MediaFile

How much are those front-page Times ads?

Don’t ask The New York Times how much its new front-page display ads cost. The paper won’t say. That didn’t stop the New York Post from asking ad buyers. Here’s the answer based on anonymous sources:

$75,000 on weekdays and $100,000 on Sundays.

Assuming that the Post counts Saturday as a weekday, and assuming no discounts or other special deals (and assuming this blog post is not written by a reporter who nearly failed at least one high school math class), this works out to $28.6 million a year: $23.4 million for 52 weeks of Monday through Saturday and $5.2 million for a year’s worth of Sundays.

Despite the TImes’s silence, the ad cost sounds about right. The Wall Street Journal charges $90,000 for its front-page ads, not counting special discounts. Other details sound similar too. Here’s the Post:

Apparently, The Times is leveraging the front page space to get advertisers to increase their ad buys.

The paper is limiting the front page to big advertisers willing to spend more on top of their existing budgets.

Tax breaks (not bailouts) for newspapers

I ran a story on New Year’s Eve about the opportunities and perils that could face struggling newspapers if they end up surviving because of government help. I opened the story with the tale of Connecticut state lawmakers and a state commissioner who are trying to find someone to buy two Journal Register-owned dailies and several weeklies that are going to be shut down in January if they can’t be saved. From there, I explored the ramifications of government aid to newspapers.

The story got plenty of attention, though it looks like misinterpretation was rife. Many bloggers and news sources portrayed the Connecticut situation as a bailout, leading to plenty of ire directed at the lawmakers and the story. (Some conservative bloggers hinted that we deliberately omitted the lawmakers’ affiliation. For the record — they are Democrats. Also for the record: I had that in there, then deleted it, intending to put it somewhere else in the story. Then I plum forgot. No hidden agenda.)

So here’s what I’m expecting next and here’s what I still don’t know or understand. I’m eager to hear from folks who care about the future of newspapers in the United States to add their thoughts in the comments section.

Viacom, Time Warner Cable help get people out of the house

Viacom and Time Warner Cable are doing their best to make sure that television addicts around the country get a chance to go outside and stretch their legs come New Year’s Day. Of course, the reason they’re doing their part for physical fitness has little to do with ensuring the health of their viewers.******As Reuters reports, Viacom — the company run by financially challenged media mogul Sumner Redstone — provides programming to cable networks like Time Warner Cable for a fee. Now we’re at a time when Viacom and Time Warner Cable are renegotiating the fee, a regular occurrence. Equally regular are the disputes that arise as the negotiators try to determine what a fair price is.******The ultimate loser turns out to be you, the faithful TV watcher, because the last resort of companies like Viacom is to pull their programs off the air. The idea is that sends watchers into paroxysms of rage, usually directed at the cable company that they give all their money to every month. Eventually, the idea goes, the cable company cries Uncle! and agrees to pay more money to bring you the programming. Yes, your bill goes up too, as it always does.******Here’s a sample of what will stop being broadcast on Jan. 1: Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Hills.******And here’s a sample of the pre-packaged righteous indignation that you hear at times like this from the companies:***

Viacom: Time Warner Cable has dismissed our efforts at a fair compromise… As a result, we are sorry to say that for Time Warner Cable customers our networks will go dark as of 12:01 on January 1st.

***

Time Warner Cable, via spokesman Alex Dudley: “It just smacks of desperation from a company that is trying to make up for a failing business model on our subscribers’ backs, and we’re not going to take it.”

******Don’t worry C-SPAN will continue uninterrupted.******Keep an eye on***

    *** Speaking of cable, the 24-hour news channels got record ratings this year, though it looks like they would have made Obama race against McCain for another year, if just to keep them relevant until the financial crisis is expected to ease. (Los Angeles Times)

    *** The Village Voice continues to shed the names that made its name so famous. The latest axe casualty is Nat Hentoff, the influential jazz critic who started there in 1958. Sketches of Pain, anyone? (The New York Times)

    *** Vicki Iseman, intentionally or not, was kind enough to wait until after John McCain lost his 2008 presidential bid to sue The New York Times over its February 2008 article that the lobbyist said suggested that she and the Arizona senator were carrying on inappropriately in more ways than one. (Reuters)

    ***

Washington Post, Baltimore Sun will share content

The Washington Post and The Sun in nearby Baltimore will share some of their journalism, at least the stuff that they don’t try to kill each other to get first as they compete across the hedgerows and parkways of suburban Maryland. Here are some details from the release, sent out on Tuesday:

The Post and The Sun have agreed to share the newspapers’ day-to-day coverage of certain Maryland news and sports. In addition, The Post and The Sun may draw on each other’s national, international and feature stories that are distributed by the LAT-WP News Service, to which both contribute. The exchanges will allow each paper to take advantage of the other’s strengths and expertise in specific subjects around the region and the world.

