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, 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.”

As Gannett’s Newspapers Suffer, Digital Side Sees Growth, More Hiring And Acquisitions (paidContent)
“As Gannett continues to be roiled with huge debt problems, an absent CEO, and hundreds more layoffs across its community newspapers, its digital division appears to be a sea of calm. In fact [...] things are going just fine on their respective ends,” writes David Kaplan.

Analyst Admits to Being ‘Dead Wrong’ After Disney’s ‘Up’ Is Big Earner (NYT)
“Dead wrong” is how Richard Greenfield of Pali Research put his related analysis in a research note. “The recent success of Pixar’s ‘Up’ (well ahead of our forecasts) has renewed investor confidence in Disney’s creative capabilities,” he added. “Up” has so far sold $265.9 million in tickets in North America and $35.4 million overseas, where it has only begun to arrive in theaters,” writes Brooks Barnes.

Wednesday media highlights

News about the media industry:

Netflix looks to future but still going strong with DVD rentals (USA Today)
“Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings doesn’t think his 58 distribution centers are in immediate danger of becoming obsolete, but he knows that day will come. He believes DVD rentals have four to nine years to keep growing, despite inroads in Internet delivery of movies to set-top TV boxes and other video-on-demand options,” writes Jefferson Graham.

Is the bell tolling for Clear Channel? (San Antonio Express-News)
David Hendricks writes: “Analysts believe Clear Channel, now with about $22 billion in total debts, will have trouble making scheduled payments later this year. The company, already down to about 800 stations from its peak of about 1,200 stations, either will have to start selling stations itself or go into bankruptcy, where lenders will put stations up for sale.”

Foes No More, Ad Agencies Unite With Internet Firms (NYT)
Eric Pfanner writes: “With consumers spending more and more time online, analysts say Internet companies and ad agencies have no choice but to work together to develop ways to make money from digital media.”

from UK News:

Nostalgia makes a comeback in TV ad-land

The recession is bringing back the strangest characters.  Rising from their graves like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead are people we thought had been buried decades ago.

The Milky Bar Kid is one, Persil mum is another and, inevitably, the Hovis bread delivery boy struggling up his cobbled hill while the brass band plays on.

What next? Bing Crosby singing about Shell perhaps or the famous Smash-peddling Martians who thought it was so funny that Earthlings bothered to peel potatoes?

Speed is the new big — and other ad talk

iaa-logo.JPGThe International Advertising Association (IAA) is holding its World Congress in Washington D.C. this week, when hundreds of advertising and media executives descend on the nation’s capital to talk about social communities, marketing regulation, return on investment, and, of course, the economy.

Here’s what ad industry types are saying:

“Advertising and the economy seem to go hand in hand. Really, the fact that the economy is weakening is going to have an impact on the industry in the short term.” Bob Liodice, President, Association of National Advertisers

“An actors’ strike would be incredibly devastating, particularly to the television business. The industry paid a large price for the last work stoppage. I don’t think either the (local) economy or the business would be able survive something like that.” Jeff Zucker, Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal

Longing for Paulie Walnuts and Paula Abdul

sopranos-award.jpgNBC may be in danger of landing in fourth place (again) in the prime-time ratings war between the major networks, but it wasn’t always that way.

Remember when NBC dominated, thanks to hits like “Friends,” “Frasier,” “The West Wing,” and “Seinfeld”? Even now, stuck in a ratings slump, NBC has some of the most talked-about shows on the air. Think “Heroes,” “The Office,” and “30 Rock.”

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker has high hopes that the 2008-09 lineup, unveiled last week, will mark a return for the network and told us during an interview that so far it’s getting a strong reception from advertisers.

Nothing upfront about NBC’s upfronts

silverman.jpgSo NBC rolled out its 2008-09 schedule — it covers all 52 weeks, comes six weeks earlier than normal, and, without any pilots or trailers to showcase the new programs, leaves quite a lot to the imagination.

Take the ”The Office” spin-off. NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman sidestepped every question about the show, saying only that it would launch after the Super Bowl with Greg Daniels heading up the project. Other than that? Zip.

Mostly, NBC executives focused on broader themes of the programs and the season. This is how they basically want the scheduling to play: 8-9 p.m. is family hour; 9-10 p.m. is big hit, big show hour; 10-11 p.m is high end, adult dramas.