MediaFile

Madoff pays dividends in book deals

Not everyone in the orbit of accused mega-thief Bernard Madoff wants to give him the old pitchfork-and-torches treatment. In the past 24 hours, I received two press releases touting book deals for reporters who are going to write about the man who purportedly stole $50 billion from a variety of rich people, hedge funds, charities and universities.

Here is an excerpt from the first one:

The Portfolio imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. has acquired DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL by Erin Arvedlund, a journalist who in 2001 wrote one of the first critical articles about Bernard Madoff, the recently indicted financier. World rights were bought by Adrian Zackheim, President and Publisher of Portfolio, from Esmond Harmsworth of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. Publication is planned for the spring of 2010.

Arvedlund’s book, combining narrative and analysis, will share the same title as her May 2001 article in Barron’s — one of the first to ask tough questions about Madoff’s surprising results and unusual practices. That article, based on a four-month investigation and hundreds of interviews, was recently cited in an SEC complaint.

And here is the second:

Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company and a co-publishing venture between Holt and The New York Times, is proud to announce that editorial director Paul Golob has acquired world rights to a new book by New York Times senior financial writer Diana B. Henriques, which will investigate the crimes and consequences of the Bernard Madoff scandal. The deal for the book, tentatively titled A World of Lies, was negotiated by Henriques’s literary agent, Fredrica S. Friedman.

And a bit more:

Through her long career covering Wall Street, Henriques has developed an impressive roster of trusted sources whose insight and specific knowledge of Madoff’s fraud will provide her book with unmatched depth and breadth. Over the course of her career she has interviewed Bernard Madoff himself several times, and she is deeply familiar with the role he has played on Wall Street as an innovator and, now, as a swindler. No other reporter brings to this story Henriques’s level of experience and knowledge, and her book promises to be the definitive account of what Madoff did, how he pulled it off, how it all came crashing down around him, and its implications in the United States and around the world.

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.

How much are those front-page Times ads?

Don’t ask The New York Times how much its new front-page display ads cost. The paper won’t say. That didn’t stop the New York Post from asking ad buyers. Here’s the answer based on anonymous sources:

$75,000 on weekdays and $100,000 on Sundays.

Assuming that the Post counts Saturday as a weekday, and assuming no discounts or other special deals (and assuming this blog post is not written by a reporter who nearly failed at least one high school math class), this works out to $28.6 million a year: $23.4 million for 52 weeks of Monday through Saturday and $5.2 million for a year’s worth of Sundays.

Despite the TImes’s silence, the ad cost sounds about right. The Wall Street Journal charges $90,000 for its front-page ads, not counting special discounts. Other details sound similar too. Here’s the Post:

You guessed it: Viacom and Time Warner settle

Who was the big winner in the Time Warner Cable-Viacom dispute? A few newspapers, it seems, since they got a little extra holiday cash when Viacom decided to take out some advertisements and take their fight with the cable operator public.

Otherwise, the outcome is what many expected: the two sides reached a deal and nobody missed a single episode of “The Hills” or “Dora the Explorer.”

Indeed, here’s what Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson predicted on New Year’s Eve, just when the fight between Viacom and Time Warner over fees was really heating up:  “As has been the norm, we would expect a settlement — terms undisclosed — in a relatively quick manner, as both sides may not want to see if this battle results in mutually assured destruction, as Viacom loses ad dollars and Time Warner loses subscribers.”

Viacom, Time Warner Cable help get people out of the house

Viacom and Time Warner Cable are doing their best to make sure that television addicts around the country get a chance to go outside and stretch their legs come New Year’s Day. Of course, the reason they’re doing their part for physical fitness has little to do with ensuring the health of their viewers.******As Reuters reports, Viacom — the company run by financially challenged media mogul Sumner Redstone — provides programming to cable networks like Time Warner Cable for a fee. Now we’re at a time when Viacom and Time Warner Cable are renegotiating the fee, a regular occurrence. Equally regular are the disputes that arise as the negotiators try to determine what a fair price is.******The ultimate loser turns out to be you, the faithful TV watcher, because the last resort of companies like Viacom is to pull their programs off the air. The idea is that sends watchers into paroxysms of rage, usually directed at the cable company that they give all their money to every month. Eventually, the idea goes, the cable company cries Uncle! and agrees to pay more money to bring you the programming. Yes, your bill goes up too, as it always does.******Here’s a sample of what will stop being broadcast on Jan. 1: Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Hills.******And here’s a sample of the pre-packaged righteous indignation that you hear at times like this from the companies:***

Viacom: Time Warner Cable has dismissed our efforts at a fair compromise… As a result, we are sorry to say that for Time Warner Cable customers our networks will go dark as of 12:01 on January 1st.

