Friday, 10 October 2008

Goodbye to www.iht.com - praise and thanks and a few niggles

If you haven't been reading this blog it may come as a surprise to you (as many things will come as a surprise to you if you don't read blogs on topics that interest you because they are, it must be said, often ahead of the news curve) that the future of www.iht.com is not looking so rosy.

Before I bring you up to speed on the slow speed MSM's coverage of this story, I thought it would be nice to first of all remember all that I LOVE about www.iht.com.

I very much hope something better will come next March; I wish all those involved into rolling www.iht.com into www.nytimes.com the very best, but I for one will miss it if the new offering (essentially the international news pages of www.nytimes.com, although how they handle the U.S.A in that light will be interesting) isn't at least as good.

And I still maintain that for the sophisticated Net savvy European, www.nytimes.com looks like a retro-joke/bottle of split ink.

Here's a review and some comments of http://www.iht.com/, posted last May on typesites.com






What is typesites
Typesites is a weekly look at sites that have great typographic design.







The International Herald Tribune, like The New Yorker (reviewed previously on Typesites), is a print publication with a reputation for good design in the print world; trying to make the same magic happen online.
One thing that immediately sets the IHT apart from most other print newspapers’ websites (including that of its parent company the New York Times) is that the IHT doesn’t seem as much to be trying to look like a newspaper. It employs tasteful gradients, drop-shadows, et cetera; which creates a look similar to a news website, rather than a newspaper who has a website.
That’s not to say that the long history of the newspaper is in any way swept under the carpet. The limited color palette and the conservative Georgia/Arial type choice prevents the site from being too flashy and web two-point-oh-y. Which is a good thing, considering we’re talking about a newspaper that started in the 1880s…







I especially love how the two typefaces on the site play off of each other. Arial is a very neutral, clean typeface. Georgia, on the other hand, has a lot of character, and is probably the best thing to happen to web typography as of yet. However, it’s been used so much lately, and has so much character on it’s own, that it quickly becomes overwhelming if used without moderation.
However, the design manages to keep a great balance between the clean and the character. The same goes for the color scheme. The muted blue and grey are as clean as any Helvetica-ripoff. And they, too, are very well contrasted by the warm yellow text elements spread throughout the design.


















The use of borders on the site is another astonishingly well-performed balancing act. Like Georgia, borders can either make or break a design — and in this case they definitely make it. From the delicate dotted lines in the byline to the concise 1px border around the article to the thick, light gray border of other content boxes—they all work wonderfully with each other. My personal favorite is the thin gray border around the article images. Not quite large or defined enough to be noticed, but enough to help bring out the image.
The body copy is set in a very straight-forward 13px Arial with a line-height of 18px (about 140%), ragged right. The leading does a very good job at making the text readable without going to extremes. You can even choose a three-column view, which shortens the line-lengths a little and makes reading long stories on screen a more pleasant experience.
It should also be said that the site has some of the cleanest code I’ve seen on an online newspaper site.




criticism



The design is not without its faults, though. Firstly, as a result of the IHT trying to take full advantage of the web, the different parts of the site seems to suffer from what I like to call “Restless Website Syndrome”. This occurs when a site pulls content in from an external site, with all the stylistic baggage that the widget brings on. Much of the elegance of the design is ruined by dragging in things like the differently-styled Reuters-box on the front page.























Another example is the (awesome as it may be) function that allows you to click the name of the city from where the story was filed and in turn will launch a Google map and provide you with links to other stories from that city. The problem is that the Google map looks awkwardly out of place in the design; what was a good idea on paper, suddenly becomes a visual problem.
Not only that, but the site overall seems to have too many elements that weren’t fully thought through. The blog section of the site, for instance, still looks a little unfinished to me.
The navigation also captures this unfinished feel, in my opinion. The thick top border looks a little out of place and the three bars, while I see what they are trying to do, remind me of a poorly compressed JPEG.
There are also some minor issues that bug me a little. One of the good things about the
standardized RSS-icon is that it can be colored any way you wish. So why did the IHT go for one that clashes so utterly with the warm yellow accent-color?
Then there are the uglies in the body copy itself, such as improper quotation marks and orphans. I’d personally like just a little tighter spacing between the paragraphs to make it a little less blocky.
The design overall doesn’t seem to have as much flexibility as, say,
the New York Times website.







conclusion



Overall, the Int’l Herald Tribune has dared do go in a different direction than most other online newspapers, and it has ended up in an elegant and well-functioning design.
However, it seems the fusion of a 121 year old newspaper with Web 2.0 may have been a bit of a challenge. What works on the site works well, and what doesn’t looks cheap and unfinished.
It may be nostalgia, but to me, the old IHT-design (without the drop shadows and gradients, but with the same content) worked better. Perhaps sometimes you can have new function, without the new style.



about the reviewer

John Arnor G. Lom is a web- & graphic designer and freelance superhero from Norway. He can be found in his online hideout at Twisted Intellect, as well as on Twitter.

13 responses to ‘int’l herald tribune’



Kevin Zak May 4th, 2008
It is a fairly fluctuating design, really. Some areas look like serious thought and consideration were put into creating them while others look like they were just thrown in after the design was completed. That said, the type throughout the site is done beautifully and should be commended.
I agree with most of what you said concerning the widgets seeming out of place. They make a solid effort to flow with the rest of the site, but they come up a little short. Removing or recoloring the Reuters header would eliminate some of that tension.


ithe IHT doesn’t seem as much to be trying to look like a newspaper


Here is where I tend to disagree. Other than a well-styled navigation, it doesn’t really set itself apart much to me. It looks like a mix of the ten news sites I read each day. I’ve never seen this particular website before, yet instantly there was an air of familiarity about the design. I don’t think this is much of a coincidence; the design works so why take a chance and do something completely original, possibly compromising their reader-base.
Overall, it has a nice design that I’ve seen before on other sites. It does, however, do a better job in typography than most websites belonging to newspapers.
§


Tim May 4th, 2008
Nice review John. Little details make a big difference, and ITH is no exception to this.I’m disappointed by the (apparent) lack of work in advertising integration. What’s the use of sweating the details in typography, navigation and borders if they slap hideous ad banners all around. I know newspapers (online & offline) merely rely on advertising but there must be another way than what we’ve seen so far. In fact, there is.
Dan Hill wrote a long piece about the design of the Monocle website which mentions their strategy with advertising (scroll down to about ¾ of the article) , and how they made it work with their gorgeous design. I might not work for all, but it’s really worth trying.— §


John Arnor G. Lom May 4th, 2008
Kevin: I see your point. What I meant by that is that the design is more ‘online design’ than ‘print design ported to the web’. If you look at sites like the New York Times, the New Yorker et cetera; it looks more like the paper newspaper design, than what this design does. You’re right that the design isn’t radically different; though. That just makes it even more impressive to me when it is able to make a mark, just on the basis of good type.
Tim: Glad you liked it. Thanks for the link! I’m continually impressed by Monocle both off- and online. (I have two of every single issue of Monocle so far, and love every one of them… ;)—
§


Joey May 4th, 2008
As a whole I think the IHT works pretty well. There are, however, quite a few issues I take with the entire site.
Layout-wise, I don’t think the columns are structured well. They could have used a better grid and structured the content around equally sized columns. HOWEVER, despite this fact they still managed to make the content look aesthetically appealing and also easy to read.
I love their use of regular Georgia for the headlines. The headlines used on the IHT are much easier to read than those on the
New York Times website, which are set in bold. Also, the body copy set in Arial is a great choice, which is also easy to read and contrasts beautifully with the serif headlines.
Detail-wise, I have a few complements and a few issues. I typically dislike the use of gradients. They seem fairly useless to me. The same goes for the IHT. The few gradients I see completely throw off the design, in my opinion. They seem out of place. Solid colors in place of the gradients would not only look better, but also cut down on the size of the page itself.
The use of borders on the site is another astonishingly well-performed balancing act.
I completely agree. Where the designers could have simply filled content into their respective places, the addition of borders REALLY helps to separate the various types of content.
Another detail I noticed, and like very much, is the Market Tools section (about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way down). Not only is the search bar (used to search different stock symbols) big, so is the GO button. It’s extremely easy to use. And when you press go, you’re taken to a very elegantly laid out stock market page with nice infographics and easy to read stock information.
Even though the structure of the entire layout could have been improved upon, the designers still did a very good job.—
§


Steve Killen May 6th, 2008
Although the use of Google maps in a website regularly results in an ugly clash with the site’s design. I think the implementation here is not too bad. The site contains similar colours to the Google map app and is fitting for a news site. The design may benefit from having a custom mapping software but this would involve a lot of development time. I think it is too useful and unique a feauture to compromise for the sake of the overall design.—
§

John Arnor G. Lom May 6th, 2008
@Steve, I totally agree, the Google map is way less of an eyesore on the IHT as on many other sites. And, I certainly realize that a custom map solution is a big undertaking on any website. (Though, it isn’t as hard as many thinks, as
this article on A List Apart shows…)
However, I think many designers look to Google for maps; I just think that one should probably look at other solutions as well. In my opinion, Microsoft Live Maps, for instance would be a much better fit, visually, for the Int’l Herald Tribune…
I, too, love the function - and I think it’s both really useful, and an awesome idea. So I’m not saying it should be dropped - just that when more visually polished solutions available - I think they shouldn’t be ignored for the default (Google).—
§

John Arnor G. Lom May 6th, 2008
…wow, that was a huge pile of grammatical errors. Sorry about that — you get the point, though… (hopefully)—
§


Steve Killen May 7th, 2008
@John: Thanks for the clarification, don’t worry I didn’t notice any of the grammatical errors first time around ;).
I did see the A List Apart article when it was published, still seems quite a task to get the right map tiles. Hopefully there will be a few more map APIs coming out that will offer the stability and coverage of Google maps with the ability to fully customise.
PS I apologise for going off the intended focus of this site.—
§

John Arnor G. Lom May 7th, 2008 @Steve Don’t apologize; your points are all very valid, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to clarify what I meant…
By the way, I found an old screenshot of
IHT before the redesign. And seeing it again, I do think much of my affection is indeed nostalgia-related. I am glad to see the pinstripes, pixel fonts and dotted border extravaganza go.
However, the previous design was more subtle, less random gradients, better grid — and I did love the clipping-feature. (Basically, what that did, was let you “clip” articles that you wanted to read later. I used it during my morning routine to decide what articles to read during lunch, for instance.)—
§

Mark Wunsch May 9th, 2008 Apparently, you IHT.com took notice! Great to see a publication like this embrace good web typography.— §


Kyle Meyer May 9th, 2008 @Mark Wunsch: Indeed, that was a very exciting link to see show up in the Mint stats

http://typesites.com/intl-herald-tribune/

READ AN ALTERNATIVE IHT DAILY NARRATIVE AT
A PLACE IN THE AUVERGNE
http://www.aplaceintheauvergne.blogspot.com/


International Herald Tribune
IHT
New York Times
NYT


Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment Rental in Paris

Portfolio's Jack Flack to NYTimes.com



Meanwhile, over in Internet land last Monday, Fishbowl reports a big name leaves to go to a dead tree company, albeit their website (what's the difference if the paper is paying for the megabytes).
(While we're on the subject of nytimes.com still no word from Rich.)
Paul Pendergrass, a.k.a. PR blogger "Jack Flack" is leaving his post at Portfolio.com to join the New York Times Dealbook blog. We're told his first item will be an open letter to Hank Paulson--not exactly new ground for him, though things are moving so quickly his post on September 19th seems in need of an update already.
He may also have an article in the Dealbook print supplement tomorrow as well. We're not clear yet on if this will be the letter to Paulson, or a different piece.
Pendergrass occupies rare territory in PR--one who both practices corporate PR, and blogs about the business under the banner of a mainstream media outlet, rather than on an agency's site.
According to a
Q&A with PRWeek a year ago, longtime experience with Coca-Cola, followed by time at the helm of his own consultancy has sharpened his gimlet eye. Our source tells there was no ill will with Portfolio or Conde Nast, merely that his contract ran out.
READ AN ALTERNATIVE IHT DAILY NARRATIVE AT
A PLACE IN THE AUVERGNE


International Herald Tribune
IHT
New York Times
NYT

Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment Rental in Paris


"Incredibly, deep new cutbacks at L.A. Times" (LAObserved)

I had two conversations this week with two senior newspaper editors, both extremely secure in their jobs and positions, or so they told me. All this while all hell is breaking loose and they are writing daily stories about layoffs, Wall Street to Main Street, the 1930s and I don't know what.

It's as if they think they live in a bubble where a complete massacre of the 2009 Advertising Budget as a result of already bad predictions, exacerbated by the end of Act I of the Financial Meltdown, is not going to impact their jobs, their newsroom, their sacred ground.


Wrong.


Markets in free fall Monday and Tuesday and on Monday this story breaks out of LA.

Incredibly, deep new cutbacks at L.A. Times (see below for full text)

It's written as if it's some kind of big shocking surprise!!

No! Why don't journalists get it? They report a global recession but don't seem to think it will impact their own operating newsroom budgets.

What the in the name of whatever expletive or deity your wish to insert is so fucking incredible about this?





Incredibly, deep new cutbacks at L.A. Times

This is a breaking situation this afternoon. Editors met over the weekend to get the word and to refine their lists. Newsroom staffers are being told today individually and in department meetings that as many as 75 editorial positions are being cut through voluntary departures and layoffs. Some staffers were approached last week about volunteering, "enticed" with the threat that this will be the absolute final time that editorial employees will receive two weeks severance pay for each year of service when they leave. When new publisher Eddy Hartenstein took over in August, right after the last round of deep cuts, he was asked repeatedly about the prospect of new layoffs, and according to a first-hand report I passed along then:


The question of more layoffs was posed in half a dozen different ways and he said he hadn't been given a target number for the staff, that Sam Zell told him to run the place, etc., etc. He did say (as did Mark Willes and Sam Zell) that we can't cut our way to prosperity.


