Marketing could come up with an ad campaign one day using them (as it's unlikely their agency will).

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Blogosphere Beats MSM to the Lehman Bros. Punch (Media Bistro)

Part of Newspaper 2.0 might mean MSM getting out of the on-the-news Main Stream Stories business.

Print sure can't compete with the online competition, and it seems even their own Internet sites can't compete with the blogosphere.

Witness Lehman Brother's today, or rather yesterday, and this remark from Media Bistro:

Mark down another point for the blogosphere! By now you've all seen the stories about the bad things happening at Lehman Bros. (which we will not attempt to explain here). Perhaps you read about it in the NYT this morning [Wednesday, 10th September, 2008). Or maybe if you are, say, a regular reader of Dealbreaker, this story was already old news to you because Dealbreaker reported on it yesterday, a full sixteen hours ahead of the mainstream media. Not bad.

Bring on Newspaper 2.0.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wire Services and the IHT / NYT

There is much talk about the relationship between newspapers and wire services.

A recent example, this piece below from McGuire at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My personal take is that the newspapers need the wires much more than the other way round, and companies like Reuters are ideally placed to disintermediate players like the IHT or the New York Times. Indeed, who knows if they are not already working towards that.

If content is king, the kings of or are Reuters and AP. I think we can assume the wires know this, even if the consumer, for now, hasn't quite worked it out, and the newspapers haven't internalised that reality.

How smart, therefore, is giving players like Reuters consumer brand profile within your own pages? Short-term, I'm sure the rates were just dandy, long term I wonder who is getting the best bargain.

Something to think about.

Associated Press cancellations, once common, are a good idea again

The Minneapolis Star Tribune got some press a week or so ago when it gave The Associated Press the required two year’s cancellation notice. The Star Tribune is at least the fifth and perhaps the biggest paper to take this action. Newspapers appear convinced newspapers are very low on AP’s priority list. Newspapers want lower prices and , more coverage. Nobody really says it, but I think newspapers around the country want more affection and/or respect too from AP.
The latest salvo in this battle is a
contention from the Spokane Spokesman-Review that the two-year notice provision does not apply because AP’s new rate structure constitutes a new contract. The Spokesman-Review says the renewal deal deal offered by AP “represents a continued and material shift by the AP of separating services from the basic package so that some services will be available only by signing up for supplemental programs.” That argument maintains this is a new deal and not a renewal. AP argues this is not a new deal, but rather a “service upgrade.” Precedent would seem to favor AP on this one.
I do not pretend to appreciate all the nuances of this current flap between smart editors of struggling newspapers and a reawakened Associated Press intent on changing its business model to survive.
What I do understand is some important AP history that is at the very least bemusing and possibly instructive.
I became a managing editor at the age of 24 in 1973 in Ypsilanti, Mich. From the very beginning I canceled my Associated Press contract. I had countless mentors in those early days, and I have no idea who taught me this. It was before I went to work for my most beloved mentor, the crafty Gregory Favre, so I don’t think it was him even though it sounds like something he’d do! I learned very quickly that: a) a two-year notice provision is so incredibly onerous it was just smart to protect yourself against unforeseen events and b) the AP bureau chiefs were much, much nicer to you when you had them under cancellation.
Now let’s be candid here and admit that in those days we had a “somewhat” viable, but declining alternative in United Press International. UPI was always coming around with deals and it only made sense to listen. That “openness” to alternatives made AP a much better partner. Because some of their evaluation was based on “rescuing cancellations,” bureau chiefs were more than accommodating to the needs of such customers.
Back in those early days, Rich Oppel (
just retired from the Austin American Statesman) was the Detroit bureau chief. I called him the other day to check my memories. He said that about 10 percent of editors filed what he called “protective cancellations.” Apparently I knew the entire 10 percent because I have talked to other people who remember it as a very common occurrence.
So is this entry anything more than a walk down memory lane? I hope so.
I applaud the editors who are submitting their two-year cancellation notices. I think it is the best way to find solutions to the obvious dysfunction. I think it is most
premature for the press to assume that these actions will end up canceling the relationship between particular newspapers and the AP for three reasons.
I think the action recognizes that two years is a ridiculous cancellation procedure. (That fact, despite all the precedent, could cost AP in its argument with Spokane.) That two-year notice is mighty close to what a judge might consider unreasonably onerous. A wonderful result of this current dispute between editors and AP is that AP might be forced to change that clause. Such a two year notice des not, nor has it ever, smacked of “partnership.” True partners should have a more accommodating way to end their relationship. Yes, I know AP has always said they need that commitment to secure loans, but I have always wondered whether they have the same two-year notice clauses with other “partners.”
Secondly, I think these cancellation notices, and I hope there are more of them, are the best way to open a genuine dialogue between editors and the AP. I personally believe the AP/editor partnership is the best option for the struggling future of newspapers, but that relationship cannot continue in its current strained state. Editors and the AP need to sit down and craft a future that works for the industry and for an ever-expanding AP. Both are far better off as allies than enemies. These cancellations can bring an urgency to those discussions that the subject deserves.
Finally, and here again history is our guide, these cancellations could force editors to creatively examine alternatives. There is no viable UPI these days, but perhaps a more powerful news report can be crafted from new alliances, from entrepreneurs and perhaps even from some of my old syndicate friends. Putting a clock on the newspaper/AP deals might result in the discovery of some substitute services which can transform what newspapers offer readers.
These AP cancellations repeat history, but if handled correctly they could build an important future for the industry and for AP.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times
Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Nice Job Lads - now get outta the way! : Cost-cutting at the New York Times (NYO)

