MediaFile

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:

Plans for the San Francisco edition call for adding to the paper, twice a week, two additional pages of news about northern California. At first, the added content will be produced by The Times’ own writers and editors. But eventually, the plan, as in Chicago, is to turn the production over to a local partner.

Here’s more from spokeswoman Diane McNulty, whose statement also was in the Times’s blog:

Google’s Fast Flip Trick

Google wants its online news site to feel more like the good old print product.

And the company is prepared to pay for it.

Google took the wraps off of Fast Flip on Monday, a slick online tool that lets readers flip through articles from newspapers and magazines as quickly and effortlessly as if they were turning the pages of a magazine.

The company said it will share advertising revenue with the 30 publishers whose content is currently available on Fast Flip, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Newsweek.

Obsessive Google-watchers may recall that rumors of this product emerged back in June.

Verizon Wireless appeals to lawmakers, even newspapers

Verizon Wireless chief Lowell McAdam has been busy writing letters recently, mostly to U.S. lawmakers.

Yesterday’s missive had a similar intention, to explain how his company is really very warm and friendly toward consumers and competitors. The difference is its addressee — none other than Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times.

He did tear to shreds the newspaper’s opinion piece on phone companies. He accused the paper of relying on myths to make its point that regulators may want to take a look at phone company’s behavior.

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.

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.’”

Springer’s daily Welt dreams of going international – again

German publisher Axel Springer plans to launch an international weekly edition of its flagship daily, Die Welt, in a 48-page tabloid format starting February 2010. Springer is still mulling distribution options but the paper will likely be available from airlines.

Die Welt is a conservative daily founded in 1946 by British occupying forces after the Second World War and acquired by Axel Springer in 1953. It has around 690,000 readers.

The thinking at Springer Verlag is that Die Welt could fill a void for non-German readers who are interested in news from continental Europe, while attracting lucrative new advertising customers.

Is your newsroom ready for the future?

On Tuesday, a panel hosted by Reuters and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers discussed the state of the media industry and the challenges it faces from consumers demanding information in new and different ways.

How could the industry transform its newsrooms to thrive in this culture?

Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times said the key discipline was to constantly ask what the reader actually wants and not what is technologically possible. “This is going to be different for everyone,” Freeland told the crowd, which included Thomson Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger.

For the full discussion, watch the video below.

The panel included
Chrystia Freeland, US managing editor, Financial Times

Larry Ingrassia, business editor, The New York Times

Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs & new media professor, Columbia Journalism School

Newspapers plot survival as quietly as they can

Newspapers are in the business of making information public so readers can benefit. Newspaper publishers are in the business of revealing as little as possible unless someone springs a leak.

In the case of the two-dozen newspaper publishers who met in the Chicago area to discuss ways to get people to pay for the news they read online, the leak landed in the hands of The Atlantic. Here is an excerpt:

There’s no mention on its website but the Newspaper Association of America, the industry trade group, has assembled top executives of the New York Times, Gannett, E. W. Scripps, Advance Publications, McClatchy, Hearst Newspapers, MediaNews Group, the Associated Press, Philadelphia Media Holdings, Lee Enterprises and Freedom Communication Inc., among more than two dozen in all. A longtime industry chum, consultant Barbara Cohen, “will facilitate the meeting.” …

Viacom has much riding on “Star Trek”

How big is “Star Trek” for Viacom?

The movie dominated the box office this weekend, taking in an estimated $72.5 million in North American ticket sales. Combined with $4 million grossed from Thursday evening’s preview screenings, “Star Trek” tallied $76.5 million in U.S. and Canadian receipts through Sunday.

Paramount could use a big hit. Last year, as the economy worsened, Paramount scaled by its film releases and cut costs by about $50 million. And this year’s first quarter didn’t offer a lot of cheer: Viacom’s entire filmed entertainment division posted an operating loss of $123 million.

“The weak economy continued to dampen the home entertainment market and Paramount was not immune to the impact,” Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said on the quarterly conference call. That put it mildly.

NBC Universal’s Zucker: Olympics still a winner

News broke this week that Anheuser-Busch has told NBC that the brewer will spend only about half as much on advertising packages during the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and 2012 Summer Games in London, compared to previous years.

Over at 30 Rock, they aren’t too worried about it. NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker, who won wide praise for the company’s coverage of the Beijing Olympics, feels that there are plenty of advertisers ready to step in and replace any company that wants or needs to cut their spending on the sporting event.

When we asked Zucker about the Anheuser-Busch situation, he said, “The interest in the Olympics — because it’s such a unique event — has been extraordinary. Where certain companies decide it doesn’t work for them anymore, it provides an opportunity for their competitors to come in. That works out just fine for us.”