MediaFile

It’s Super Bowl time and that means beer ads

We recently wrote that advertisers have even more riding on this Super Bowl than usual. There may be no better illustration of this than Anheuser-Busch InBev, brewer of such Super Bowl marketing staples as Bud and Bud Light.

Yesterday, the company gave the press a glimpse of some of its advertising for this year’s big game. The company has purchased 4-1/2 minutes worth of advertising time, once again making it the biggest Super Bowl advertiser.

At first glimpse, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s plans don’t seem that different than other years. It will go for humor in Bud Light spots and emotion in its Budweiser spots, using the Clydesdale horses. (Actually, it will run a record 3 Clydesdale commercials during the game).

But you get a sense from company executives that they feel like there is a lot riding on this year’s marketing blitz, given it comes during a recession when all budgets –  including, and perhaps especially, advertising — are under close scrutiny. Tossing a few million bucks at some commercial time is no easy decision right now.

Moreoever, the company has to rebuild some bridges after the rush of bad publicity that came with the takevoer last year by InBev (Think foreign super-company taking over American beer icon and you’ll get a sense how this thing was being played).

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:

Tax breaks (not bailouts) for newspapers

I ran a story on New Year’s Eve about the opportunities and perils that could face struggling newspapers if they end up surviving because of government help. I opened the story with the tale of Connecticut state lawmakers and a state commissioner who are trying to find someone to buy two Journal Register-owned dailies and several weeklies that are going to be shut down in January if they can’t be saved. From there, I explored the ramifications of government aid to newspapers.

The story got plenty of attention, though it looks like misinterpretation was rife. Many bloggers and news sources portrayed the Connecticut situation as a bailout, leading to plenty of ire directed at the lawmakers and the story. (Some conservative bloggers hinted that we deliberately omitted the lawmakers’ affiliation. For the record — they are Democrats. Also for the record: I had that in there, then deleted it, intending to put it somewhere else in the story. Then I plum forgot. No hidden agenda.)

So here’s what I’m expecting next and here’s what I still don’t know or understand. I’m eager to hear from folks who care about the future of newspapers in the United States to add their thoughts in the comments section.

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.”

Washington Post, Baltimore Sun will share content

The Washington Post and The Sun in nearby Baltimore will share some of their journalism, at least the stuff that they don’t try to kill each other to get first as they compete across the hedgerows and parkways of suburban Maryland. Here are some details from the release, sent out on Tuesday:

The Post and The Sun have agreed to share the newspapers’ day-to-day coverage of certain Maryland news and sports. In addition, The Post and The Sun may draw on each other’s national, international and feature stories that are distributed by the LAT-WP News Service, to which both contribute. The exchanges will allow each paper to take advantage of the other’s strengths and expertise in specific subjects around the region and the world.

As part of this accord, exclusive stories will not usually be shared, nor will coverage of such competitive subjects as Maryland state government and University of Maryland athletics.

Newspapers hock their bargain basements

Good newspaper reporters have a knack for timing. They spot trends and tell readers about them before anyone else does. Their publishers have a knack for timing too — the bad kind.

With stock prices spiraling toward zero, debt looming and their future in doubt, newspapers are looking for ways to keep the money coming in. Some of those ways sound good, but only on paper. Here’s the latest example, as detailed in an Associated Press story:

With revenue plunging as readers and advertisers flee to the Web, many newspaper companies have turned to selling off their buildings to raise money or save on costs. But now that option may be drying up too, as frozen credit markets make commercial real estate deals scarce.

from Summit Notebook:

WSJ reporters get, dig change

We and the rest of the media world that covered News Corp and Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of Dow Jones & Co had no shortage of reporters at The Wall Street Journal telling us how bad life was going to get. Among the complaints was the paper's increasing focus on politics and non-business news. Wasn't this "diluting the brand" as they say in mediaspeak?

Not so, according to Robert Thomson, the former Times of London editor who now edits the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. Business news now is concentrated in the B section of the paper (B for Business, yes, it works.), and Journal reporters are not only with the program, they're showing a willingness to try things differently.

"It's been fascinating. There was a presumption that people would be unwilling to change," Thomson told us at the Reuters Media Summit. "There has been an innate enthusiasm to develop the paper, particularly to develop the relationship between the paper, WSJ.com, Dow Jones Newswires and Marketwatch."

Watch Gannett layoffs in slow motion

It’s layoff week at Gannett — even the second N and T might be redundant.

The largest U.S. newspaper publisher and owner of USA Today, the nation’s biggest-selling daily paper, is slashing payroll just in time for the holidays. We read about layoffs everywhere these days, but if you want to see the slow-motion car crash version of how Gannett is doing it, look to Gannett Blog, run by former company reporter Jim Hopkins.

With no newspaper job to keep him busy, Hopkins chronicles nearly every event that he hears about Gannett. That includes a dose of rumor, but much of what he reports is more right than wrong.

Cox: More depressing newspaper news

You don’t need another depressing analysis of a depressing story about newspapers, so we’ll spare you everything but the press release. We will note, however, that it’s getting harder to say, “Let the wires get it” when the wires are slimming down too. And this is hardly the first DC bureau to get nailed.

ATLANTA (December 2, 2008) – Cox Newspapers has announced its plans to close its Washington, D.C.-based national and international news bureau on April 1, 2009. This decision follows Cox’s earlier announcement to offer its newspaper operations in Texas, North Carolina and Colorado for sale.

Cox’s metro newspapers The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Dayton Daily News will manage their own Washington and international newsgathering independently following the national bureau’s closing through dedicated correspondents in D.C. Eligible employees of the bureau will be offered generous severance packages and continued employment through March 31, 2009.