MediaFile

New York Times, BusinessWeek: The autumn of their years

Publishing beat reporters should expect a flare-up in their carpal tunnel syndrome in the coming weeks. Here is why:

The New York Times Co will decide whether to sell The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette by “early fall,” the Worcester daily reported on Friday, citing Times Co Chief Executive Janet Robinson. Fall this year begins on September 22, less than two weeks from today. McGraw-Hill, meanwhile, set September 15 — next Tuesday — as the deadline for bids on BusinessWeek magazine (Bloomberg apparently has reentered the bidding process too).

Here is an excerpt from the Telegram & Gazette’s story:

“The New England Media Group is in better financial shape than it was at the beginning of the year,” Ms. Robinson said at an afternoon “town hall” meeting… “Our hand is not being forced to sell. We are not in a situation where we are absolutely being forced to sell the Globe and the T&G.”

A decision on the sale is likely in the early fall, Ms. Robinson said.

“This is a very unnerving and distracting process so we’d like to move more quickly than not,” she said.

I might echo that last sentiment.

Neither deal, if any of them actually come about, would excite news editors who set the newsworthiness bar by price. BusinessWeek, it has been widely reported, could sell for a dollar (we still think this is a figurative, rather than a literal price), and bids coming in for the Globe have been around $35 million, according to news reports. A bunch of other small-money deals are lurking out there in media as well, for example, the stalking-horse bid of $5 million for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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.

Financial Times: Pay to play

I stumbled across this headline on Wednesday morning:

FT Bosses Launch PR Offensive For Paid-Content Model

I thought: “Launch? Don’t you mean ‘Launched’?” The Financial Times brass has been arguing for months that the only newspapers that will survive the tough times they have been through lately are those that stop giving away the news online, and can do it without sacrificing the advertising money they earn on the Web.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog that produced that headline, courtesy of digitalarmm:

Editor Lionel Barber tells Channel 4 in an interview that there is now “an inexorable momentum behind charging for content” and he urges other national papers only considering introducing paywalls — essentially all of them — to act now (See the video link inside the digtalarmm blog post)

from Commentaries:

Tech Links: Phones, more phones and communion wafers

HTC Android phoneBetter luck next year for Android
Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC has warned of a revenue shortfall, saying it has too many new phone models chasing too little revenue. Revenue growth will turn negative in 2009, instead of growing 10 percent, as the company had previously forecast.

Chief Executive Peter Chou says: "Momentum on both the Windows Mobile and Android platforms are also turning out to be weaker than expected."

HTSEC weighted indexTC said it is boosting its marketing spending to more than 15 percent of revenue from 13.5 percent to fend off market leader Nokia and the Apple iPhone juggernaut.

Tribune: Slow train coming

Bankrupt publisher and TV broadcaster Tribune Co filed for bankruptcy last December, and it’s looking increasingly like next December might be the first time we see what the new company will look like. Here is what the company’s Chicago Tribune newspaper reported Tuesday morning:

The parent company of the Chicago Tribune is scheduled to deliver a plan Aug. 4 but wants to extend that deadline to Nov. 30.

Citing the complex nature of the case, Tribune said in a filing it needs more time to build consensus around a plan. It also said the outcome of the pending sale of the Chicago Cubs could have a “material impact” on the plan.

Wednesday media highlights

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

Bernstein Research Criticizes Media CEO Pay (B&C)
“The Bernstein report notes that the top earner among media executives in 2008 was CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, who was paid total compensation of $31.9 million last year. He is followed by Disney CEO Robert Iger, who earned $30.6 million; News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, who took home $27.5 million; and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman was paid $23 million. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes took home the least of the top five, at $19.9 million,” writes Claire Atkinson.

