MediaFile

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.”

James Murdoch Approved Payment to Phone Tap Victim (Bloomberg)
“James Murdoch, the son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, agreed to a 700,000-pound ($1.1 million) payment to a victim of phone-tapping by the News of the World, the editor of the company’s newspaper said,” writes Robert Hutton.
> Ex-Murdoch paper editor says phone taps not policy (Reuters)

Conde Nast September Monthlies Lose 1,680 Ad Pages (NYO)
“Vogue
tumbled to 427 pages total, down 36 percent from last September. W is down 53 percent; Allure and Gourmet are down 51 percent; and Self is down 50 percent. Vanity Fair came in just above average for the company, dropping 36 percent,” writes John Koblin.

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.)

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.

Thursday media highlights

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

New York Times Asks Subscribers: Is It Wrong to Charge for Online Content? (Poynter)
Bill Mitchell writes: “The New York Times is testing a price point of $5 a month for access to nytimes.com, with a 50 percent discount for print subscribers. The Times e-mailed a survey to print subscribers Thursday afternoon inviting their reaction to that pricing plan and asking a range of questions about online pricing.”

Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims (Guardian)
“The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills,” writes Nick Davies.
UK police won’t reopen Murdoch paper phonetap case (Reuters)

A is for abattoir; Z is for ZULU: All in the Handbook of Journalism (Reuters)
Dean Wright writes: “The handbook is the guidance Reuters journalists live by — and we’re proud of it. Until now, it hasn’t been freely available to the public. In the early 1990s, a printed handbook was published and in 2006 the Reuters Foundation published a relatively short PDF online that gave some basic guidance to reporters. But it’s only now that we’re putting the full handbook online.”

Tuesday media highlights

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

Amazon Patents Detail Kindle Advertising Model (Mediapost)
Laurie Sullivan writes: “The patents clearly note that Amazon would insert advertisements throughout the ebooks, from the beginning to the end, between chapters or following every 10 pages, as well as in the margins.”

> In-Book Ads Coming to the Amazon Kindle? (Fast Company)
> 6 Reasons Why Ads On The Kindle Don’t Work (Business Insider)

Deadline for Globe bids postponed (Boston Globe)
“The New York Times Co. has postponed tomorrow’s deadline for prospective buyers of The Boston Globe to submit preliminary bids for the newspaper, people briefed on the sales process said. No new date has been set for the bids,” writes Robert Weisman.

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.

Google’s Mayer on how to write online news

Just about everyone has thrown a thought or two by now into the great bubbling pot of stew that is the future of journalism. Latest in line is Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.Mayer, one of Google’s earliest employees who gets reams of newsprint in Silicon Valley for her cupcake spreadsheets and love of Oscar de la Renta, spoke before a Senate subcommittee on a future of journalism hearing on Wednesday.Apart from defending Google, which has come under attack from the news industry — most notably the Associated Press — for profiting from content, Mayer gave some tips on how journalists should write their stories.Mayer talked about something she called the “atomic unit of consumption” — a news article rather than an entire newspaper, much like one song downloaded digitally instead of buying an entire album. Here’s an excerpt from her prepared testimony:

The atomic unit of consumption for existing media is almost always disrupted by emerging media. For example, digital music caused consumers to think about their purchases as individual songs rather than as full albums. Digital and on-demand video has caused people to view variable-length clips when it is convenient for them, rather than fixed-length programs on a fixed broadcast schedule.Similarly, the structure of the Web has caused the atomic unit of consumption for news to migrate from the full newspaper to the individual article. As with music and video, many people still consume physical newspapers in their original full-length format. But with online news, a reader is much more likely to arrive at a single article. While these individual articles could be accessed from a newspaper’s homepage, readers often click directly to a particular article via a search engine or another Website.

Mayer then went on to suggest that reporters and editors need to think differently about how they write for online:

Treating the article as the atomic unit of consumption online has several powerful consequences. When producing an article for online news, the publisher must assume that a reader may be viewing this article on its own, independent of the rest of the publication.To make an article effective in a standalone setting requires providing sufficient context for first-time readers, while clearly calling out the latest information for those following a story over time. It also requires a different approach to monetization: each individual article should be self-sustaining. These types of changes will require innovation and experimentation in how news is delivered online, and how advertising can support it.

So wait, now the big bad wolf is counseling Little Red Riding Hood before gobbling her up for dinner? Maybe Google and news publishers can be friends… or at least frenemies. Read Mayer’s full testimony here.Keep an eye on:

    Online video site Hulu signs its first international TV content deals. (Financial Times) Former CNBC host lands at MSNBC. (Associated Press) Hear it once and for all: Twitter is not for sale. (Reuters)

(Photo: Actress Brooke Shields portrays Little Red Riding Hood at a charity fundraiser/Reuters)

Mr. Sulzberger goes to Amazon

When Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry convenes a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss the fate of U.S. newspapers, don’t look for the man who controls the fate of Kerry’s hometown Boston Globe on Capitol Hill.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr, whose New York Times Co is threatening to close the Globe, will be at a press conference in New York City where online bookseller and retailer Amazon.com plans to release a new version of the Kindle electronic book reader. At least, that’s what The Wall Street Journal says. Amazon and the Times declined to talk to us about the Wednesday event or Sulzberger’s planned appearance.

Senator Kerry need not worry that he can’t question Sulzberger in person. As much as Sulzberger probably wants to limit his talking points to the Kindle, we’re in a Globe state of mind. After all, talks resume tonight over $10 million in cost cuts it wants to wrest from the Globe’s biggest union. We would be happy to ask Kerry’s questions on his behalf.

New York Times brings IHT into the fold

It’s no secret that the International Herald Tribune is part of The New York Times Co, so why not flaunt it? Visitors to nytimes.com and iht.com saw evidence of this thinking Sunday (or Monday, depending on where you are).

When you visit the IHT website, you now see a Web link on your Internet browser that says this: http://global.nytimes.com/?iht. The flag at the top of the page now reads: “International Herald Tribune: The Global edition of The New York Times.” The layout of the website also has been adjusted to resemble that of nytimes.com’s homepage. If you visit nytimes.com, a banner across the top of the page invites you to “try the new global edition,” which, of course, is what iht.com used to be. If you’re a regular Reuters reader, you can’t say you’re too surprised, as we told you last June that this was coming.

We’re curious about whether bringing the IHT closer into the fold allows the Times to cut its costs in any significant way, and will update this blog entry once we get some clarity on that. The Times is dealing with falling advertising revenue and also has had to take other steps such as selling its interest in its headquarters building and borrowing money at a high interest rate from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to help pay off debt. It also cut 100 jobs in its business operations, it said on Friday, and said it is cutting staff pay by 5 percent (and in the case of union workers in its newsroom, is asking them to agree to that pay cut to avoid news staff layoffs).

Read The New York Times buyout memos (edited highlights)

As we reported earlier on Thursday:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two of the most respected U.S. newspaper publishers, The Washington Post Co and The New York Times Co, are embarking on new cost cuts in the face of dramatic declines in advertising revenue.

You can read most of The Washington Post memo on MediaFile, as well as the juicy parts of what Washington Post Chairman Don Graham wrote to shareholders on Wednesday about the state of the company. Here, meanwhile, are the edited memos sent by New York Times executives to employees:

From Times Publisher and Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr, as well as Times Co Chief Executive Janet Robinson: