MediaFile

New York Times, BusinessWeek: The autumn of their years

Publishing beat reporters should expect a flare-up in their carpal tunnel syndrome in the coming weeks. Here is why:

The New York Times Co will decide whether to sell The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette by “early fall,” the Worcester daily reported on Friday, citing Times Co Chief Executive Janet Robinson. Fall this year begins on September 22, less than two weeks from today. McGraw-Hill, meanwhile, set September 15 — next Tuesday — as the deadline for bids on BusinessWeek magazine (Bloomberg apparently has reentered the bidding process too).

Here is an excerpt from the Telegram & Gazette’s story:

“The New England Media Group is in better financial shape than it was at the beginning of the year,” Ms. Robinson said at an afternoon “town hall” meeting… “Our hand is not being forced to sell. We are not in a situation where we are absolutely being forced to sell the Globe and the T&G.”

A decision on the sale is likely in the early fall, Ms. Robinson said.

“This is a very unnerving and distracting process so we’d like to move more quickly than not,” she said.

I might echo that last sentiment.

Neither deal, if any of them actually come about, would excite news editors who set the newsworthiness bar by price. BusinessWeek, it has been widely reported, could sell for a dollar (we still think this is a figurative, rather than a literal price), and bids coming in for the Globe have been around $35 million, according to news reports. A bunch of other small-money deals are lurking out there in media as well, for example, the stalking-horse bid of $5 million for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mr. Sulzberger goes to Amazon

When Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry convenes a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss the fate of U.S. newspapers, don’t look for the man who controls the fate of Kerry’s hometown Boston Globe on Capitol Hill.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr, whose New York Times Co is threatening to close the Globe, will be at a press conference in New York City where online bookseller and retailer Amazon.com plans to release a new version of the Kindle electronic book reader. At least, that’s what The Wall Street Journal says. Amazon and the Times declined to talk to us about the Wednesday event or Sulzberger’s planned appearance.

Senator Kerry need not worry that he can’t question Sulzberger in person. As much as Sulzberger probably wants to limit his talking points to the Kindle, we’re in a Globe state of mind. After all, talks resume tonight over $10 million in cost cuts it wants to wrest from the Globe’s biggest union. We would be happy to ask Kerry’s questions on his behalf.

Mr. Sulzberger, your son ROCKS

The New York Times’s hyper-energetic reporter Sewell Chan fielded a question in a mediabistro.com Q&A about what it’s like working with Arthur Gregg Sulzberger on his City Room blog staff at nyt.com. Sulzberger is the son of Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and an heir apparent to the Times company.

Regardless of Sulzberger’s talent at City Room or in his previous reporting gig at The Oregonian, I’m not sure Chan had many options on how to answer the question. Here’s what he said:

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger joined the Times staff as a reporter, and he’s been working continuous news. He’s already been working with metro, and he’ll continue to work with metro. He has been absolutely impressive, gracious, smart as a whip, hardworking, full of energy, full of ideas, and has a great sense of language. His writing sparkles, and he’s a charm and a pleasure to work with.

Help The New York Times save $$!

An investor at Thursday’s 2009 New York Times annual meeting came up with a heck of a way to save money. But first, a recap of all the serious stuff that executives brought up at the meeting (Read the whole thing on the wire):

    We will stay public. We will not be sold. There is no one solution to what ails the newspaper business. We’re trying everything. Stop asking about us closing The Boston Globe or selling it. We won’t tell you until we’re ready. (By the way, it only took the Times nearly a month to reveal what the Globe has reported for ages: It is on track to lose $85 million this year.)

Now for money-saving tips for the struggling TImes, courtesy of an investor whose name I didn’t get a chance to catch. Here’s what she said to Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr during an investor Q&A:

As to savings on newsprint, I see belabored articles taking almost full pages on obscure topics… perhaps [about] someone in the Brazilian forest I cannot do anything about. So if you’re trying to save newsprint, perhaps you could edit these things to a more reasonable size… [Then] there is the expense you incur editorially in aspects that are really not necessary. [Times food critic] Frank Bruni had to go to Texas to write about a pork restaurant which most of your readers will never go to… Cathy Horyn had to go to the Dominican Republic to interview Oscar de la Renta who is here 90 percent of the time.

Yu, Zuckerberg and the Facebook fallout

Why do we care about Facebook? People you know and respect use it. That includes you. People you know and respect who scoff at it still know what Facebook is. Facebook, like Google, is popular enough to have become a verb as well as a noun. If the public ever got a crack at buying shares in it, lots of people would get rich.

That’s why mass clucking ensued among the technology press when the word came out Tuesday that Chief Financial Officer Gideon Yu is splitting. The Wall Street Journal, so far as we can tell, broke the news. It said:

The departure of the 37-year-old Mr. Yu and the ensuing search for a replacement are likely to renew speculation that Facebook is stepping up plans for a public offering, despite the rocky economy. The company, which has turned down several acquisition offers in the past, has said it is hoping to go public in the next few years.

But some employees and investors, who have poured roughly $455 million into the company, according to VC Experts.com Inc., are eager for Facebook to start planning an offering and have raised questions about whether it has enough money to sustain its growth. Many others have said the company is over-valued, which — in addition to the economic downturn — hampered its efforts to fund an employee-buyback program last year.

Chernin parachutes, Murdoch keeps flying

News Corp President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin’s perks after he leaves News Corp at the end of June are basic compared with some legendary golden parachutes, though they’re still worth more money than I make in a year. Or 10 years for that matter.

In addition to his Fox studios production deal, Chernin’s creature comforts include 50 hours on News Corp’s jet ($1.65 million value), corporate car ($210,000 value) and possibly personal secretary services ($1.05 million value). See the proxy statement for more details.

That might not send the image of a cost-cutting corporate culture at a time when News Corp’s stock is down 70 percent and the bottom looks further away as its most can-do executive quits. Then again, maybe Chernin’s doing the right thing, all things considered. Check out this little-noticed excerpt from Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s memo to employees:

Even Apple music wants to be free, sort of

The New York Times headline on Apple’s Macworld convention is so snappy that it almost frees me of the obligation to write this blog entry today:

Want to copy iTunes Music? Go Ahead, Apple says.

Fortunately, the Times couldn’t fit this other part into the headline, giving us something to quote:

Beginning this week, three of the four major music labels – Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group – will begin selling music through iTunes without digital rights management software, or D.R.M., which controls the copying and use of digital files. The fourth, EMI, was already doing so.