Media General posts quarterly profit, ad sales fall (Reuters)
Robert MacMillan writes: “While Media General, which publishes The Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times Dispatch and other papers, reported a 26 percent drop in newspaper ad revenue, the company said classified and retail ad declines were less steep than in recent quarters. Media General reported second-quarter net income of $20.6 million, or 90 cents a share, compared with a loss of $532.2 million, or $24.12 a share, a year ago.”

Philadelphia Newspapers to Release Reorganization Plan (E&P)
“[U.S. Bankruptcy Judge] FitzSimon had given the company until Aug. 31 to present its plan. Company officials did not reveal any new details, but had previously revealed that the plan involved raising $50 million in new capital and negotiating with lenders to reduce the company’s $300 million debt.”

Wednesday media highlights

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

Recession sends Americans to the Internet (Reuters)
S. John Tilak writes: “More than two-thirds of American adults — or 88 percent of U.S. Internet users — went online for help with recession-induced personal economic issues and to gather information on national economic problems, a study released on Wednesday said.”

BBC and Government Fall Out Over Financing Plan (NYT)
“The BBC and Britain’s Labour government, which has a history of support for the “Beeb,” have fallen out over a government plan to share some of the broadcaster’s £3.6 billion in public funding with its commercial television rivals,” writes Eric Pfanner.
Weisberg: Big news orgs have a stake in web-only papers not working (Economist.com|Romenesko) “Web advertising may well end up supporting big newsrooms if they can escape some of their legacy costs,” says Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. “The test I’d most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only ‘newspaper’ with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organizations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.”

USA Today introduces Newsdeck site for top headlines (Editors Weblogs)
“To give visitors another way to view the news, USA Today has introduced a site it calls Newsdeck that compiles the top headlines in an easy-to-read format. Users can scroll through stories in eight categories, including News, Money and Sports, with the ability to switch back and forth between the latest news and the most popular articles.,” writes Liz Webber.

Most teens find “tweeting” pointless — Morgan Stanley

Taking a break from flogging the latest tired media business model, Morgan Stanley published a short report on Friday entitled, “How Teenagers Consume Media” by 15-year-old summer intern Matthew Robson that offers a frank discussion of what young digital media consumers are up to.  The FT has highlighted it on its front page, perhaps as an antidote to wall-to-wall coverage of the annual Sun Valley media moguls conference in recent days.

The most memorable moment in the report is its discussion of the irrelevancy of Twitter to teenagers:

Facebook is popular as one can interact with friends on a wide scale.
On the other hand, teenagers do not use twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they release that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless.

Media Wrapup

Here is a selection of the day’s stories about the media industry:

US TV prepares for $2bn ad shortfall (FT)

“Digital video recorders that allow viewers to skip through commercials have knocked confidence in broadcast and cable advertising while younger, tech-savvy audiences are deserting their TV sets to spend more time online,” writes the Financial Times.

Smartphones, social networks to boost mobile advertising (Reuters)

Reuters reports: “As more consumers embrace new technologies and devices such as smartphones, personified by Apple’s iPhone, mobile advertising is seen growing at an annual average of 45 percent to reach $28.8 billion within 5 years from a current $3.1 billion, according to Ineum Consulting.”

Journalism Rules Are Bent in News Coverage From Iran (NYT)

Brian Stelter writes: “In a news vacuum, amateur videos and eyewitness accounts became the de facto source for information. In fact, the symbol of the protests, the image of a young woman named Neda bleeding to death on a Tehran street, was filmed by two people holding camera phones.”

In death Michael Jackson gives life to media

As the world mourned his death, Michael Jackson gave new life to all kinds of media – online, broadcast, print tabloids and broadsheets as the public appeared to lap up the extravagant reflections on the singer’s highs and lows.

T-shirts were sold and TV specials were planned giving a sense of drama reminiscent to the death of Diana Princess of Wales.

In newspapers like the New York Times, Jackson, 50, took over much of the Friday front page. Forget the political uproar in Iran, which has dominated headlines in recent days or the adulturous governor of South Carolina, or even the demise of Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett.