MediaFile

Axed Porsche CEO tries Robin Hood tactics to bolster blue collar image

Germans love to see the mighty fall just a little bit more than the rest of the world, and freshly ousted Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking is a perfect candidate. Yes, he made tiny, almost bankrupt Porsche successful again but did he have to be so smug about it? And was he really worth the millions of euros he raked in every year in a country where executive pay is a thorny issue? His salary, which made him the best paid German manager by far, was a topic of endless fascination in the German media. Wiedeking never divulged how much he made but unapologetically said he deserved what he earned — estimated to have been 80 million euros last year. Even before his dismissal was official, speculation swirled about how extraordinary his severance payment would be, with some putting the figure at 250 million euros. In the end it was less but still a handsome sum of 50 million euros, considering he leaves Porsche with a huge mountain of debt. As Wiedeking climbs off the throne, he is eager to burnish his blue collar credentials and in Robin Hood style announced he would donate what’s left of his payment after taxes to charity. Some of it will go to a foundation for Porsche staff, some into projects to create new jobs and, in a final swipe at his critics, he promised to give to a charity for “elderly and suffering journalists”. Take that, hacks.

Wednesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories on the media industry:

Bernstein Research Criticizes Media CEO Pay (B&C)
“The Bernstein report notes that the top earner among media executives in 2008 was CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, who was paid total compensation of $31.9 million last year. He is followed by Disney CEO Robert Iger, who earned $30.6 million; News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, who took home $27.5 million; and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman was paid $23 million. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes took home the least of the top five, at $19.9 million,” writes Claire Atkinson.

Media General posts quarterly profit, ad sales fall (Reuters)
Robert MacMillan writes: “While Media General, which publishes The Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times Dispatch and other papers, reported a 26 percent drop in newspaper ad revenue, the company said classified and retail ad declines were less steep than in recent quarters. Media General reported second-quarter net income of $20.6 million, or 90 cents a share, compared with a loss of $532.2 million, or $24.12 a share, a year ago.”

Philadelphia Newspapers to Release Reorganization Plan (E&P)
“[U.S. Bankruptcy Judge] FitzSimon had given the company until Aug. 31 to present its plan. Company officials did not reveal any new details, but had previously revealed that the plan involved raising $50 million in new capital and negotiating with lenders to reduce the company’s $300 million debt.”

Tuesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

U.S. business magazines face a shakeout (Reuters)
Robert MacMillan writes: “Business news publishers rubbed their hands in glee when the financial crisis grabbed headlines last fall, saying the meltdown would deliver a windfall blown in by widespread interest in their stories. It did not turn out that way. Appetite for news does not always translate into revenue, especially at a time when blogs, wire services such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters and other outlets crowd into news analysis territory that the big magazines had long claimed.”

McClatchy quarterly profit rises on cost cuts (Reuters)
“U.S. newspaper publisher McClatchy Co reported higher quarterly income on Tuesday because of cost cuts, pushing shares up as much as 67 percent, even as advertising revenue fell by nearly a third. McClatchy, publisher of The Miami Herald and Sacramento Bee, also said it reduced the amount of debt that it owes and sought to reassure investors that it will not violate the terms of its lending agreements,” reports Robert MacMillan.

Economist Group Buys Congressional Quarterly (WSJ)
Kevin Kingsbury writes: “The deal, terms of which weren’t disclosed, will create a new company called CQ-Roll Call Group. Roll Call is owned by the Economist Group, the London-based publisher of its namesake magazine. Roll Call is buying Congressional Quarterly from Times Publishing Co., whose primary operations is the St. Petersburg Times and related assets.”

Amazon sparks digital ownership debate

“Orwell fans, lock your doors,” was the reaction from Amazon user Caffeine Queen after she and others had received notice from Amazon last Friday that their e-book versions of “1984″ and “Animal Farm” had been removed from their Kindle device.

Amazon explained later that these electronic versions were distributed illegally and that customers were refunded.

Amazon’s decision to remotely delete the e-books not only infuriated customers, it sparked a debate on digital ownership.

Friday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories on the media industry:

Movie studios try to harness “Twitter effect” (Reuters)
“Audiences are voicing snap judgments on movies faster and to more people than ever before on Twitter, and their ability to create a box office hit or a flop is forcing major studios to revamp marketing campaigns. The stakes are especially high this summer season when big budget movies like “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which opened on Wednesday, play to a core audience of young, plugged-in moviegoers,” writes Alex Dobuzinskis.

Sun-Times chief optimistic about sale of company (Chicago Tribune)
But, Michael Oneal writes: “In a court filing last week, creditors in the Sun-Times’ bankruptcy case raised concerns about the sale efforts, noting that the company has “limited time” before it “can no longer sustain the losses being incurred from operations.” They warned that unless a buyer is found soon, “time could run out, or a buyer could be located that would only pay a fire-sale price.”

Goldman makes peace with blogger in trademark case (Reuters)
“The agreement required blogger Michael Morgan to post a disclaimer on his goldmansachs666.com website, saying it has no affiliation with the financial firm. Morgan, a Florida investment adviser, uses his blog — whose name combines Goldman’s name with numbers used to evoke connotations with the devil — to criticize the bank and its large profits,” writes Martha Graybow.

from Sean Maguire:

The raw and the crafted

The Media Standards Trust has begun a lecture series on 'Why Journalism Matters'. It is disconcerting that it feels we have to ask the question. The argument put forward by the British group's director Martin Moore is that news organisations are so preoccupied with business survival that discussion of the broader social, political and cultural function of journalism gets forgotten. It is a pertinent review then, given the icy economic blasts hitting most Anglo-Saxon media groups, and notwithstanding the recent examples of self-evidently broader journalistic 'value' produced by London's Daily Telegraph in its politican-shaming investigations into parliamentarians' expenses.

First up in the series was Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, who cantered through the justifications for a vibrant, independent press. Watchdog, informer, explainer, campaigner, community builder and debater - those are the roles that journalism plays. The value that it brings is most evident by comparison with the unhealthiness of states where the press is not free, noted Barber, citing the struggles of the citizenry in China and Russia to hold their leaders to account.

The FT's USP as a media group, according to Barber, is as an explainer and analyser of complicated events that play out across a global stage. But analytical reporting of global stories costs serious cash, he noted, in a question-begging aside. That you get the quality of journalism you are prepared to pay for, ultimately, is his response to the challenge posed to mainstream media by Internet-enabled communicators. For free you can have the rawness of a blog. For crafted journalism that is properly sourced, reviewed for taste and style and checked for accuracy, you must find ways to charge. At your peril do you blur the edges between the crafted and the raw world of easy comment, hasty opinion and rumour billed as fact, argues the FT editor.  (There was a hat tip, however, to the bloggers that have broken news, such as Guido Fawkes who forced the resignation of an advisor to Gordon Brown by revealing his plans for a smear email campaign.)

Wednesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories about the media industry:

Recession sends Americans to the Internet (Reuters)
S. John Tilak writes: “More than two-thirds of American adults — or 88 percent of U.S. Internet users — went online for help with recession-induced personal economic issues and to gather information on national economic problems, a study released on Wednesday said.”

BBC and Government Fall Out Over Financing Plan (NYT)
“The BBC and Britain’s Labour government, which has a history of support for the “Beeb,” have fallen out over a government plan to share some of the broadcaster’s £3.6 billion in public funding with its commercial television rivals,” writes Eric Pfanner.
Weisberg: Big news orgs have a stake in web-only papers not working (Economist.com|Romenesko) “Web advertising may well end up supporting big newsrooms if they can escape some of their legacy costs,” says Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. “The test I’d most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only ‘newspaper’ with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organizations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.”

USA Today introduces Newsdeck site for top headlines (Editors Weblogs)
“To give visitors another way to view the news, USA Today has introduced a site it calls Newsdeck that compiles the top headlines in an easy-to-read format. Users can scroll through stories in eight categories, including News, Money and Sports, with the ability to switch back and forth between the latest news and the most popular articles.,” writes Liz Webber.

Tuesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

Verizon Planning Its Own App Store (Business Insider)
Preethi Dumpala writes: “The main idea: Verizon wants to be the company connecting its customers with apps — not necessarily its handset partners. And it wants to avoid becoming an even dumber pipe. Depending on how it’s set up, this could clash with gadget makers’ plans.”

McGraw-Hill might ‘give away’ Business Week for nominal $1 (FT)
“McGraw-Hill might reap only a nominal $1 by selling Business Week, according to people familiar with the 80-year-old financial magazine’s record of losses. The publisher has appointed Evercore, a boutique investment bank, to sell the title after deciding it was non-core to a group that owns the Standard & Poor’s rating agency and an educational publisher, two people familiar with the decision said,” writes Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

Sinclair says it might consider bankruptcy (Baltimore Sun)
“The Hunt Valley-based owner of television stations, which depends heavily on automotive advertisers for revenue, said it might be obligated to pay $488.5 million of its total outstanding debt within the next 18 months. The company said it had $1.3 billion in total debt outstanding as of March 31,” writes Lorraine Mirabella.

Monday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

Microsoft takes on Google as Office moves to Web (Reuters)
Jim Finkle reports: “Microsoft will offer for free to consumers Web-based versions of its Office suite of programs, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and a note-taking program. Microsoft will also host one Internet business version of Office at its own data centers, charging companies a yet-to- be-announced fee.”

Six in 10 companies plan to skip Windows 7 (Reuters)
“Many of the more than 1,000 companies that responded to a survey by ScriptLogic Corp say they have economized by cutting back on software updates and lack the resources to deploy Microsoft’s latest offering.”

MySpace to Take Entertainment Tack (WSJ)
“In a brief interview, News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said MySpace needs to be refocused ‘as an entertainment portal.’ Mr. Murdoch described his vision for MySpace as a place where ‘people are looking for common interests,’” writes Julia Angwin.

Friday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

TV Networks Fight Drug-Ad Measure (WSJ)
“Advertising costs are deductible to any company as a business expense. The plan being considered by Rep. Rangel’s Ways and Means committee would eliminate the deduction with respect to prescription drug advertising,” writes Martin Vaughan.

Big media seek 21st century business models (Reuters)
“Media moguls at this week’s Sun Valley conference have spent as much time discussing how to reconfigure business models disrupted by the Web as they have worrying about the weak economy,” reports Yinka Adegoke.

Zucker Says Marketplace Has Reached Bottom (B&C)
Ben Grossman writes: “NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker said Thursday that while the overall marketplace is still challenged, he thinks it may have bottomed out. ‘It’s still quite uncertain and we don’t really see the full recovery we are all hoping for,’ he said.  ’It’s still tough out there, but I think we have seen a bottom.’”