I've emailed Hartenstein and Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan some questions about what has changed since August and the extent of this round of cutbacks. My sources say the newsroom staffing level is headed to about 650, but I don't know if that includes the decimation of the Washington bureau expected by many there after the November election. Associate Editor for features Leo Wolinsky is holding a meeting with his staff shortly amid strong rumors that he is leaving. Stay tuned.
* Update: Wolinsky confirmed to his people that he's out, citing staff reorganization. Editor Russ Stanton has announced a 5 pm staff meeting. Wolinsky, you'll remember,
moved over into the features job during the March buyout wave after years as the page one editor under a few different titles.
2:53 PM Monday, October 6 2008
http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2008/10/incredibly_deep_new_cutba.php



Kevin Roderick, who wrote this piece, and perhaps the headline, needs to re-define his sense of the incredible.




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International Herald Tribune
IHT
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Stanford Prof: 'Uncertainty Is Opportunity if You Have the Right Frame of Mind.' (Fishbowl)

Like I said, it was an interesting week.




The NY Mag piece on blood, blood on Wall Street Monday - Friday and talk of recession/depression and every publisher tearing up their 2009 advertising budgets, putting them in the bin, and starting from scratch. And scratch it is because even with some analysis and experience, putting a number on 2009 advertising for the IHT and the NYT is going to be tough.

And who knows who is looking at their middle class family budget and saying, you know what, I just ain't going to renew my sub. (I get mine for free because I did my time and someone still likes me, but if they cut it, I'm not paying money for one.)


Here's another little worry: you've got about US$1.2 billion of debt which is near as damn it junk rated. Most of the analysts who follow your stock and debt paper are at banks that have either gone under or have merged or radically changed. The credit markets are ghastly and your US$3.2 billion revenue '07 isn't looking so good for '09 and it's that revenue which services your debt: the grey lady, without wishing to be crude, is meant to be the mother of all milk cows.


So you're in the hands of the credit raters, S&P and all that other lot (what a ridiculous system btw for credit rating to be in the hands of the private sector) and you're one b away from being C and moving from de facto junk debt to real junk debt. Now the revenue slips for reasons beyond your control - display advertising in distressed market - and you're already bleeding circ. revenue and classifieds and then it gets worse and now you've got US$1.2 billion of junk debt in a frozen credit market that doesn't like the dead tree business.


However, you need to go the money markets (who right now can't organise a loan for their own houses) and borrow money to either invest in Newspaper 3.0 (I'll explain another time why I've moved my terminology to 3.0 and not 2.0 and when that moment in newspaper history happened) or acquire/build/bit of both A.N Other company(ies) that will transform you from a dead tree company to a digital company that will keep on paying for all those wonderful news values i.e lots of journalists and editors which is why I so love the IHT.


Who's going to lend you that money in 2009? Especially if you get C rated?


How deep is your cash? How much time have you got and what happens if there is some sort of tipping point in display advertisers' confidence in dead trees - irrespective of recession marketing budget cuts - and even another tipping point on readers of print due to ageing demographics?


Ouch.


I'd say 2009 is a make or break year for the NYT - it's fight or flight and some of those younger family members might like to fly away with a double your (absolutely currently hammered to the floor) money Bancroft deal.




The good news is that recessions, even depressions, are a terrific time to be innovative if you can get your act together. A lot of your competition goes out of business, prices for companies you want to acquire become much cheaper, BUT you've got have some IDEAS and a BUSINESS PLAN.


Question then: have the NYT got the big ideas? I don't know but if I was the board I'd sure like my strat plan team and high profile futurists to have delivered something by now.


The problem however with in-house strat planning in big, culturally loaded, heavy legacy, high self-belief institutions is that they're not exactly world famous for coming up with good ideas; because nobody likes to go out on a limb and strat plan teams at big newspapers are even worse because they're thinking about pitching their ideas to a load of professional cynics.


So the ideas don't come so easy nor so quickly.


And even if they do, there is a lot of internal politics, bureaucracy, turf fighting and red tape etc. to cut through in order to be pro-active instead of re-active and in a timely and effective manner. In fact, strat plan teams at big media groups can be a liability when it comes to incubating and developing good ideas. They can even have a reputation for sucking the life out of any good idea that comes past their desks.


Which leads me to this positive note sounded by Paul Saffo, consulting associate professor at Stanford and visiting scholar at Stanford Media-X. I couldn't agree more with what he said at the beginning of the week, as reported by Fishbowl, and it's worth a close read.





According to futurist Paul Saffo, consulting associate professor, Stanford University, and distinguished visiting scholar, Stanford Media-X, there's an amazing amount of opportunity in the changing media landscape.


"We are on the midst of a fundamental change in the whole information industry," Saffo said. "Everything is media."
"There's a massive shift from information to media, but there's also a shift from mass to personal," he explained, citing the fact that more video cameras were sold in cell phones last year than on their own.
He believes that the Information Age is over and we are at the dawn of the Media Age. Magazine publishers are at the forefront of this change, but it is difficult to see where to go. "You're at ground zero of this revolution, and that's a hard place to get perspective," Saffo said.
Where can media companies look for new ideas?

"If you want to look for a short-term success, look for something that's been failing for 20 years," the futurist said. "If everyone agrees it's a bad idea, do it."
Saffo cited Amazon's Kindle as a good example of this. "We've been failing at ebooks for 20 years," he said. "The Kindle is the 128k Apple of ebooks. It's not the iPod of ebooks. That is coming. ... It might come from Apple. It wouldn't surprise me."
Google is the media company that Saffo thinks best shows the way into the future, but might not be the biggest company in the future. "The companies that get biggest are going to be the ones that harness the smallest quantum of information," he said, arguing that the group that "harnesses the single click" will ultimately rule the world.
Saffo closed with a plea to the audience: "If you fear change, leave it in this room when you walk out the door."

http://www.mediabistro.com:80/fishbowlny/amc_2008/stanford_prof_uncertainty_is_opportunity_if_you_have_the_right_frame_of_mind_96635.asp


"IF EVERYONE AGREES IT'S A BAD IDEA, DO IT?"

Remember that one.



READ AN ALTERNATIVE IHT DAILY NARRATIVE AT
A PLACE IN THE AUVERGNE
http://www.aplaceintheauvergne.blogspot.com/


International Herald Tribune
IHT
New York Times
NYT


Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment rental in Paris

An interesting week and it began with this: Bleeding ‘Times’ Blood (New York Magazine)

Bleeding ‘Times’ Blood
Which is more important to a 25-year-old Ochs-Sulzberger heir: the sense of honor that comes with owning the New York Times, or enough money to do whatever he wants for the rest of his life?



