Hearst board additions feel… papery

You have to give Hearst some credit for sticking to what it knows. Check the short biographies of the four company executives who are joining the publisher (and broadcaster’s) board:

    George R. Hearst III, publisher of the Albany Times Union. Newspapers. Papery. Richard P. Malloch, president of Hearst Business Media and senior vice president of Hearst Corporation. He used to run Hearst’s consumer books business before selling it to HarperCollins. Papery. Scott M. Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication and senior vice president of Hearst Corporation. OK — a former Internet startup and venture capital guy, not to mention his career at NBC — maybe not so papery. Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers and senior vice president of Hearst Corporation. He also ran the yellow pages business, though he seems less papery when you find out that he helped start the newspaper consortium with Yahoo. That has been a well meaning if not game-changing attempt to get newspapers and Yahoo to the point where they both feed each other big advertising profits.

Now, Hearst might be experiencing some tough times in the newspaper business, having closed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and having thought publicly about dropping the San Francisco Chronicle. At the same time, it’s not trying to save itself by changing everything it does and acting like a new media company.

One bit of possible wisdom that I hear people saying these days is: Why not manage your media business to deal with what it knows? The print business might be declining but, if managed properly, there might be a graceful way to run things that doesn’t erode what cash the business is making with no clear way of replacing it. Maybe these print guys know something after all.

Conde Nast: Flushing brides, extra food

Your Reuters media writers got a little flushed on Monday morning when we saw that Conde Nast was going to close some magazines. Would we see The New Yorker and Vanity Fair pulped? No such luck for us vultures who were craving a big murder-in-the-first-degree story. This appears to be more of a mercy killing.

Instead, here’s what we get:

    Consolidation in the bridal business. No more Modern Bride, no more Elegant Bride. Instead, we get a monthly edition of Brides magazine, the kind of phonebook-sized tome that it seems will pay for itself. After all, people love to get married, and many these days like to do it twice. Calorie cutting in the food format: Gourmet magazine gets purged, while the brand lives on. Or, as Media Memo’s Peter Kafka put it, it survives “Zombie-like” on TV and the Internet. Bon Appetit survives, meanwhile. Speaking of food, no more Cookies. Cookie magazine, the “stylish parenting magazine for the new mom,” dies. So much for news-you-can-use stories like “Parents and pot: Do you think it’s okay to smoke weed at a play date?”

Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times got an interview with Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend, who gave her the details of how this is going down. Since we’re not sure if Chuck will have time for us today (we’re hoping the phone rings presently), here’s what he said:

None of the about 180 employees of the magazines, including the Gourmet editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl, are expected to stay with the company… The employees will receive severance packages this week and be out by the end of the week.

The New York Times tries local news, far away

If you read often enough about the supposed death of the newspaper business, you would think that the nation’s newsrooms are increasingly depopulated, barren places, with darkened offices and empty cubicles… the occasional tumbleweed blowing past. (Actually,  large stretches of Tribune Co’s New York bureau look just like that, as I saw earlier this year).

In San Francisco, Chicago and other metropolitan centers, you would be wrong. It’s true that both cities bear unfortunate marks of how rough the advertising decline, rise of the Internet and financial crisis have treated their news operations: Hearst was toying with shutting down the San Francisco Chronicle, and Chicago’s leading daily papers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times, are owned by bankrupt companies. Improbably enough, both are turning into hot spots for local news competition.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are fighting over San Francisco, and a private equity guy has teamed up with KQED and UC Berkeley to try a nonprofit local news experiment. And now, the Times reported on Wednesday, it is targeting some other cities, including Chicago. Here is an excerpt from reporter Richard Perez-Pena’s writeup on the Times’s decoder blog:

CNN emphasizes community with iPhone app

Add CNN to the list of news outlets that sees at least some of its future playing out on Apple’s iPhone. The Time Warner-owned Cable News Network plans to tell the world on Tuesday about its new $1.99 iPhone application. (Expect the press release at 8 a.m. ET). They’re charging for it, betting that people will pay for news. That’s a bet that some folks — such as News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch — have been willing to make. Now CNN is making a similar bet.

(PS, we were going to hold this until midnight because it was embargoed. That embargo has been broken, so bombs away.)

I’ll do a rip-and-grab from the press release to highlight its features, but its most interesting one is the ability it gives its viewers/readers to be the amateur reporters in the field that more news organizations are courting:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette countersues Mylan

This one comes in on the wrong side of the weekend, but it’s worth some attention to people who follow the media and follow financial news: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sued pharmaceutical company Mylan on Friday — that action itself a countersuit to Mylan’s lawsuit against the paper. (Read the documents for yourself at this blog.)