As part of this accord, exclusive stories will not usually be shared, nor will coverage of such competitive subjects as Maryland state government and University of Maryland athletics.

Newspapers hock their bargain basements

Good newspaper reporters have a knack for timing. They spot trends and tell readers about them before anyone else does. Their publishers have a knack for timing too — the bad kind.

With stock prices spiraling toward zero, debt looming and their future in doubt, newspapers are looking for ways to keep the money coming in. Some of those ways sound good, but only on paper. Here’s the latest example, as detailed in an Associated Press story:

With revenue plunging as readers and advertisers flee to the Web, many newspaper companies have turned to selling off their buildings to raise money or save on costs. But now that option may be drying up too, as frozen credit markets make commercial real estate deals scarce.

from Summit Notebook:

WSJ reporters get, dig change

We and the rest of the media world that covered News Corp and Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of Dow Jones & Co had no shortage of reporters at The Wall Street Journal telling us how bad life was going to get. Among the complaints was the paper's increasing focus on politics and non-business news. Wasn't this "diluting the brand" as they say in mediaspeak?

Not so, according to Robert Thomson, the former Times of London editor who now edits the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. Business news now is concentrated in the B section of the paper (B for Business, yes, it works.), and Journal reporters are not only with the program, they're showing a willingness to try things differently.

"It's been fascinating. There was a presumption that people would be unwilling to change," Thomson told us at the Reuters Media Summit. "There has been an innate enthusiasm to develop the paper, particularly to develop the relationship between the paper, WSJ.com, Dow Jones Newswires and Marketwatch."

Redstone’s last picture show

Media mogul Sumner Redstone appears to be sticking with his decision to not sell more shares in Viacom and CBS. Here’s the Financial Times:

Media mogul Sumner Redstone has reached agreement with his daughter, Shari, to put some of National Amusement’s 1,500 cinemas on the block rather than the entire division, as part of debt-restructuring discussions to avoid selling more shares of Viacom and CBS, according to people familiar with the matter.

If lenders agree, the plan would clear the way to sell a part of the US group and 19 theatres in the UK. A prospectus is not expected to be released until early January, one person familiar with the discussions said.

Wikipedia wants non-geeks for posts

Here’s a blog entry from our San Francisco technology reporter David Lawsky:

Geeks who can write a bit do fine at Wikipedia, but the online encyclopedia thinks that non-geeks often have been scared off. That insight has translated into an $890,000 grant for Wikipedia from the Stanton Foundation.

It will use the money to smooth and simplify software for posting on Wikipedia and to attract volunteers who are good writers but not-so-great technical computer users.

from Summit Notebook:

Karmazin does it for love, not $

Sirius XM Chief Executive Mel Karmazin is a serial monogamist when it comes to stocks. No matter where he's worked, from Viacom to Sirius, he only buys stocks in those companies, he told the Reuters Media Summit in New York on Wednesday.

Lately, at Sirius, "every dime I've taken in has been spent buying stock," he said. To show his fidelity, he wears special cufflinks in his shirtsleeves. One says "XM." The other says "Sirius."

Otherwise, he steered clear of stocks in the past decade or so, opting for tax-free municipal bonds or treasury bills. "So I have been a terrible investor because if you look at the past 12 years, my portfolio has only grown... 3 percent a year. If you look at stock market at that period of time, I've left an awful lot of money on the table. Over the last year... I've done ok compared to where a lot of people were."

from Summit Notebook:

Tiger Woods, please come back!

The Professional Golfers' Association, like everyone else who's world depends on business, is teeing off into what executives like to call headwinds. While the PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem seemed pretty confident about the state of play at the Reuters Media Summit in New York, he didn't shy away from being perfectly clear about life without legendary pro Tiger Woods -- now out with a bum knee.

"There is always a silver lining in everything, but it's largely bad... To have him out is a variety of negative factors."

Woods arouses a ton of interest in golf from casual fans, and when they tune in to watch him on TV, it usually results in a big ratings spike, though Finchem said that the base where the spike begins is already pretty good. "When he's in, he dominates the coverage," Finchem said.