MediaFile

New York Times: Honest work means honest pay

Some people hate The New York Times and some people love The New York Times — but everybody wants to read The New York Times for free. That will largely end in 2011. You probably read that today on the Internet, and you probably read it for free.

The Times said it will let you read some articles per month for free, then make you pay for more. It’s what the Financial Times does. Who said it had to be original? If you subscribe to the print edition, just keep reading it. This isn’t really about you. This is a decision that will, for better or for worse, inform the public that if you want journalists to tell you stuff or entertain you, you need to pay them to do journalism all day long.

Lots of people have opinions on this and lots of people have done the research. Even more people style themselves Internet experts. The one thing they can’t help is sharing opinions on whether news sites should charge or whether they’re not just misguided for doing it — but whether they’re stupid or criminally wrong.

Everybody knows the sins that newspapers committed online. People will tell you: “They should have done it in 1995. They should do this, they should do that. If they do this, they have to give up that. They’re old media, they deserve to die. They’re doomed. They should sell. Too little too late. It won’t move the needle. They’re doing the wrong thing. I have data, do the math.”

Many people make good points. Still, what does the Times have to lose? NYTimes.com visitors? Pageviews? Ad revenue that isn’t really doing them many favors anyway? Publishers get so much conflicting information, and, to be honest, are a bit doddering and confused — so they stand still. Things fall apart from there.

Dear newspapers: Happy holidays from John Janedis

New York TimesTake heed and rejoice, you hard-working newspaper elves. Someone on Wall Street thinks that some newspaper companies aren’t dancing quite as close to the abyss as conventional wisdom says.

Wells Fargo analyst John Janedis, never known for going too easy on newspaper stocks, raised his rating on USA Today publisher Gannett to “outperform” and his rating on The New York Times to “market perform.”

His explanation: “After years of downward revenue estimate revisions, it appears as though the newspaper ad market is improving more quickly than we previously anticipated, particularly in December. Given current trends, we now expect approx. high single digit decline in overall newspaper advertising in 2010.”

Census Bureau: Newspapers, radio had a really bad 2008

Newspapers

People say you shouldn’t trust the government, but their news about the declining health of the newspaper and radio business is hard to dispute.  Read the Census Bureau’s press release, out on Wednesday,  about the tough times hitting the business in 2008, the most recent year for which comprehensive data has been compiled:

Newspaper Publishers Revenues Decline in 2008

Newspaper publishers experienced a single-year decline in total revenue of 8.3 percent — from $47.9 billion in 2007 to $43.9 billion in 2008. This followed a more modest decline of 2.7 percent in 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

A major contributor to the overall loss in revenues for the industry was the decline in advertising space revenue for general newspapers, which dropped 10.2 percent — from $30.9 billion in 2007 to $27.8 billion in 2008. Revenue from newspaper subscriptions remained largely unchanged over the period, from $8.3 billion in 2007 to $8.2 billion in 2008.

from Summit Notebook:

Daily Beast staff ‘happy as clams,’ says Barry Diller

The journalists and staff who work at The Daily Beast don't look at life like you other sad-sack scribes out there who are watching your job market wash out to sea with the ebb tide. In fact, they are happy in a particularly mollusk-like way.

"They're as happy as clams," said Barry Diller, chief executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp, which is financing the online news outlet with its editor, Tina Brown. "They wake up every morning filled with possibility."

That's because they are not working at sinking-ship news outlets like most of the rest of their colleagues in mainstream U.S. journalism.

Rupert Murdoch, the smartest man in newspapers?

I wrote an analysis on Monday about the possibility that News Corp might take its news search results away from Google and list them on Microsoft’s Bing search engine instead. My conclusion: This one isn’t such a hot idea. Then I read John Gapper’s Financial Times item about how it *could* be a hot idea.

To recap, here’s how it would work.

    Microsoft would pay News Corp for the privilege of being the only search engine to carry results from papers including the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Times of London. Microsoft thinks it can get more people to use its search engine, drawing them away from Google. News Corp could punish Google, in essence, for making tons of money from the ads it serves alongside news search results. Why, the thinking goes, should Google make a bunch of money off the news that we produce and our newsrooms go starving and our ad sales tank? Other newspaper publishers, if they see Murdoch making it work, might think the same thing and abandon Google en masse.