What do you do with two award winning sections - in this case Sports and Metro.

Don't give them their own section? Exactly.

And all to save a mere $5 - $6 million dollars (these figures are always produced by the business side and should be automatically reduced by 25-50% depending on who told them to you). And if a focus group says its O.K, well fire away. Hell, have 'em come in and run the paper.

It's this type of non-consequential, distracting cost-cutting that in the long run cracks morale, won't add up to a bag of beans nor save any newspaper that hasn't migrated to Newspaper 2.0, which is why I got out of the newspaper business.

I'm not quite sure who this is supposed to impress other than petulant hedge fund investors, but 'it don't impress me'.

For Times 'Gold Medalists,' A Place in the Back Pages
John Koblin September 9, 2008

On Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m., The Times will round up the newsroom on the third floor at its Eighth Avenue building to toast the accomplishments of the 32 reporters and editors who covered the Olympics—the majority of them from the sports department. There will be Champagne and egg rolls to reward the “stunning” coverage The Times produced on the Web, and in the newspaper, wrote executive editor Bill Keller in a staff memo. In an earlier staff e-mail, he lauded the staff and subjected the note, “Our Gold Medalists.”
But in these difficult times, journalistic success is not a protection against the inevitable downscaling affecting the newspaper industry. Just five days earlier, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. informed the staff that starting in October, for four days a week, the sports section would lose its stand-alone section, and would be tucked inside the business section
Similarly, the Metro Section, for six days a week, will be inserted into the A-section, behind the International and National reports.
“The aim, of course, is to save money—and, importantly, to do it without cutting back coverage,” wrote Mr. Keller in a follow-up memo to the announcement by Mr. Sulzberger.
The Metro Section, too, has had a good year—journalistically speaking. In March, Metro editor Joe Sexton’s staff scored the scoop of a lifetime when it broke the story that Eliot Spitzer was caught up in prostitution ring scandal; Spitzer announced his resignation two days after the story broke online.
But since, Metro has been the biggest victim of this very rough year: It lost bodies amid the larger 100 job cuts the paper enacted through buyouts and layoffs; the department was forced to virtually shut down its suburban bureaus in New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island; and every day other than Sunday, it will now be buried behind the International and National reports.
Coincidence or not, Metro and sports are two sections that have been complimented, time and time again, for their Web coverage; the Metro report for its City Room coverage, and sports, most recently, for its Rings blog during the Olympics.
Multiple sources described Mr. Keller and his masthead colleagues resisting the proposal, which originated in the business side of the paper. But these are tough times—and the elimination of these two section fronts stands to save the newspaper a “significant” amount, according to a source who said that Mr. Sulzberger put the savings at $4 million to $5 million a year.
Like many newspapers, these sorts of display and printing changes allow editors to save the overall amount of space reserved for these stories—and to avoid firing any “Gold Medalists.”
Sources with knowledge of the unfolding situation said sometime in the last month, editors left The Times building on Eighth Avenue and watched through one-way glass as the proposal was put before a focus group of regular readers.
“There was concern about how our readers would react,” said a newsroom source. “There was concern whether we were taking something important away from them. It turned out in the reader interviews that it wasn’t a huge deal for them. They kept saying, ‘But will it be the same content?’”
It will, Mr. Keller has since assured the staff. Or at least, they do “not expect” to lose page numbers, content, or more reporters.
But the industry downturn doesn’t show much sign of letting up, does it?
Other solutions had been proposed, according to sources, including one in which the Metro and sports sections were combined into a single section. (Sort of like a mini-New York Post flopping out of the Times?) But that proposal was not seriously considered for very long.
Mr. Keller wrote in an e-mail to staff that they would strongly consider each section for better A1 placement. A source said that both editors pushed for full-color pages when they’re within other sections, but that there was no guarantee that would happen; according to a newsroom source, neither Metro editor Joe Sexton nor sports editor Tom Jolly was “thrilled with the decision, but they understood.”
“I feel bad for not feeling worse about it,” said Mr. Jolly, the paper’s sports editor, to Off the Record. “We would love to have a section front seven days a week, and we would love to have more space. We are also realistic. We’re confident we can maintain the quality work we’ve been producing in print. All things considered, it could be a lot worse.”
And the way things are looking these days, it still could be.