Dave Golden couldn’t stay at the paper mill forever. It was too tied to the family business, too laden with expectations. So he set off to find himself “in the tango halls of Argentina, on the snow-covered Berkshire border of Vermont and Massachusetts, in the halls of Oxford, in the jungles of Guatemala and even in Asia on a Fulbright,” according to his Website. In the Berkshires, he studied mountain music, and in 2004, the 26-year-old released a well-received folk record, with songs drawing from life experiences, as in “All I Never Wanted”: “I coulda been a CEO, they told me / If I could just stop holdin’ on to this ol’ dream.”
This could be the story of any aspiring artist, but David Adam Ochs Golden isn’t just any folk-rocker carving out his own circuitous path in life. He’s a once and future owner of the New York Times Company, one of the 27 members of the fifth generation of the Ochs-Sulzberger family who will inherit the 157-year-old newspaper as it’s passed down from their forefathers—including Golden’s father, Stephen Arthur Ochs Golden, former president of the paper’s forest-products division and the cousin of Times chairman and publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.
It might seem as if the adventures of a distantly related singer living in New Orleans would have little to do with the fate of the Times, but it was the Dave Goldens of the Bancroft family who agitated to sell their inheritance, The Wall Street Journal, when News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch came calling with $5 billion, more than twice the market value of the company. Like the Sulzbergers, the Bancrofts were an ever-expanding tree of cousins and second cousins watching their fortune shrivel in the Internet age.
So it’s fair to wonder, as the Times’ own public editor, Clark Hoyt, did last year, “How united are the Sulzbergers, and what holds them together? Who is the next generation, and how committed are they to the family’s long practice of investing heavily in quality journalism, even in rocky financial times?” It’s a question that’s impossible to answer with any certainty, and one that’s difficult even to address, which is perhaps why Times editor Bill Keller has not followed through on his suggestion in that same column that “this is a story [the Times] could do.”
The Sulzberger family is a different clan from the Bancrofts, who were divided by trust funds and populated with restless socialites and horse enthusiasts whose hobbies required access to substantial funds. From an early age, Sulzberger children are taught to value their role as stewards of the paper and servants to the public good. Privately, however, the family has always quarreled and debated among themselves, with cousins and brothers jockeying for power and influence, and occasional whispers of displeasure with Sulzberger’s leadership. Today there is greater possibility for division in the Sulzberger family than there was a decade ago. In the last ten years, at least seventeen new family members have turned 25, the age at which they are allowed to join the trust’s board or vote for trustees, expanding by 38 percent the number of people with input into the family’s dealings. In 2001, the family trust was quietly amended, expanding the number of family trustees and allowing a less than unanimous vote on “extraordinary corporate transactions”—leaving the door open for a faction of family members to push for a sale.
Will prestige and legacy alone be enough to sustain the next generation? As the financial fortunes of the New York Times wither, the sad truth is that they may not have a choice.

From an estate in Southampton, 82-year-old Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the patriarch of the family and father of Arthur Jr., has watched as the company he bequeathed to his son has taken a perilous turn. A significant portion of the paper’s troubles can be attributed to the general difficulties of a business model based on print advertising in the Internet age. But the younger Sulzberger’s management stumbles have helped to speed the company stock price’s decline to around $15 a share from $45 at the start of the century.
First, there was Sulzberger’s decision to use the paper’s excess cash flow when it was making money in the nineties to buy back stock—a practice meant to improve investor confidence—instead of acquiring new properties that could have hedged against print losses. In the last decade, the Times bought back $3 billion of its own stock—more than the company’s present market value. Now that money is gone, and the company has sunk from surplus to deficit. (Sulzberger himself has acknowledged that the buybacks were “the stupidest thing” he’s done.)
When the Times did use its cash to acquire new assets, those bets rarely panned out. Believing that television was the medium of the future, Sulzberger overpaid for the Discovery Times Channel, which failed and was sold. All told, the company’s major newspaper and TV acquisitions since 2000 have lost more than $1.5 billion in value. Sulzberger made what appears to be a smart move in acquiring About.com, a highly trafficked information hub, in 2005, but when the Times had a special opportunity to get in on pre-public financing of Google, it passed—perhaps the single worst business decision of Sulzberger’s tenure, says one Times intimate.
Sulzberger hasn’t acted entirely alone. His cousin Michael Golden, vice-chairman of the company and until recently publisher of the beleaguered International Herald Tribune (the acquisition of which cost the company $65 million), oversaw the sale of the old New York Times headquarters on 43rd Street—which the buyer turned around and sold three years later for a $350 million profit (enough to fund the newsroom for more than a year, notes one Times veteran). A new headquarters on Eighth Avenue, designed by architect Renzo Piano and costing the Times about $500 million (roughly 25 percent of the company’s total market capitalization), was also his responsibility and is seen as a sign of the family’s dedication but also its vanity. “Man, he loves that building,” says a former Times executive who knows Golden.
Meanwhile, the company continues to suffer the failed strategic investments of Sulzberger’s father, such as the Boston Globe, which, along with another Times-owned paper, led to an $815 million write-down in 2006. Many at the Times believe Sulzberger Jr. hangs on to the Globe only out of deference to his father.
Smelling weakness, Wall Street agitators have pressured the family to cut costs, squeeze more value out of the stock, and loosen its grip on management. Last year, London-based Morgan Stanley fund manager Hassan Elmasry presented the board of directors with a litany of criticisms of Sulzberger’s management, suggesting that the stock price might be improved with new leadership and an overhaul of the dual-class stock structure that allows the family to maintain monarchal control over the business. Not surprisingly, neither Sulzberger nor the family members on the board were interested in ceding control of the company. In retaliation, an angry Sulzberger pulled the family’s personal holdings, approximately $200 million in New York Times stock, from an account at Morgan Stanley.
In general, Sulzberger and his family have affected indifference to critics. It’s written in the company’s proxy statement that the Ochs-Sulzberger trust reserves the right to put its own aim, to protect the journalistic independence of the paper, ahead of those of the shareholders. Sulzberger views himself as a barrier between the expensive 1,300-person newsroom—the engine of the paper’s reputation as the best newsgathering operation in American media—and Wall Street pressure to save money by laying off editors and reporters.
Nevertheless, Sulzberger partially relented to a shareholder insurgency led by two hedge-fund traders pressuring the paper to cut costs and take more advantage of the Internet. Sulzberger quietly steamed at the most high-profile critic, Scott Galloway, a professor at New York University who runs Firebrand Partners, telling one colleague he “can’t believe this guy’s arrogance.” But eventually he agreed to expand the paper’s board of directors to include appointees chosen by the insurgent traders, including James Kohlberg of the private-investment company Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. The move seemed to contradict the “What, me worry?” attitude Sulzberger presents to friends and associates at the paper. “If [Sulzberger] really is that sanguine, why would he let these guys on the board?” asks one Times staffer.
Sulzberger has acknowledged that his own family suffers along with his shareholder critics. “All of us—my family and you, our shareholders—have felt the pain of this disruption,” he said in 2007, referring to the Times’ flagging financial fortunes. People familiar with the family’s trust say it is surprisingly undiversified, with a high proportion in Times stock. The family’s collective and individual shares are valued at a third of what they were worth in the late nineties. One Wall Street executive briefed on the family’s holdings estimated that the central trust is now worth somewhere between $270 million and $300 million. There are individual investment trusts for each line of the family as well—each with inside jokes for names like Trifoos Capital Investors (for the three siblings whose last name is Dryfoos) and Pudding Partners (the Sulzbergers, including Arthur’s sisters). But those too have taken a hit: Late last year, each of the separate family trusts made rare sales of about $500,000 a piece in class-A stock—sales that would have been worth $1.3 million seven years ago.
In order to keep the family—and shareholders—happier in these lean financial times, Sulzberger has quietly ramped up the amount of cash they receive in a quarterly cash dividend. This, more than the sale of stock, is the source of the Ochs-Sulzbergers’ working wealth. Sulzberger and CEO Janet Robinson raised the dividend by an extraordinary 31 percent last year—even as the stock price declined. Of the $132 million a year the paper gives to shareholders, about $25 million of it now goes directly into the coffers of the Ochs-Sulzberger trusts.
But the payoff exacts a harsh price: The company is going deeper into debt to pay the high-yield dividend. In the last four quarters, the paper has made less money than it has paid in dividends, and debt-ratings agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s are threatening to downgrade the company to “junk bond” status, which would paralyze the paper’s ability to borrow money. In August, an analyst for Moody’s suggested the company could quickly improve its rating by lowering the high-yield dividend—a report that sent the stock down 6 percent. Emile Courtney, a credit analyst for Standard & Poor’s who currently has the Times at the lowest investment grade possible, says that even with changes to its cost structure, “there’s a greater than 50 percent chance that [the Times] will go lower to non-investment grade.” If that happens, the paper will have even less money available to climb out of its hole.