I and many others wrote that it would be a gamble at best. What if people don’t care that much about news? If the 70 percent of the search market that uses Google discovers  the news is absent, will they switch search engines? Scientists of misanthropy like me say it’s unlikely. If they don’t find it, they won’t seek it.

Gapper at the FT has another way of looking at it:

In effect, (Murdoch) would be swapping his revenue stream from online advertising with a payment from Microsoft for drawing visitors to Bing. That suggests one of two things: either, as a lot of digital evangelists have suggested, he is getting old and does not “get” the internet, or he has looked at the figures and decided that Google traffic is not worth very much. Personally, I think the latter is more plausible. …

Layoffs hit The Washington Post after BusinessWeek, AP

Several media reporters wrote on Twitter on Thursday that this was one of the worst weeks in journalism, and it’s hard to argue with them. BusinessWeek is canning a third of its staff as Bloomberg gets ready to buy the magazine. The Associated Press is laying off 90 people as part of its effort to cut payroll costs by 10 percent this year.

And now The Washington Post is laying off staff, sources told me on Friday, and a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Post has cut an unknown number of washingtonpost.com workers, the website folks who until now have worked separately at the dot-com headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the Post’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. One source told me up to 10 are going. That’s not as big a number as other places you’ve read about lately, but it’s still a painful cut. (Disclosure: I worked for The Washington Post Co. from 1998 to 2005)

Audience and the media: a shaky marriage

How can mainstream news organizations retain (or regain) their audience’s trust in skeptical world where almost anyone with an Internet connection can be a publisher? That’s the topic a panel of industry experts will address tonight at the Thomson Reuters heaquarters in Times Square. We’ll be live blogging the event here from 7pm ET.

The panel comprises: Andrew Alexander, ombudsman, The Washington Post; Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor, The Associated Press; Lisa Shepard, ombudsman, National Public Radio; and Dean Wright, global editor of ethics, innovation & news standards, Reuters. Jack Shafer, editor-at-large for Slate, is the moderator.

If you’d like to put a question to the panel, leave it in the comments box below and we’ll ask a selection on your behalf.

Talking with Thomson Reuters chief about print

Covering Thomson Reuters Corp for almost two years has taught me that people like to cast my company in a recurring role in media deal parlor games. Now that the company’s arch-rival Bloomberg LP will buy BusinessWeek magazine from McGraw-Hill, lots of my pals in the media world are wondering: Will Thomson Reuters buy a mainstream news or business news magazine? Or newspaper? Why not Forbes? Why not the Financial Times?

Keep in mind that Thomson Reuters likes to remind people when they ask these questions that Thomson Corp, before buying Reuters, got out of its Canadian newspaper empire for a reason. (See below)

I asked our chief executive, Tom Glocer, a question along these lines on a Thursday phone call he had with reporters to discuss the company’s third-quarter financial results.

Boston Globe publisher retires after paper nearly dies

Fifty-six. Is it the new 65? Ask Steven Ainsley, the 56-year-old publisher of The Boston Globe. He is retiring, parent company New York Times Co said on Thursday, after three years as publisher. His successor is Christopher Mayer, 47, who joined the globe in 1984.

In the press release, the Times Co noted the two Pulitzer Prizes that the Globe won under Ainsley’s reign. It didn’t mention that other thing that happened this year, which was the Times threatening to close the paper unless unions buckled and agreed to millions of dollars in concessions to stem outrageous operating losses that could have hit $85 million this year. It also didn’t mention the layoffs, the closing of the Globe’s international bureaus and the attempts to sell the Globe for next to nothing after buying it in 1993 for $1.1 billion.

But those are details.

The Globe’s story says that Ainsley is considering nonprofit work after the Times. All we can add is: Isn’t that what you’ve been doing at the Globe?

FCC: There might be something amiss in media

Newspaper advertising is a joke, local TV stations are struggling to get ads of their own, journalists are losing their jobs and media executives are calling 25 percent revenue declines an improvement. It sounds like something might be amiss in the U.S. media world.

But don’t take our word for it if you’re the Federal Communications Commission, and you’re about to revisit media ownership regulations and see if they need some changing. See this item from Inside Radio:

[FCC] Chairman Julius Genachowski hires internet entrepreneur and journalist Steven Waldman to lead an agency-wide initiative assessing the state of media. Waldman will lead a team to conduct what’s promised to be an “open, fact-finding process” looking at how the economy is impacting media outlets and make recommendations for policy changes.