International Herald Tribune
New York Times
Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris

Google digitizes newspaper articles (IHT)

Marissa Mayer, a Google vice president, said the newspaper archive project meant more people would have access to old articles. (Erin Lubin/Bloomberg News)

Google digitizes newspaper articles
By Miguel Helft
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO: Google has begun scanning microfilm from some newspapers' historical archives to make them searchable online, first through Google News and eventually on the newspapers' own Web sites, the company said.
The new program announced Monday expands a two-year-old service that allows Google News users to search the archives of some major U.S. newspapers and magazines that were already available in digital form, including The New York Times, whose global edition is the International Herald Tribune, as well as The Washington Post and Time. Readers will be able to search the archives using keywords and view articles as they appeared originally in print pages.
Under the expanded program, Google will shoulder the cost of digitizing newspaper archives, much as the company does with its book-scanning project. Google angered some book publishers because it had failed to seek permission to scan books that were protected by copyrights. It will obtain permission from newspaper publishers.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, will place advertisements alongside search results and share the revenue with the publishers.
"This is really good for newspapers because we are going to be bringing online an old generation of contributions from journalists, as well as widening the reader base of news archives," said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president for search products and user experience.
But many newspaper publishers view Google and other search engines as threats to their business. And those that see their archives as a potential source of revenue might not hand them over to Google.
"The concern is that Google, in making all of the past newspaper content available, can greatly commoditize that content, just like news portals have commoditized current news content," said Ken Doctor, an analyst with Outsell, a research company.
Google said it was working with more than 100 newspapers and with partners like Heritage Microfilm and ProQuest, which aggregate historical newspaper archives in microfilm. It has already scanned millions of articles.
Other companies are already working with newspapers to digitize archives and some sell those archives to schools, libraries and other institutions, helping newspapers earn money from their historical content.
The National Digital Newspaper Program, a joint program of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, is creating a digital archive of historically significant newspapers in the United States from 1836 to 1922. It will be on the Internet; material published before 1923 is no longer protected by copyright.
Newspapers that are participating in the Google program say it is attractive.
Pierre Little, publisher of The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, which has been published since 1764 and calls itself "North America's Oldest Newspaper," said many readers visit the newspaper's Web site to look for obituaries and conduct research on their ancestors.
"We could envision that thousands of families would be attracted to our archives to search for people who came over to the New World," Little said. "We hope that will be a financial windfall for us."
Tim Rozgonyi, research editor at The St. Petersburg Times in Florida, said that years ago it had looked at digitizing its archives.
"It appeared to be exceedingly costly," he said. "We wouldn't be talking about digitization if Google had not entered this arena."
The newspaper might be able to generate additional revenue from the digital archives by producing historical booklets or commemorative front pages. But he said that increasing sales was not the primary objective of the digitization program.
"Getting the digitized content available is a wonderful thing for people of this area," he said. "They'll be able to go to our site or Google's and tap into 100 years of history."