‘My family’s dedication to this company is fundamental and enduring,” Arthur Sulzberger declared during Elmasry’s attack in 2007. Indeed, the Sulzberger family’s dedication to the Times has been the gold standard among newspaper dynasties over the last 30 years. The family is steeped in mythology, down to the name of the family trust, Marujupu, shorthand for the first names of the four children of the late matriarch Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger: Marian, Ruth, Judy, and Punch (in 1929, the explorer Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd actually named one of the glacial hills in Antarctica after them, Marujupu Peak, not far from Ochs Glacier and Mount Iphigene). After Iphigene died, in 1990, the families of her four children decided to fuse their fortunes together in a trust designed to protect the newspaper. By accepting the deal, they gave up the right to sell off controlling shares in the company, which added up to an estimated $1 billion in potential wealth. But it was worth it to try to preempt the phenomenon that trust-fund managers everywhere know to be true: Families fracture and fight and eventually break up over money.
The four siblings had between them thirteen children, a handful of whom—Arthur Sulzberger, Stephen Golden, Michael Golden, and Dan Cohen—became directly involved in the business. Their identities were built on the paper’s prestige, and their commitment was cultivated by bonding rituals at Hillandale, the family’s onetime 263-acre country estate in Stamford, Connecticut, where copies of the New York Times were placed under benches in the gardens.
At one time or another, each of these cousins thought of himself as a candidate to one day lead the company, each rising through the ranks of his respective department—Stephen Golden in forest products, Dan Cohen in sales, Michael Golden in the magazine division. Arthur Sulzberger was not necessarily the obvious choice to succeed his father. While attending Tufts in the early seventies, Sulzberger did hallucinogenic drugs, worshipped the Grateful Dead, and motorcycled with Dan Cohen. But eventually Sulzberger settled down and started working as a reporter, first at the Raleigh Times and Associated Press, later for the New York Times. He shifted to the business side in 1983, and his father anointed him publisher in 1992, despite some skepticism from the company’s board.
After Sulzberger became publisher, Stephen Golden and Dan Cohen left the company. Golden moved to Tucson to pursue a law degree and work for the rights of Native Americans; Cohen, Sulzberger’s closest family adviser and friend (also one of the company’s largest shareholders), was effectively forced out as senior vice-president of advertising by Janet Robinson, with Sulzberger’s blessing, in part because of complaints about his temperament. Cohen started a TV-production company and later got into the submarine and underwater-exploration business, founding DeepSee, LLC, in 2007. (Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, a critic of the Times’ management, archly noted that Cohen’s qualification as a company board member was “noted Jacques Cousteau expert.”) Only Michael Golden remained at the paper. In 2002, after the Times acquired full ownership of the International Herald Tribune, he departed for Paris to serve as that paper’s publisher—a kind of second prize for Golden in lieu of being publisher of the Times.
The other cousins have mainly deferred to Sulzberger, enjoying relatively placid lives as philanthropists, conservationists, and charity-board members. Susan Dryfoos serves as the family historian; Lynn Dolnick was a director of the Smithsonian zoo; Cathy Sulzberger is a real-estate developer; Arthur Golden wrote the best seller Memoirs of a Geisha.
While no one accuses the Sulzbergers of ostentation—“We’re not a family into yachts,” one family member told the trust lawyer, Theodore Wagner—they do live off the family money, residing in Upper East Side townhouses or maintaining country homes that wouldn’t normally be afforded by their day jobs. Beyond that, they are highly invested in their Times identity. “Their raison d’être,” observes one Times veteran who knows several members of the family, “is that they’re members of the Sulzberger family.”
The fifth generation, the sons and daughters of Arthur and his cousins born between 1965 and 1990, have largely remained in the shadows of the company’s affairs, anonymously going about their lives as beneficiaries of its generous dividends, their names listed in the occasional SEC filing detailing the family trust. Like their parents, they’ve led the lives of a prestigious trust-fund family—attending private schools like Dalton and Fieldston and acquiring Ivy League educations at Brown and Columbia, then casting about for noble life pursuits or whatever pleases them.
Sulzberger has said that his clan starts going to family meetings when they’re 10 years old and by 15 they understand their roles as caretakers of the New York Times. There’s also a one-day orientation session for kids turning 18 or 21—or people marrying into the family—to learn about the legacy of the Ochs-Sulzbergers. For the last several years, the entire family has converged annually on the Times headquarters for a review of the company’s fortunes. Afterward, they break into groups and powwow with top Times editorial and business executives. It’s the younger members who ask most of the questions, “more about the mechanics of the paper than debating this or that policy,” says a former Times executive. People who have been involved in those sessions say they’ve never seen family members express criticism or dissent.
“Once the dividend is cut, all hell will break loose,” says a former Tımes executive. “Because that’s what the family lives on.”
Younger members of the family are also inculcated in the beliefs of the Sulzbergers on private annual retreats to places like Hawaii. One Timesman compares the indoctrination to Skull and Bones, but it seems more the stuff of summer camp. They sing songs together like “We Are Family” and keep abreast of each other’s lives through a newsletter called The Lookout. A surprisingly large portion of the family stays connected through the social networking site Facebook, including Punch Sulzberger’s sister Ruth Holmberg, the 87-year-old mother of the Golden brothers, who lives in Tennessee. The Cohen boys compare favorite movies with the Golden kids, who are friends with Arthur’s 26-year-old daughter, Annie.
All this family indoctrination has not produced an obvious heir. “You don’t see a line of people in succession to run the joint,” says a former Times executive. Another person well acquainted with the family says that Sulzberger wouldn’t hesitate to promote a young family member who showed promise. “I don’t think Arthur is an egomaniac. If he saw somebody in there he thought honest to God could be better, he would go to bat in promoting talented young family members.”
As in any family business, the pool of talent in the bloodline is limited, and the bubble of affluence doesn’t always produce heirs with the proverbial fire in the belly. What it does produce, in the case of the Sulzbergers, is a variety of artists, musicians, academics, teachers, and even a fashion stylist. Hays Golden, son of Arthur Golden, is an economist seeking a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Ben Dolnick, the 26-year-old son of Lynn Dolnick, Michael Golden’s sister, is a successful fiction writer living in a brownstone secured by his grandmother, Ruth Holmberg. Victoria Dryfoos, daughter of Katie, lives in Martha’s Vineyard and has sought to “promote awareness of … and provide income for Huichol families,” a Native American group in Mexico. (She’s also committed to maintaining the historical integrity of lighthouses, according to a long letter she wrote to a local paper.) Sarah Perpich, David’s 28-year-old sister and Sulzberger’s niece, is a fashion writer, stylist, and personal shopper. “For me, fashion is life, and life is art,” she writes on her blog. Meanwhile, Dan Cohen’s son Alex, a student at NYU, plays drums in a band called the Mysterious Case of Jake Barnes with cousin Dave Golden (making it the unofficial Ochs-Sulzberger house band). He also flexes his editorial muscle on his Facebook page: “Alex Thinks Sarah Palin Can Suck A Dick And Leave Us All Alone.”
Only three fifth-generation offspring have opted for careers at the New York Times so far. The oldest and highest ranking is Michael Greenspon, the 38-year-old son of Jacqueline Hays Dryfoos, a psychotherapist cousin of Sulzberger’s. After stints at the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, where he worked with Graham-family heiress Katharine Weymouth, Greenspon now works in strategic planning at the Times and is described by colleagues as quietly competent but not an obvious candidate to lead the paper. One person at the paper calls him an “odd presence” because he’s so obviously “aligned with Michael [Golden], who he’s very close to.” Two others toil in quieter quarters of the Gray Lady: James Dryfoos, son of Robert Ochs Dryfoos, works as a systems analyst. And Michael Golden’s 29-year-old daughter Rachel is new to the paper, a graduate of the University of Denver who works in digital marketing.
Some Times staffers think the brightest of the young family lights could be David Perpich, son of Arthur’s sister Cathy. A Harvard M.B.A. who helped run a D.J.-training school called Scratch D.J. Academy (it’s still in business), Perpich applied to work at the paper in 2007 after an internship at Times-owned About.com. But he was conflicted over whether to join the Times or pursue a career in consulting. In the end, he decided against the paper and took a job at technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
Few doubt that Sulzberger would like to eventually hand the reins of the paper to his 28-year-old son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, keeping control of the paper in his father’s family line. In the 1992 book The Girls in the Balcony, which documented a sex-discrimination suit against the Times, author Nan Robertson quotes Sulzberger telling a female executive at the paper, “I want to leave my son a different newspaper from the one I’m inheriting.” (It wasn’t until later that the executive thought to point out that Sulzberger has a daughter as well.)
Annie Sulzberger shows little interest in the Times, pursuing a career in art preservation while “aspiring to be a Daily Show correspondent,” according to her Friendster page (which also features a photo of her and her brother smoking a hookah while watching a Woody Allen film). A college friend from Brown, Dennis Kwan, says Annie was always circumspect about her identity as a Times heiress. “She tried to distance herself from it,” he says. She saw it as a “burden” because “people would talk about it.”
But Arthur III has shown promise as a newspaper reporter at The Oregonian, in Portland, where he recently broke a series of stories about a local sheriff who had an affair. His interest in journalism is no guarantee that he’ll be interested in following in his father’s footsteps, however. One family intimate notes that Arthur III is close to his mother, and his parents’ recent separation might complicate his relationship with his father. “Gail is really hurt,” says a family friend of the deeply acrimonious divorce that has upset the entire family. “She was taken aback by it. She’s going to have a very difficult recovery.” If Arthur III is to be the next Sulzberger to pull the proverbial sword from the stone—and it’s a Camelot metaphor the family employs, with a statuette of a sword-in-stone on Sulzberger Jr.’s desk—it could be an issue, says the family friend.
One thing that would cause the fifth generation to take a sudden interest in the family business is a decrease in trust income. “Once that dividend is cut, then all hell will break loose,” says a former Times executive. “Because that’s what the family lives on. Then it’s over. It’s going to unravel. They’re going to be forced to look for external professional management to run that company.” In a brief phone call, Stephen Golden (cousin of Arthur Jr., brother of Michael, father of Dave) cautioned against assuming that the younger relatives’ interests and careers away from the newspaper mean that they aren’t engaged with its plight. “If you follow that through, what you end up with is an assumption, you say that everyone who is not engaged in the paper is unconcerned. That’s a dangerous assumption.”
Indeed, some of the family’s recent moves make it seem as if Sulzberger’s cousins and second-cousins are not as passive as has long been thought. Just as Sulzberger’s marriage was unraveling earlier this year (a matter of family discussion for at least six months before it became public), Michael Golden, the only other cousin in a position to run the company, returned to New York from Paris. While they maintain a cordial relationship, Golden is more conservative and mild-mannered than his prickly cousin, who sometimes criticizes Golden in front of surprised staffers, according to a person who has witnessed it. Golden still maintains the vice-chairman title and ostensibly oversees international operations but is, according to a person who knows him, “fishing for something to do” while he sits in an office down the hall from Sulzberger. Meanwhile, Dan Cohen, Sulzberger’s closest confidant, has also returned to influence after a period of relative remove, taking a seat on the company’s board of directors in 2007—at the peak of the Morgan Stanley battle.
Significantly, the board of trustees also includes for the first time a member of the fifth generation, Carolyn Greenspon, a 40-year-old social worker who lives in Massachusetts. Greenspon replaced her mother, Jacqueline Hays Dryfoos, on the trust board and recently began attending family wealth-management conferences. Carolyn also happens to be the sister of Michael Greenspon, making the siblings a significant family presence at the paper.
So far, no one has been so bold as to openly question Sulzberger’s management, but it’s worth noting that it was a 42-year-old member of the Bancroft family, Elisabeth Goth Chelberg, who became a key agitator for selling The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch. After her mother died, she came to see with cold clarity the withering value of her inheritance. “On the one hand it is quite sad,” she told a newspaper, “but on the other it was the only reasonable thing to do.” Says a Times staffer who knows Sulzberger, “It seems completely reasonable that somewhere embedded in this [Sulzberger] family is someone saying the same thing Elisabeth is saying: ‘What the fuck is going on with my investment, Uncle Arthur?’ ”