Mylan Inc’s subsidiary Mylan Pharmaceuticals sued the Post-Gazette and two of its journalists in August, claiming that the daily paper and its reporters improperly obtained confidential documents and misappropriated trade secrets in the process of reporting and publishing a story on an internal company report about potential problems at Mylan’s Morgantown, West Virginia, plant. Mylan’s internal report, as the Post-Gazette reported, showed that employees had overridden computer-generated warnings about possible problems in its drug-making process.

Mylan naturally wasn’t crazy about that, prompting the lawsuit. Now, the Post-Gazette is smacking back. Here is an excerpt from its own news story:

How to subsidize news without feeling dirty

The U.S. Congress’s Joint Economic Committee hit one of my favorite topics on Thursday: What the government could, should, must (or must not) do to help the struggling news media survive, with the spotlight on newspapers in particular.

I had a look at the testimony and found some fascinating thoughts in the testimony from Paul Starr, a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Starr has some ideas for how the government might preserve a free press by extending a hand to the news business — all without using that word that no one wants to use: bailout.

First, the background: Newspapers are in trouble as the Internet destroys their advertising revenue. More people than ever read the news online, and news websites are trying to figure out a way to make money off that because letting people in for free just kills the circulation of their printed products. Some folks have raised the idea of federal, state or local subsidies to help papers — usually in the form of tax breaks — but the Newspaper Association and others say it’s a bad idea because the press shouldn’t be beholden to the government that it’s supposed to be monitoring for abuse, fraud, etc.

The Huffington Post has No Impact

With the documentary “No Impact Man” out in theaters, it’s little surprise that others want to show their support for improving the environment through “no impact” projects of their own. The Huffington Post joins this round of advocacy journalism with Colin Beavan as they launch “No Impact Week,” starting on Oct. 18.

The idea, as expressed in a paperless press release:

The Huffington Post, a leading social news and opinion website, and the No Impact Project, a nonprofit project founded by Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man and subject of the film by the same title, today announced that the “No Impact Experiment,” an eight-day program encouraging individuals to learn about and implement lifestyle changes to lessen their impact on the environment, will have its inaugural run on the Huffington Post.

Here’s my favorite part:

No Impact Week will feature a daily regimen for users to follow; for instance, Sunday’s focus is on reducing consumption, on Monday the spotlight will be on reducing trash, Tuesday they will commute without adding carbon to the environment – ie, encouraging bike riding and walking; and Wednesday will be about eating foods grown locally and/or sustainably.

Talk, scratch head, talk some more (The future of news)

I got this invitation in my e-mail this week:

Because press space at the invitation-only event is extremely limited, kindly contact me as soon as possible to secure a seat.
Following is background on the event:

WHAT: A unique invitation-only gathering of more than 100 senior leaders from media and technology, the UCBerkeley Media Technology Summit is being organized by the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. The summit, which will run from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Googleplex, is intended to provide the leaders of traditional media companies with new insights into the technologies, consumer behavior and advertising systems that will affect their businesses at a time of momentous change (Sounds like the latest opportunity to smack around traditional media companies for being traditional, no? — ed). The Koret Foundation, Google and the McCormick Foundation are generously sponsoring the event.

I got my invitation from Alan Mutter, who blogs about the future of the news business at Reflections of a Newsosaur and someone whom I frequently ask for expert comments for my news stories. Because it’s from Alan, I know it will be interesting, and I wish I could attend (I’ll be in Toronto on covert military maneuvers for the Parti Quebecois for the Thomson Reuters investor day at the time).

Martha Stewart KA-Bars Kmart

After seeing Martha Stewart on CNBC this morning, I was surprised to find that she doesn’t sell a Martha Stewart-branded KA-Bar knife because she seems like she knows how to use one.

Stewart appeared on TV to talk about the company’s new merchandising agreement with Home Depot. The hardware big-box retailer will offer a line of products sold under the Martha Stewart brand. Before they got too far into the interview, they talked about a similar program with discount retailer Kmart that ends in January 2010 — the same time that the Home Depot deal begins.

Here is an excerpt:

The new [Kmart] ownership really has let our line deteriorate. It’s been kind of ripped off, I would say, and really diminished, and the quality is really not what I am proud of. Have you been into a Kmart lately? it’s not the nicest place to shop. …

Getty Images invests in Daylife, takes snapshot of business

As someone who only stopped using his 35 year-old Topcon camera when its shutter broke (irreparably), it was nice to have a phone interview with Getty Images Chief Executive Jonathan Klein on Monday.

Klein briefed us on an investment the stock photo and news photography company made in Daylife, a “news aggregator” that has been around a few years. The companies announced the investment on Wednesday. As Media Memo’s Peter Kafka described it:

Daylife formally launched in January 2007 with a good deal of buzz, due primarily to its high-profile investors, which included the New York Times (NYT), Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington. The initial plan was to create both content-aggregation tools for publishers as well as a destination site, but the latter never took off and is now just a demo site for customers.