MediaFile

How to subsidize news without feeling dirty

The U.S. Congress’s Joint Economic Committee hit one of my favorite topics on Thursday: What the government could, should, must (or must not) do to help the struggling news media survive, with the spotlight on newspapers in particular.

I had a look at the testimony and found some fascinating thoughts in the testimony from Paul Starr, a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Starr has some ideas for how the government might preserve a free press by extending a hand to the news business — all without using that word that no one wants to use: bailout.

First, the background: Newspapers are in trouble as the Internet destroys their advertising revenue. More people than ever read the news online, and news websites are trying to figure out a way to make money off that because letting people in for free just kills the circulation of their printed products. Some folks have raised the idea of federal, state or local subsidies to help papers — usually in the form of tax breaks — but the Newspaper Association and others say it’s a bad idea because the press shouldn’t be beholden to the government that it’s supposed to be monitoring for abuse, fraud, etc.

Meanwhile, the Obama White House, Justice Department and other federal offices are examining the situation. In Congress, one bill would let some newspapers become nonprofit companies, and another bill that would let businesses book their recent losses over the past five years – something that would get them some extra cash from the taxman.

The association was one of the groups that testified at the hearing. We know how they feel. What I’m INCREDIBLY eager to get your thoughts on is what Starr wrote:

Newspapers stay on message in tough times

It must be hard to churn out positive messages about the newspaper business when papers are losing their advertising revenue at alarming rates and the Internet is not yielding up any easy secrets for survival.

Don’t underestimate the Newspaper of Association of America’s ability to stay positive. Here’s part of a press release that it issued today:

Newspaper Web sites attracted more than 70.3 million unique visitors in June (35.9 percent of all Internet users), according to a custom analysis provided by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America. Newspaper Web site visitors generated 3.5 billion page views during the month, spending 2.7 billion minutes browsing the sites over more than 597 million total sessions.

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.” …

Newspaper Association cuts jobs, ditches print

I suppose that it’s natural that your representatives in Washington should be people who reflect their constituencies. In that spirit, there are reports out that the Newspaper Association of America — a tireless defender of print newspapers even as ad revenue crumbles all around them — is cutting the print edition of its magazine, along with half its jobs.

I’ve left messages with several NAA contacts, but in the meantime, We confirmed the news with the NAA — 39 jobs going away. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt from a report on AOL’s Daily Finance site:

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) is the not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of over 2,000 newspapers and other print publications. Its roots can be traced back to 1887, and for many years its magazine Presstime has kept members up-to-date on trends in the marketplace. Therefore, it seems sadly ironic that the NAA is killing its print edition of Presstime. The magazine will now be available in an on-line version only.

Google CEO to keynote newspaper convention

This ought to be fun.

Eric Schmidt, who will keynote the Newspaper Association of America’s annual convention, runs the search engine company and advertising beast that many journalists at sick and/or dying newspapers blame for sucking up some of their advertising dollars.

(They also blame Yahoo, which touts its newspaper consortium that tries to help the papers make at least some honest dollars off ad sales)

Google also is the company that deep-sixed its program to sell newspaper advertising because it didn’t make enough money.

Microsoft, Gates master the art of product placement

There is no better way to learn about the art of product placement than to learn from the masters. Today, that means Microsoft Corp and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, both of which were the subject of articles about how they’re delivering their messages like little pills wrapped in the sugar coating of the entertainment you consume.

Ad Age:

Can Microsoft market its way out of the search basement? Probably not, but it’s going to try, entrusting [ad] agency JWT to craft a campaign for its new search engine, alternately dubbed Kumo or Project Kiev or Live Search, depending on who’s talking about it. … The service is being tested and is expected to make its debut in the summer. … Industry executives expect JWT, part of WPP, to unveil an estimated $80 million to $100 million push for the new search engine in June, with online, TV, print and radio executions. Microsoft spent $361 million on U.S. measured media in 2008, the bulk of it devoted to brand advertising and smaller chunks to other Microsoft brands such as Xbox and MSN, according to TNS Media Intelligence data.

The New York Times:

The huge [Gates] foundation, brimming with billions of dollars from Mr. Gates and Warren Buffett, is well known for its myriad projects around the world to promote health and education. It is less well known as a behind-the-scenes influencer of public attitudes toward these issues by helping to shape story lines and insert messages into popular entertainment like the television shows “ER,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Private Practice.” The foundation’s messages on H.I.V. prevention, surgical safety and the spread of infectious diseases have found their way into these shows.