The idea of the New York Times slipping from family control is one that few inside or outside the family relish talking about. People who know the Sulzbergers are inclined to protect them, seeing the paper as an endangered species on which freedom of the press depends. As former Times editor Abe Rosenthal used to say, one can’t imagine a world without the Times.
It is significant that none of the members of the fifth generation of the Sulzberger family, given the chance, chose to express even a sliver of unhappiness with the company’s management. The reaction is very different from that of the fifth generation of Bancrofts, many of whom were happy to stoke conversations about a sale of the Journal in the press.
The main difference between the two families is that the Bancrofts became disengaged from running the Journal much earlier in the paper’s history; the last family member to hold a senior management role at the company was Hugh Bancroft, who committed suicide in 1933. The Ochs-Sulzbergers’ continued involvement has helped to create a mythology around the paper and the family, a sense of noblesse oblige that may be more powerful than the financial pressures. The family’s dedication to journalism is “a noble, familial thing that courses through their veins,” says a family friend. “And anyone who strays from that gets slapped down pretty quickly.” A sale could make the Sulzberger descendents wealthier, but what they would lose is invaluable to them.
It’s a relatively modern phenomenon for the Times to think of itself as a business more than a civic gesture—an expensive project for the public good. It wasn’t until the nineties, when Sulzberger successfully took the paper national and invested in early Internet ventures, that the stock price spiked and it seemed that the Times might be able to be both virtuous and rich. Today, of course, nothing escapes the pressures of Wall Street, and the tension between the Times’ public trust and the Times’ business is sharper than it’s ever been.
Fantasies about a white-knight businessman who might “save” the Times with a cash infusion abound in the newsroom and in media circles across the city. Most of them feature Michael Bloomberg, who has denied interest in buying the paper, or Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications billionaire who bought $127 million in Times stock. Another notion floated in the newsroom is the hiring of a future-forward CEO, like Google’s Eric Schmidt, an executive who clearly “gets” the Internet and might just be able to reengineer the Times to profit from it.
But for all of Sulzberger’s faults, there’s a simple reason the family hasn’t pushed for new management: No one seems to really have a better idea. “I’m sure they would all be interested, from Arthur down, in anybody giving them a better idea on how to run the business more profitably,” says Max Frankel, the former executive editor of the Times. But there is no magic bullet to save the paper. All Sulzberger can do is try to safeguard the paper’s editorial quality—not just because he believes in it, which he clearly does, but because it protects him from the family constituency. “The quality of the paper,” notes an Ochs-Sulzberger friend, “is the one reason for the family to put up with the financial part.”
And so the Times’ royal family presides over an embattled kingdom—its coffers dwindling, but its titles still a source of pride. Sulzberger seems willing to sacrifice anything to hold on to the family business. “If the New York Times of the future is a Web business, but worth 20 percent of what it’s worth now, he’ll be happy because he’ll have saved the institution,” says a friend of Sulzberger’s who admires him. “That’s what he cares about.” He’s betting the rest of the family agrees.