***

Time Warner Cable, via spokesman Alex Dudley: “It just smacks of desperation from a company that is trying to make up for a failing business model on our subscribers’ backs, and we’re not going to take it.”

******Don’t worry C-SPAN will continue uninterrupted.******Keep an eye on***

    *** Speaking of cable, the 24-hour news channels got record ratings this year, though it looks like they would have made Obama race against McCain for another year, if just to keep them relevant until the financial crisis is expected to ease. (Los Angeles Times)

    *** The Village Voice continues to shed the names that made its name so famous. The latest axe casualty is Nat Hentoff, the influential jazz critic who started there in 1958. Sketches of Pain, anyone? (The New York Times)

    *** Vicki Iseman, intentionally or not, was kind enough to wait until after John McCain lost his 2008 presidential bid to sue The New York Times over its February 2008 article that the lobbyist said suggested that she and the Arizona senator were carrying on inappropriately in more ways than one. (Reuters)

    ***

Moody’s reads newspapers

Moody’s thumbed through the newspapers of the United States on Monday and concluded what many of us know: the outlook is negative. The summary: ad revenue falls, less money comes in, newspapers have to cut back to survive and it gets harder to pay their debt.

Having said that, this newspaper beat reporter found signs of a thaw, just like a crocus peeking through snow.

First, the negative:

The negative outlook for newspaper-ad revenue has worsened in the past six months as bleak data on the economy mounts, says Moody’s. Rising job losses, the weak housing market and tighter credit availability raise concerns that consumer spending will weaken further, extending and deepening the economic downturn.

Crunching the New York Times numbers

The New York Times Co’s announcement on Thursday that it’s cutting its dividend by almost 75 percent is a pretty grim indicator of the fortunes of the storied newspaper publisher. It also is fraught with implications. It prompted us to put some of the numbers in perspective, but first, here’s a recap of the news:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Times Co slashed its dividend by almost three-quarters and plans to cut spending and reevaluate its assets to cope with an advertising decline that is gouging U.S. newspaper publishers.

The trustees of the Ochs-Sulzberger family’s shares in the Times said on Thursday they support the company’s actions.

Another gloomy week for publishing

Another dark week for the publishing business, capped by a double-barrel blow yesterday when news emerged that the New York Times was slashing its dividend and the Associated Press was slashing its workforce.

New York Times’ decision to cut its dividend is particularly noteworthy, since it could up the pressure on the Ochs-Sulzberger family to make even more dramatic moves down the road — like maybe selling parts or all of the media company.

The family has resisted any calls to sell the famous publishing company, but cutting the dividend makes it tougher for some of the younger family members who rely on that income. Check out the recent profile of family member Dave Golden in New York magazine.

Play time is over at The New York Times

We always thought that being involved in the professional sports world was like owning your own mint… which explains why we’re not independently wealthy.

For The New York Times, it looks like things didn’t quite work out. FishbowlNY broke the story that the Times was shutting Play magazine. Here is the blog quoting Play Editor Mark Bryant:

In October Bryant told us Play was scheduled to produce four issues in 2009, but apparently the worsening advertising climate and the ever-sinking NYT Co stock price altered that plan.

Fight on the blogs! Fight on the blogs!

There’s the story, and there’s always the side-story. The snarky, juicy, lip-smacking stuff. 

Case in point is last night’s news that Jerry Yang is stepping down as chief executive of Yahoo — which itself is an interesting tale. But we’d like to draw your attention to RealDanLyons.com, where you’ll find a wonderfully catty distraction.  

In his blog, Dan Lyons rips into Kara Swisher, the AllThingsD honcho and prominent tech writer, who apparently took issue with him for not crediting her with getting the scoop on Yang’s departure.