MediaFile

Financial Times finds new way to save newspapers

Maybe the real headline should be, “Financial Times finds old way to save newspapers.” It’s called the lawsuit. As reported by Cityfile:

You know we’re in a deep recession when even billionaire financiers can’t afford to pay for subscriptions to the Financial Times. In what will go down as one of the more bizarre (and unintentionally hilarious) lawsuits we’ve seen in quite some time, the newspaper filed a lawsuit against Steve Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group on Wednesday for sharing an FT username and password instead of setting up separate accounts for its employees. Yes, an unknown “senior employee” at the colossal private equity firm “authorized the initiation and repeated renewal of an individual, personal subscription to FT.com” and then distributed the login details to company employees so they could all join in on the fun. (The court documents list the username as “theblackstonegroup” and the password as “blackstone,” although FT says it has since “disabled the credentials to mitigate damages.”)

The New York Post gives us the background on why the situation is absurd on its face:

Blackstone’s penny-pinching ways stand in stark contrast to the way Schwarzman lives. Two years ago, his wife threw a $3 million 60th-birthday party for the buyout king that featured 500 guests, and included a performance by Rod Stewart. A Wall Street Journal story chronicled Schwarzman’s fondness for $40 crab legs and for running up weekend food bills of $3,000.

For MediaFile’s part, we see another tool that U.S. newspapers can employ to enrich their depleted coffers. Newspaper publishers usually wait for one among them to step forward and take action before falling in en masse (cutting dividends, laying off workers, etc), and we wonder why the lawsuit route should be any different.

Saving newspapers: The PR campaign

Brian Tierney doesn’t dispute that U.S. newspapers are in trouble; he just wants to know why they can’t tell the good side of the story. That led to this article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper he owns along with a group of investors:

The pundits and cynics who believe that newspapers are dead are dead wrong.

So says a small group of newspaper executives who this month organized an ad hoc group to alter perceptions and get the facts out…  Dubbed the Newspaper Project, the grassroots effort includes the CEO and publisher of Philadelphia Media Holdings, Brian P. Tierney. [And executives from Parade, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc and others --ed]

Acknowledging that the newspaper industry faces challenges, the group roundly rejects the notion that newspapers have no future.

Walking around with the Financial Times

Having a copy of the Financial Times poking out of your valise is one way of telling the world that you are a sophisticated business type. Another way is to show people the new FT mobile service on your BlackBerry.

Here’s the news from the press release:

The Financial Times today announces the launch of a new FT.com website optimised for mobile devices available at m.ft.com. The site is consistent with the new FT.com design unveiled in November 2008 and follows the news that FT.com has broken the one million registered user barrier for the first time.

The idea is to loop a younger generation into the FT, particularly young people who think that any newspaper showing up on any part of their person is like driving a chariot to work in the morning rush hour.

Domino dancing with Conde Nast

April Fool’s Day is still a few months away, giving magazine publisher Conde Nast some time to pull a few practice gags. The latest is its decision to kill Domino magazine — days after appointing a new chief to run it.

Here’s the press release, sent on Wednesday:

Domino magazine will cease publication, it was announced today by Charles H. Townsend, President and CEO of Condé Nast. The final issue will be published in March 2009.

“This decision to cease publication of the magazine and its website is driven entirely by the economy,” Mr. Townsend said. “Although readership and advertising response was encouraging in the early years, we have concluded that this economic market will not support our business expectations.”

Hi, I’m Gregory Lee, banker for The New York Times

We’ve heard in recent days that The New York Times has gotten some interest in its stake in the Boston Red Sox, but it seems like whatever offers are being discussed, they must not be enough for the publisher.

In the murky, mysterious world of mergers and acquisitions, companies and their bankers and financial advisers tend to operate far below the radar — only surfacing to leak the news in The Wall Street Journal that a deal is close at hand.

Not this time. While the Journal did get the tip-off back in December, the Times on Wednesday simply issued a press release inviting all comers to take a look at the stake. Not only that, the Times published the name of the Goldman Sachs banker handling the sale, along with his phone number. Usually, as a reporter, you have to cash in lots of chips to get digits like that.