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Electronic newspaper reader has look of the real thing (IHT)

Electronic newspaper reader has look of the real thing
By Eric A. Taub
Monday, September 8, 2008
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: The electronic newspaper, a large portable screen that is constantly updated with the latest news, has been a prop in science fiction for ages. It also figures in the dreams of newspaper publishers struggling with rising production and delivery costs, lower circulation and decreased ad revenue from their printed product.
While the dream device remains on the drawing board, Plastic Logic now has a version of an electronic newspaper reader: a lightweight plastic screen that mimics the look - but not the feel - of a printed newspaper.
The device uses the same technology as the Sony Reader and's Kindle, a highly legible black-and-white display developed by E Ink. While both of those devices are intended primarily as book readers, Plastic Logic's device, still unnamed in advance of its formal unveiling Monday at an emerging-technology trade show in San Diego, has a screen more than twice as large. The size of a piece of copier paper, it can be continually updated via a wireless link, and it can store and display hundreds of pages of newspapers, books and documents.
Richard Archuleta, chief executive of Plastic Logic, said the display was big enough to provide a layout like a newspaper's. "Even though we have positioned this for business documents, newspapers is what everyone asks for," Archuleta said.
The reader is to go on sale in the first half of next year. Plastic Logic is not saying which news organization will display articles on it until the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, when it will also disclose the price.
Kenneth Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media, said, "We are hopeful that we will be able to distribute our newspaper content on a new generation of larger devices sometime next year." While he would not say what device the company's papers would use, he said: "We have a very strong interest in e-newspapers. We're very anxious to get involved."
Hearst, the parent of Hearst Interactive Media, owns 16 daily newspapers in the United States, including The Houston Chronicle, The San Antonio Express and The San Francisco Chronicle, and was an early investor in E Ink. The company already distributes electronic versions of some newspapers on the Amazon Kindle.
Newspaper companies have watched the technology closely for years. The ideal format, a flexible display that could be rolled or folded like a newspaper, is still years off, says E Ink. But it foresees color displays with moving images and interactive clickable advertising coming in only a few more years, according to Sriram Peruvemba, vice president for marketing for E Ink.
E Ink expects that within the next few years it will be able to create technology that allows users to write on the screen and view videos. At a recent demonstration at E Ink's headquarters here, the company showed prototypes of flexible displays that can create rudimentary colors and animated images. "By 2010, we will have a production version of a display that offers newspaperlike color," Peruvemba said.
If e-newspapers take off, the savings could be hefty. At The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, print and delivery amount to 65 percent of the paper's fixed expenses, Bronfin said.
With electronic readers, publishers would also learn more about its readers. With paper copy subscriptions, newspapers know what address has received a copy and not much else. About those customers picking up a copy on the newsstand, they know nothing beyond what they can deduce in surveys.
As an electronic device, newspapers can determine who is reading their paper, and even which articles are being read. Advertisers would be able to understand their audience and direct advertising to its likeliest customers.
While this raises privacy concerns, "these are future possibilities which we will explore," said Hans Brons, chief executive of iRex Technologies in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
IRex markets the iLiad, an electronic reader that measures 8.5 by 6.1 inches, or 21.5 by 15.5 centimeters, and can be used to receive electronic versions of the newspapers Les Echos in France and NRC Handelsblad in the Netherlands.
The iLiad, Kindle and Reader prove the technology works. The big question for newspaper companies is how much people will pay for a device and the newspaper subscription for it.
Papers face a tough competitor: their own Web sites, where the information is free. And they have trained a generation of new readers to expect free news. In Holland, the iLiad comes with a one-year subscription for €599, or $855. The cost of each additional year is €189, or $270, making the marginal price of the reader €410. NRC offers just one electronic edition of the paper a day, while Les Echos updates its iRex version 10 times a day.
A number of newspapers, including The New York Times, whose global edition is the International Herald Tribune, offer electronic versions through the Kindle device; The Times on the Kindle costs $14 a month, similar to the cost of other papers.
Les Echos is also participating in an experiment sponsored by France Télécom that uses the iRex, along with five other major French dailies: Le Monde, Le Figaro, Le Parisien, Libération and L'Équipe.
Most electronic reading devices use E Ink's technology to create an image. Unlike liquid-crystal display of computer monitors and televisions, electronic paper technology does not need a backlight; remains displayed even when the power source runs down; and looks brighter, not dimmer, in strong light. It also draws little power from the device's battery.
Plastic Logic's first display, while offering a screen size that is 2.5 times larger than the Kindle, weighs just 2 ounces, or 56 grams, more and is about one-third the thickness of Kindle. It uses flexible, lightweight plastic, rather than glass.