MediaFile

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Peter wrote two posts about this, here and here. He also issued me a challenge to sneak into the conference, but horror of horrors, I’m on a deadline that I can’t shirk any longer. So consider this an invitation from me to you to go to the Plaza and catch these guys on the way in and out of the building. It’s a fun way to spend the day, and maybe you’ll learn something interesting.

Here is the agenda, courtesy of Peter Kafka. Below that is a list of speakers. Outrage breeds corrections: I have to amend the record: The list I had posted here of topics is last year’s agenda. My mistake. The list of speakers appearing THIS year still appears below.

Boston Globe publisher retires after paper nearly dies

Fifty-six. Is it the new 65? Ask Steven Ainsley, the 56-year-old publisher of The Boston Globe. He is retiring, parent company New York Times Co said on Thursday, after three years as publisher. His successor is Christopher Mayer, 47, who joined the globe in 1984.

In the press release, the Times Co noted the two Pulitzer Prizes that the Globe won under Ainsley’s reign. It didn’t mention that other thing that happened this year, which was the Times threatening to close the paper unless unions buckled and agreed to millions of dollars in concessions to stem outrageous operating losses that could have hit $85 million this year. It also didn’t mention the layoffs, the closing of the Globe’s international bureaus and the attempts to sell the Globe for next to nothing after buying it in 1993 for $1.1 billion.

But those are details.

The Globe’s story says that Ainsley is considering nonprofit work after the Times. All we can add is: Isn’t that what you’ve been doing at the Globe?

FCC: There might be something amiss in media

Newspaper advertising is a joke, local TV stations are struggling to get ads of their own, journalists are losing their jobs and media executives are calling 25 percent revenue declines an improvement. It sounds like something might be amiss in the U.S. media world.

But don’t take our word for it if you’re the Federal Communications Commission, and you’re about to revisit media ownership regulations and see if they need some changing. See this item from Inside Radio:

[FCC] Chairman Julius Genachowski hires internet entrepreneur and journalist Steven Waldman to lead an agency-wide initiative assessing the state of media. Waldman will lead a team to conduct what’s promised to be an “open, fact-finding process” looking at how the economy is impacting media outlets and make recommendations for policy changes.

How I learned to stop worrying and love bad newspaper news

We had a hard time finding the good news in Monday’s report that U.S. newspaper circulation has fallen more than 10 percent, based on an analysis of 379 daily papers. Thank goodness for the newspapers whose publishers helped them understand why losing hundreds or thousands of paying readers is good.

Most papers acknowledged deep declines in circulation, but explained it in one of the following ways:

    We had to clear out all the bulk copies sold at discount. (I’m still not sure how this one works because I recall publishers saying this a couple of years ago. How many deadwood readers are there?) We shrank our coverage area so of course we lost some circulation. It tells advertisers that they’re getting a BETTER quality of reader. We’re charging more for the paper so circulation revenue has risen, and anyway, who wants to rely on a business as fickle as advertising (the one that lined our owners’ pockets for the past 150 years.)? Readership is rising on the Internet. At least we didn’t get whacked as bad as the next guy.

All these statements are true, and they all are good business moves. What I can’t find among the numbers is what percent of print decline at many of these papers is because of the other reasons that you hear from people. Some are legitimate, some aren’t and some are just silly. All say one thing: Many people don’t pay for the paper anymore, which means there’s less money to keep them in business. (Don’t believe us? Ask the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

MySpace: Be ready to read this story twice

MySpace, the online social network (can we still call it that now that it has ducked out of the Facebook/Twitter competition?), appears to be pursuing what I’ll call the “two-pronged news strategy.” You get used to it when you cover media and technology. For those of you who don’t enjoy this privilege, it goes like this:

    Pick a news outlet that you like and whisper things to them about what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be interesting, it just has to be exclusive. If you’re in public relations, you don’t even have to know that someone in your company is doing this. It works well for you. Let the rest of the press read the story and bombard your telephone and e-mail with messages demanding to know if it’s true. Score a big hit on the news cycle. Because you either decline to comment or only want to talk “on background,” it heightens the air of mystery — and newsworthiness. The official announcement of the news, which will always resemble 90 percent or more of what you read in the first round of anonymously sourced stories, will get just as much attention as that first round. It’s a 2-for-1 deal that is irresistible to many companies.

I don’t know that MySpace is doing this, and wouldn’t be able to confirm it if I asked. It could just be that the reporters who get the breaking news have great sources and the reporter asked smart questions that would yield good answers. I’ll let you judge.

The first example comes from Kara Swisher, tech blogger at AllThingsD, which is MySpace’s cousin in the News Corp family. She reports:

Tribune365, thinking beyond newspaper circulation

Monday’s newspaper circulation numbers please no one who makes their living from selling papers. That’s evident when you look at the top 25 dailies by circulation and see that the best performance came from The Wall Street Journal, which rose less than 1 percent. Considering that advertisers use these numbers to determine where to spend their money, there is little reason to rejoice.