CBS wants to talk about your money

The financial crisis might have sapped more than its share of 401(k)s, but it’s providing the news business with all sorts of programming ideas.

The latest is a new personal finance website from CBS Interactive. MoneyWatch.com, which officially goes live on Wednesday, will provide the following things, according to the press release:

    The site will translate the latest financial headlines and break down how they directly impacts the readers’ and their pocketbook. MoneyWatch will provide a bird’s eye view into how the latest financial news affects their salaries, mortgages, 401Ks, and their overall finical well-being. With the support of CBS, MoneyWatch experts will react quickly to translate the news on a broadcast level, from national and local TV and radio stations including CBS Early Show and local CBS news affiliates. Unlike other personal finance sites now available, MoneyWatch will have a life across multi-platforms, across the web, TV, and radio, and reach a massive audience. Led by Eric Schroenberg, former managing editor of Money Magazine, MoneyWatch will help people who feel responsible about their money and believe that making the right decisions about what they have and what they earn is profoundly important. If the crash taught us anything, it’s that the penalty for not knowing what to do with your money has never been higher. MoneyWatch.com is spin-off from its sister site, BNET, one of the fastest growing business sites on the Web.

The announcement comes on the heels of Fox Business Network’s announcement that it will start a Saturday morning four-hour call-in program for folks worried about their money, and joins a host of other “what it means for you”-style sites dealing in personal finance, such as FiLife.com.

Ad market finds the upside of down

There have been plenty of doomsday forecasts about 2009 advertising spending, brought on by the financial crisis. Especially when online advertising, so long on the rise even as print ad revenue fell, started falling too.

Now, Adweek threatens to mess up the picture:

So far, the first months of 2009 aren’t looking as dire as once predicted for the online ad market, according to buyers and sellers. However, many report that business has slowed down, resulting in intensifying pressure on pricing, particularly in the ad networks space.

But the abysmal first quarter that many anticipated — one in which shell-shocked clients either delayed all decision making or went into budget-slashing mode — hasn’t happened, said many industry insiders.

Lee joins newspaper privation train

Lee Enterprises, publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and owner of a bunch of small U.S. daily newspapers, is learning the public relations benefits of making its executives do without.

The Davenport, Iowa-based Lee released its annual proxy filing with the U.S. government on Monday, in advance of its annual meeting. I was expecting to see the usual details buried deep within about the pay raises, bonuses and other monetary rewards that executives tend to earn even when times turn tough.

I was wrong. Here is what I found instead (the following are “named executive officers” or “NEOs,” including Chief Executive Mary Junck:

New York Times, GateHouse blink on links

The New York Times and GateHouse Media arrived at a general understanding on Monday of how Web links work. That’s good timing because they were supposed to go to trial over it today. Here’s the brief back story, courtesy of The Associated Press:

GateHouse sued the Times, the parent company of The Boston Globe and its Boston.com Web Site, last month, claiming the Globe’s new community websites use GateHouse’s newspaper headlines and lead sentences without permission.

Here’s what the Boston Herald said:

The Times agreed to disable the computer tool it used to automatically copy and display GateHouse headlines and lead sentences on Boston.com’s recently launched “Your Town” Web sites. Meanwhile, GateHouse will implement a “technological solution” to prevent Boston.com from copying its content. GateHouse has set up such a barrier in November that kept Boston.com from “scraping” Wicked Local sites, but the “electronic security measure” was quickly circumvented, according to GateHouse’s original civil complaint.

Newspapers: These are a few of my favorite playthings

The story of rich billionaires buying troubled newspapers is one that has been told before, but never with headlines that practically nod and wink at you like this one from the Financial Times: Playthings for rich men could be unsafe toys

Tell us about it!

The story by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson explores the ups and downs of selling troubled, publicly traded newspaper companies to impossibly rich buyers. As he says, would-be press barons might find to their dismay that the old business model is dying. That means taking over a paper could be a reputation killer, not an enhancer.

The most interesting but sad item in the story is this tidbit:

The $5.6bn Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp paid in 2007 for Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal and several local papers, would now be sufficient to buy Gannett, the New York Times, McClatchy, Media General, Belo and Lee Enterprises, even at twice their current share prices.