http://nymag.com/news/media/51015/





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Does internet advertising piss people off?


If the future is digital, the answer to the above question- why, when and how - would good to know.

I mention this because, as anyone who runs a blog will know, there's a marketing technique which is to search blogs and then create automatically generated comments on a particular posting to do with the blog subject. Google of course offer this to their bloggers, but freelancers are at it to.

For example, when I posted on Internet Advertising a while back I received an auto-generated comment, which, like most of them, I didn't post at the time as comments on Think! are moderated.

(Which is also why I didn't post a completely embarrassing comment from someone who said that the IHT's old KNIHT! campaign was crap because "what it portrayed was: "Think backward." Not exactly what you want to tell your readers, is it?" I really hope this person doesn't work in advertising or marketing for the IHT, if they genuinely believe this, because clearly they know nothing about advertising. This type of analysis of advertising is what I call 'advertising autism' and a surprising number of people who work in the business suffer from it. To get it, you had to THINK! Get it? Clearly not an IHT target reader if that's the take out for this person. But I digress.)

Anyway, back to these automated blog comments. A posting I made (Gap Widens in Online Advertising from the WSJ) threw up this automated comment:

"Hi. I like your blog. Internet Advertising have become a common practice these days. This kind of business costs money and nerves for the customers and brings huge profits to the marketers. They are everywhere – on TV, radio, in the Internet as well as the press. You can hear lots of complaints from the customers. They are also numerous on the Net, especially on this great site www.pissedconsumer.com."

So, I checked out www.pissedconsumer.com - by which I mean I had a run through the homepage and went and made a coffee and did some gardening - but as I gardened this thought did strike me:

I'm pissed off by these automated comments on my blog (a form of internet advertising), I'm pissed off - frequently - by internet advertising and windows and all that crap, but I've never been pissed off by a good old fashioned display advert in print. Even an advertising supplement, I simply turn the pages, even the fashion ads in the IHT I just run past without even looking at them. I only register adverts in areas that interest me. This cannot be said of internet advertising which is frequently intrusive, disruptive and yeah, I'm a pissed consumer.

Personally, I think this internet advertising model/format as currently cooked-up is over blown, very Internet 1.0 and isn't going to survive as we now know it.

On that note, I'm off to help build a friend's roof.
P.S Please don't send annoying comments about how advertising that pisses me off works because I made this post with this company's logo. Get it?






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Monday, 6 October 2008

Think. Again. About perspective too.

Where to start with this one?

a) When the NYT took over the IHT, the IHT had a brand campaign called Think! spelt (with reversed KN) KNIHT! The current campaign for The Atlantic, with a budget estimated at $1.5 million, carries the theme "Think. Again."

The word from the NYT was they hated the Think! campaign, didn't 'get it'. They got in their own agency to do the job for the next brand campaign, a big Madison Avenue global agency. Their work was rubbish. I know, I saw it.

Even the then CEO of the NYT Newspaper (now CEO of the NYT Company), Janet Robinson's personal entreaties to the CEO of their agency and that agency's involvement of creative teams from its entire global network, not just NY, couldn't get their agency to deliver a new brand campaign for the IHT.

So three weeks before production deadlines, the people behind the Think! Campaign - the London boutique agency Bagshawe Associates and myself, then a consultant - were invited to come up with a new campaign. We were given 3 days and delivered a concept the IHT/NYT liked in two. And the entire artwork (outdoor, taxis, magazines, newspapers etc) in 3 weeks.