Tribune Co’s two largest papers, the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, both posted steep declines on Monday, but the company is urging advertisers to look beyond numbers that it considers less relevant than they were before the Internet. Instead, it wants them to look at how many people they can reach through Tribune’s diverse lineup of papers, websites and television stations.

To make this easier, Tribune has started “Tribune365,” a “multichannel sales solutions group providing customized marketing programs to advertisers looking to reach consumers across a variety of media platforms.” (More on what this means — in English — below.)

Chicago news co-op launches, will feed New York Times

It’s a good thing when the journalists write press releases. Today’s launch of the Chicago News Cooperative is something that we can share with you pretty much by cutting and pasting the press release. Unlike the jargon-filled missives from many companies, this is easy to read.

A few points first: The CNC is a new nonprofit reporting organization supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and comprises former Chicago Tribune journalists and other editorial staff. This is the latest foundation-sponsored news operation, a way that growing numbers of experts say could point the way to the future for financing U.S. journalism. After all, advertising isn’t working out as well as it used to, and people keep dropping their print subscriptions to read it for free online.

A report out this week from former Washington Post editor Len Downie Jr and Columbia professor Michael Schudson approaches this topic and even suggests a U.S.-style BBC to make sure that journalism doesn’t disappear just because Wall Street investors and advertisers don’t like the declining profits and circulation they’re seeing at your hometown paper.

Get ready to pay for Newsday

Newspapers often resemble a melting iceberg full of milling penguins when they talk about whether and how to make people pay for their news online. Newsday, the former Tribune-owned daily paper that serves New York’s Long Island, has left the iceberg. Here is the paper, in its own words:

Those who are not customers of Optimum Online or the newspaper – both owned by Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp. – will have to pay a $5 weekly fee. However, nonpaying customers will have access to some of newsday.com’s information, including the home page, school closings, weather, obituaries, classified and entertainment listings. There also will be some limited access to Newsday stories.

Newsday described the move as one that would create a “pioneering Web model,” combining the newspaper’s newsgathering services with Cablevision’s electronic distribution capabilities. About 75 percent of Long Island households are Newsday home delivery or Cablevision online customers or both, according to Newsday. Optimum Online customers total 2.5 million in the New York area, the paper said.

MySpace: A place for musicians… and their friends

It appears to be Music Wednesday on the Internet. On the same day that reports began circulating that Google and Facebook will launch a host of new music features, News Corp’s MySpace is turning up the volume on its own music offering.

The online social network will offer the following new features:

    You already can buy music on MySpace through Amazon, but now you can also get it through Apple’s iTunes. All music videos will now be available through a “hub” on MySpace Music. This includes music video recommendations based on what your friends are watching, along with a video player with a link to buy the ones you like, and an A-Z browser to find what you’re looking for. An artist’s dashboard (pictured in this blog post). This is not something that fans would see. Instead, it is reserved for artists and bands that want to track their popularity among MySpace users. This is one of the more interesting things that we’ve seen on MySpace. It offers charts, graphs and snapshots of MySpace music data, including where fans are, song plays, profile views, friend count and profile visitors.

MySpace Chief Executive Owen Van Natta says that these moves give the service’s users a “more integrated and comprehensive experience — not just audio in one place and band interaction somewhere else.”

On a deeper level, they are part of a reconstruction of MySpace and its goals that started when News Corp earlier this year replaced top management and brought in Van Natta, formerly of Facebook. Recall that MySpace has not had a great go of things lately, having fallen behind Facebook in the few years since News Corp bought it for $580 million.

The Wall Street Journal — now for ‘professionals’

The Wall Street Journal, ever on the hunt for new ways to please its readers and new ways to make money (and what, we ask, is wrong with that?), will launch a new, pricier version this November. Called “The Wall Street Journal Professional Edition,” it is designed for business readers who want more than what the daily newspaper and website provide on their own.

Essentially, it is the Journal’s daily offering, with reports from Dow Jones Newswires and a reservoir of news and information from Factiva, the news archive that Dow Jones owns — and a bunch more stuff:

    Information from more than 17,000 global sources, some of which are not available to the public. A one-year archive of Factiva’s global business sources and a two-year archive of wsj.com content. More than 30 industry pages, managed by Dow Jones editors Six industry sections managed by Journal editors who select news and information for readers on pharmaceuticals, healthcare, energy, media and marketing, telecommunications and technology. Personalized homepages and news alerts for when things break.

Dow Jones plans to sell the edition to businesses, which would make it available to employees through “site licenses” (ie, your business buys a license that makes the professional edition available to X number of people for a price to be determined). In January, it will be available to people for $49 a month, or just under $600 a year, said Clare Hart, head of Dow Jones’s Enterprise Media Group, which oversees Dow Jones Newswires, Factiva and Dow Jones Indexes.