MediaFile

New York Times: Honest work means honest pay

Some people hate The New York Times and some people love The New York Times — but everybody wants to read The New York Times for free. That will largely end in 2011. You probably read that today on the Internet, and you probably read it for free.

The Times said it will let you read some articles per month for free, then make you pay for more. It’s what the Financial Times does. Who said it had to be original? If you subscribe to the print edition, just keep reading it. This isn’t really about you. This is a decision that will, for better or for worse, inform the public that if you want journalists to tell you stuff or entertain you, you need to pay them to do journalism all day long.

Lots of people have opinions on this and lots of people have done the research. Even more people style themselves Internet experts. The one thing they can’t help is sharing opinions on whether news sites should charge or whether they’re not just misguided for doing it — but whether they’re stupid or criminally wrong.

Everybody knows the sins that newspapers committed online. People will tell you: “They should have done it in 1995. They should do this, they should do that. If they do this, they have to give up that. They’re old media, they deserve to die. They’re doomed. They should sell. Too little too late. It won’t move the needle. They’re doing the wrong thing. I have data, do the math.”

Many people make good points. Still, what does the Times have to lose? NYTimes.com visitors? Pageviews? Ad revenue that isn’t really doing them many favors anyway? Publishers get so much conflicting information, and, to be honest, are a bit doddering and confused — so they stand still. Things fall apart from there.

from Summit Notebook:

Daily Beast staff ‘happy as clams,’ says Barry Diller

The journalists and staff who work at The Daily Beast don't look at life like you other sad-sack scribes out there who are watching your job market wash out to sea with the ebb tide. In fact, they are happy in a particularly mollusk-like way.

"They're as happy as clams," said Barry Diller, chief executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp, which is financing the online news outlet with its editor, Tina Brown. "They wake up every morning filled with possibility."

That's because they are not working at sinking-ship news outlets like most of the rest of their colleagues in mainstream U.S. journalism.

Rupert Murdoch, the smartest man in newspapers?

I wrote an analysis on Monday about the possibility that News Corp might take its news search results away from Google and list them on Microsoft’s Bing search engine instead. My conclusion: This one isn’t such a hot idea. Then I read John Gapper’s Financial Times item about how it *could* be a hot idea.

To recap, here’s how it would work.

    Microsoft would pay News Corp for the privilege of being the only search engine to carry results from papers including the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Times of London. Microsoft thinks it can get more people to use its search engine, drawing them away from Google. News Corp could punish Google, in essence, for making tons of money from the ads it serves alongside news search results. Why, the thinking goes, should Google make a bunch of money off the news that we produce and our newsrooms go starving and our ad sales tank? Other newspaper publishers, if they see Murdoch making it work, might think the same thing and abandon Google en masse.

I and many others wrote that it would be a gamble at best. What if people don’t care that much about news? If the 70 percent of the search market that uses Google discovers¬† the news is absent, will they switch search engines? Scientists of misanthropy like me say it’s unlikely. If they don’t find it, they won’t seek it.

Gapper at the FT has another way of looking at it:

In effect, (Murdoch) would be swapping his revenue stream from online advertising with a payment from Microsoft for drawing visitors to Bing. That suggests one of two things: either, as a lot of digital evangelists have suggested, he is getting old and does not “get” the internet, or he has looked at the figures and decided that Google traffic is not worth very much. Personally, I think the latter is more plausible. …

Layoffs hit The Washington Post after BusinessWeek, AP

Several media reporters wrote on Twitter on Thursday that this was one of the worst weeks in journalism, and it’s hard to argue with them. BusinessWeek is canning a third of its staff as Bloomberg gets ready to buy the magazine. The Associated Press is laying off 90 people as part of its effort to cut payroll costs by 10 percent this year.

And now The Washington Post is laying off staff, sources told me on Friday, and a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Post has cut an unknown number of washingtonpost.com workers, the website folks who until now have worked separately at the dot-com headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the Post’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. One source told me up to 10 are going. That’s not as big a number as other places you’ve read about lately, but it’s still a painful cut. (Disclosure: I worked for The Washington Post Co. from 1998 to 2005)

Talking with Thomson Reuters chief about print

Covering Thomson Reuters Corp for almost two years has taught me that people like to cast my company in a recurring role in media deal parlor games. Now that the company’s arch-rival Bloomberg LP will buy BusinessWeek magazine from McGraw-Hill, lots of my pals in the media world are wondering: Will Thomson Reuters buy a mainstream news or business news magazine? Or newspaper? Why not Forbes? Why not the Financial Times?

Keep in mind that Thomson Reuters likes to remind people when they ask these questions that Thomson Corp, before buying Reuters, got out of its Canadian newspaper empire for a reason. (See below)

I asked our chief executive, Tom Glocer, a question along these lines on a Thursday phone call he had with reporters to discuss the company’s third-quarter financial results.

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?

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):

Los Angeles Times staffers fear more layoffs coming

We feel like we’ve read this bad news before. Our sources tell us that they are expecting another round of layoffs in the Los Angeles Times newsroom. They said that people thought a few dozen editorial staffers could get their walking papers this week, though someone else close to the paper whom we spoke cautioned that amount was too extreme.

The paper hasn’t scheduled any meetings or circulated any memos, the sources said. In other words, all this could change. A Times spokeswoman declined to comment.

The blog Laobserved.com, which follows the Times closely, reported that at least one reporter, Tina Daunt, has posted on her Facebook page that she has been canned. “More expected through the day,” the blog also reported.

New York Times job cuts: Read the memo

The New York Times will cut 100 positions in its newsroom by the end of the year, Executive Editor Bill Keller told staff on Monday. This is the second time that the paper has taken this unfortunate step, having cut 100 positions last year (though, as Richard Perez-Pena reported in his story on nytimes.com, other positions were added so it was not a net reduction). Thing is, the TImes already cut pay for journalists and other employees this year in an attempt to forestall cuts. So… it’s not good news, but it is fit to print. Here is Keller’s memo:

Colleagues,

I had planned to invite you to the newsroom and break this news in person today, but I’ve been hit by something that seems to be the flu. Though I strongly believe in delivering bad news in person, I don’t want to add insult to injury by spreading infection.

Let me cut to the chase: We have been told to reduce the newsroom by 100 positions between now and the end of the year.

At Chicago Sun-Times, portrait of a newspaper investor

It’s not every day that you get people who are anxious to tell you that they’re investing in newspapers, that great industry sector that took a swan dive into an empty swimming pool over the past couple years. Private equity firms that are getting into that game again are just that — PRIVATE.

The latest buyers of the Chicago Sun-Times and parent company Sun-Times Media Group identified themselves on Friday, however, and we’d like to share their names with you too. Good luck with the newspaper game.

    Jim Tyree, Chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, Managing Member, Sun-Times Media Holdings, LLC Andrew Agostini, Principal and Owner, J.L. Woode Ltd. Kevin Flynn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Emerald Ventures, Inc. Ed Heil, Investor and Entrepreneur Michael Mackey, Senior Managing Director, Insurance Services, Mesirow Financial William Parrillo and Robert Parrillo, Private Investors Richard Price, President and Chief Operating Officer, Mesirow Financial Ed Ross, Principal and Owner, J.L. Woode Ltd. W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz, President, Wirtz Corporation Bruce Young, Vice Chairman, Mesirow Financial

The Sun-Times’s website, by the way, has some mugshots. The rival Chicago Tribune tells us that the list is “studded with colorful Chicagoans.” Hopefully Saturday’s newspaper story will say why they are. I’m not a Chicagoan myself, so I’m relying on you readers to tell us why these people are colorful.