The Broader Business Perspective we themed it, as the then target was business people. For the first time at the IHT, The Broader Business Perspective helped internalise, at the IHT, what its editors were doing and popped up in numerous speeches given by advertising directors, editors and the publisher: the relevance of a general interest international perspective newspaper for a business readership.

b) After we did this, we were let go - again. The next brand campaign was absolute crap. We now have some motif based on a compass (N,E,S,W) which is about NEWS, which isn't what the IHT is about because news is free and the idea doesn't even work because as much as their copywriters and designers would like to wish it were so, the sun rises in the east and does not set in the south. First thought idea (a compass for a global newspaper - very original, not) allowed all the way through to an actual brand campaign. Umm.

c) This was 2003. Now, in 2008 thinking and perspective seem to be back in vogue, witness this quote from the article below: "If you look at some of the titles that compete with The Economist, their perspective is from the U.S. looking at the world," he [Andrew Robertson, chief executive at BBDO] added, "whereas with The Economist, the focus is the world view." (see article below)

d) In a crisis, like WWII, the NYT kept their news hole as large as ever, even if their advertising dropped off. In this crisis, MSM (especially) needs to market itself as The Atlantic and The Economist are trying to do.

e) The IHT had every opportunity - twice - to own global perspective and the value of thinking which is shorthand for being more than a suit. They blew it.

f) The IHT needs to keep its foot on the pedal, it needs to invest in brand and content, it needs money. Otherwise it, along with the NYT, will die.

Sail to steam, sail to steam.

Can't make the transition without investment.



Magazines get clever with their advertising
By Stuart Elliott
Sunday, October 5, 2008

NEW YORK: A financial crisis, two wars, a presidential election - when there is so much for readers to think about, how do magazines aimed at thoughtful readers attract their attention?
In a new U.S. marketing push, one such magazine, The Economist, is spoofing the game Twister, distributing pizza boxes that improbably bear its name and sponsoring a performance of political satire.
Another such magazine, The Atlantic, plans to advertise on the muffin displays in New York City convenience stores, on restaurant menu boards and on the shampoo shelves of drugstores.
The Atlantic is also producing video clips that show what happens when people on city streets are invited to answer questions like "Is Google making us stupid?" and "Why do presidents lie?" - questions that, to make them stand out, have also been reproduced as neon signs.
In seeking readers and advertisers, publications like The Atlantic and The Economist - alongside competitors like Harper's, Mother Jones, The Nation, The New Republic and The New Yorker - have long tried to make up in cleverness what they lacked in wallet power.
The campaign for The Atlantic, with a budget estimated at $1.5 million, carries the theme "Think. Again." The campaign, which will also include a section of the magazine's Web site (theatlantic.com/thinkagain), is to begin Monday.
The campaign for The Economist is arriving this week in Philadelphia after stopping in eight other markets, including Boston and Washington. The campaign, with an estimated budget of $5 million, carries the theme "Get a world view."
Both campaigns are indicative of the increasingly unusual efforts by the traditional media to catch the wandering eyes of younger readers as well as younger employees of media agencies who help decide where marketers buy ads.
The theory is that they "should be jolted," said Justin Smith, president for consumer media at Atlantic Media in Washington. "We felt there was a great opportunity, right now, to further inspire our readers and advertisers."
His counterpart at The Economist, Paul Rossi, who is based in New York, echoed Smith's decision to seize the moment, fraught as it might be with uncertainty. "I think it's the best possible time" for a campaign, said Rossi, executive vice president and managing director for the Americas at The Economist. "What we have to say has never been more relevant. We write about the world, about connections between business and politics."
The questions appearing in the campaign for The Atlantic are from articles published in the magazine.
The ads are meant to reach media buyers where they eat, buy takeout food and shop. Those are "places where people's brains are most at rest," said Michael Fanuele, managing director for strategy at the magazine's creative agency, Euro RSCG Worldwide in New York, part of Havas.
The video clips, aimed at readers as well as advertisers, will be available on the Think Again section of The Atlantic Web site, and plans call for additional content to be added monthly.
Previews of the clips offer a variety of responses from the passers-by on the streets. On the question "Why do presidents lie?" the replies ranged from "Why do we let them?" to "There'd be more problems if we told the truth."
The neon signs, which also appear in print ads and posters, will decorate events sponsored by The Atlantic and eventually end up at the magazine's offices. "We hope to keep one or two for ourselves," said Jose Cabaco, chief creative officer for North America at Euro RSCG.
Other agencies working on the campaign for The Atlantic are Cleverworks, for media buying, and the Rosen Group, for public relations.
Several agencies are working on the campaign for The Economist: BBDO Worldwide, part of the Omnicom Group, for the creative content; PHD, also part of Omnicom, for media buying; Kinetic, a unit of the WPP Group, for outdoor ads; and Tentpole N.Y. for public relations and events like the satire performance, by the Second City theatrical troupe.
"It's always a good time to read The Economist," said Andrew Robertson, chief executive at BBDO, "but if there ever was a good time to be reading The Economist, it's now."
Originally, the ads run by The Economist in the United States were adapted from a popular campaign for the magazine created in London by the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO unit of BBDO. Headlines from that campaign - called the "white-on-red campaign" for its color scheme, borrowed from the logo of The Economist - include "Great minds like a think" and Robertson's favorite, "Would you like to sit next to you at dinner?"
The idea behind the British campaign "is that if you read it, you'd be better informed, and therefore more successful," he said, "which evolved into, you'd be better informed, and therefore more interesting."
The new ads with the Twister parody and the like are from the BBDO office in New York, so they will more directly address American sensibilities, Robertson said, and provide "a more specific explanation of what you'll get from reading The Economist."
"If you look at some of the titles that compete with The Economist, their perspective is from the U.S. looking at the world," he added, "whereas with The Economist, the focus is the world view."


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Sunday, 5 October 2008

Email from Rich Meislin at the NYT (automated response)

If you do write to Rich Meislin at the nytimes.com with your blog recommendations, this is what you can expect.


EMAIL
From: navigator@nytimes.com
Date: 05 October 2008 10:18
To: Ian
Subject: Your recent mail

Thanks for writing to The CyberTimes Navigator. Because of the volume of mail received, I cannot acknowledge submissions individually, but I do read all of them and make changes in the list accordingly.
I appreciate your interest.
Sincerely,
Rich Meislin


I am expecting a reply (and naturally a change in the list to include all my blogs, notably this one at a minimum), because we IHT readers are important, are we not, to the global ambitions of the NYT?

(There's a blog whose sole purpose is to be critical of the NYT - not the purpose of this blog - but they should perhaps, in the interests of balance, be listed too?)






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Email to Rich Meislin

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From: Ian
Date: 05 October 2008 10:18
To: navigator@nytimes.com
Subject: Message for Rich Meislin re. IHT and Blogs

Rich hi,

Could I invite you to take a look at http://ihtreaders.blogspot.com/2008/10/what-exactly-are-nyt-blogs.html
and read to the end and some previous posts on NYT/IHT blogs. There are a number of questions and ideas.

Many thanks,
Ian

http://www.ihtreaders.blogspot.com/
www.aplaceintheauvergne.blogspot.com
www.farmblogs.blogspot.com

READ AN ALTERNATIVE IHT DAILY NARRATIVE AT
A PLACE IN THE AUVERGNE


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