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Fine On Media

The Changing Worlds of Media and Advertising

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February 02, 2006

More on Content Players and Google

Another news executive making loud noises and demanding some kind of payment from Google.

I had a lot of fun writing about this a few weeks back. Two thoughts on this: One, completely walling yourself off to search engines is likely disastrous--but some have suggested ways to skin this cat without taking so drastic a step. (Read Cal's comment here.)

And two, we are going to hear a lot more about established media players pushing back against the search engines in '06, which will lead someone smart to figure out what the future model should be.

What could that model be?

10:46 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 01, 2006

Tony Ridder Was Right

Davis "Buzz" Merritt, a former top editor at Knight Ridder's Wichita Eagle, last year wrote a book called Knightfall: Knight Ridder and how the erosion of Newspaper Journalism Is Putting Democracy at Risk.

You can get a good idea of where he's coming from via the title, and Merritt is definitely a card-carrying member of the good-old-days-of-journalism-are-long-gone crowd. But even one who finds books written from this perspective really tiresome must concede that, at least, Merritt did exhaustive research before he spent over 200 pages shellacking Knight Ridder, and especially its CEO Tony Ridder, for mislaying newspaper journalism in the rush to please Wall Street's profit demands.

But let's zoom in on what's probably the book's pivotal Tony-Ridder-is-not-one-of-us moment. This happens after a speech Ridder gives to an assemblage of Knight Ridder editors, just after Ridder's predecessor Jim Batten's death in 1995.

"The first [question after Tony's remarks] was, "Tony, what keeps you up at night, what do you most worry about?"

He thought for a minute. "Electronic classified," he said.

The air went out of the room. He explained the serious financial threat presented by the vigorous new competitors for classified advertising, and the need to find ways to compete in the online arena.

He could have, but did not, talk to that roomful of his editors about the danger to democracy of failing newspapers, nor did he seek their support to make Knight Ridder newspapers the best anywhere. He was not wrong; electronic classified is a substantial threat. But he described the threat as one to the bottom line, rather than a threat to the company's tradition of public service journalism.

Now. Without a bottom line there is no public service journalism, period, but, whatever, put that aside. Let's ask instead, what led to Knight Ridder being put up for sale?

The money graf from shareholder Bruce Sherman's letter to the Knight Ridder board on November 1 of last year reads like this [emphasis mine]:

In our view, the actions taken to date have not adequately addressed a number of significant issues facing the Company, including (i) continuing consolidation among traditional sources of print advertising revenue; (ii) the redirection of advertising dollars to other media; (iii) the Company's unexceptional operating margins; and (iv) the Company's lack of a nationally read paper capable of being leveraged in the online market. In light of these and other factors, we view the best interests of the shareholders as being served by the Board soliciting competitive bids for the Company, either from financial buyers willing to pay fair value or industry participants that would realize synergies and increased market presence through the acquisition of Knight Ridder's highly desirable local newspaper and online advertising assets.

Sounds like what Tony Ridder feared ended up being a hell of a lot more central to the ultimate fate of Knight Ridder than whatever the editors at that meeting wanted to gasbag about.

Say what you will about how Tony Ridder's led Knight Ridder. (And there's quite a lot to be said about that.)

But also note that, in this case, Tony Ridder was right.

12:57 PM | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

January 26, 2006

Insufficient Funk . . .

. . Grand Funk, that is.

This week's column, on the declining fortunes of the mainstream rock band, can be found on newsstands starting tomorrow and right here.

08:01 PM | | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Long Weekend Sighted Ahead

I'm about to spend a few days out of the country, so things will be silent here until next Tuesday.

I'll approve comments submitted over the weekend and start posting soon as I'm back.

07:58 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 25, 2006

MyYearbook.com Prepares To Feast On The Marrow Of All Competitors

Maybe not.

But new social network site MyYearbook.com, launched last April by two Jersey teens, already winning some attention from Jersey's biggest and most mainstream media outlet.

One of the founders--David Cook--says stuff like "I want to really crush" MySpace (see his profile at myyearbook.com for more). Given that, and that he referenced the opening to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in MyYearbook.com's launch announcement) indicates he already knows a thing or two about getting the world to take notice. (Pause for a minute to consider what you were doing at 16 or 17.)

2005 was the year social networking sites hit big; 2006 is the year many more players jump in. AOL is readying its own take on MySpace, to be built off its wildly popular Instant Messenger. How well will these guys be able to compete with the MyYearbooks of the world?

(Full Disclosure: I was once a Jersey teen myself.)

09:52 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 24, 2006

Just Another Week In Media. And It's Only Tuesday.

On Sunday, at Sundance, Amazon.com screens its first efforts to do internet TV, "Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher." (Side note: We have to invent a new term. "Internet TV" is totally insulting, and "video programming on the Web" sounds terrible and robotic.)

On Tuesday, the UPN and WB throw in the towel--excuse me, join forces to launch a new network called the CW.

Aside from seeing a million jokes about "the conventional wisdom," are there any guesses to what else happens between now and Friday? UPDATE, 5 PM EST: Oh yeah--this.

12:27 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 20, 2006

Relieved

It was great to see this today, because I needed to be reminded how much I like Richard Scrushy.

(And the whole phenomenon of paid-for newspaper accounts, some of which have been unearthed by my colleague Eamon Javers.)

05:41 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 18, 2006

The Local Paper of the Future?

Is this the new local newspaper?

The Caveats: This kind of approach will only in work for readers and citizens of certain towns--affluent, plugged-in, in-on-the-joke. Of course, these towns are also likely to have a serious small-business base, from pricier restaurants to boutiques, that would find such a medium a decent place to spend a few ad dollars.

Still sounds a damn sight more fun than reading local news roundups in The Daily Whatever, though, doesn't it?

Unless and until the Daily Whatever starts aping the newcomers.

12:16 PM | , | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

January 17, 2006

The Three Day Weekend Problem

A lot of good comments came in over the three day weekend. All of them sat unseen by everyone until a few minutes ago.

The way the blogs are set up here requires the blogger to approve all comments--and the way this blogger is set up, I can't do that unless I'm at the office.

I think I have a fix to this problem for the future so, my feeble tech skills willing, with luck this won't come up again. As for right now, it's strictly my bad for not letting everyone know here when I'll be unbloggable for more than a day or two.

10:24 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 13, 2006

Got To Be Real? Um, No, Actually.

Meghan O’Rourke rightly notes in Slate that the larger truth about Oprah’s response to the James Frey flap is that in certain climates of this culture, anything that provides a decent therapeutic buzz is "real." Even if, by normal standards, it's fake.

In this spirit, I would like to petition that certain lyrics I heard in my youth by Husker Du, American Music Club and Black Flag be reclassified as "non-fiction." I mean: c'mon! They helped!

UPDATE 1/26: A better day for actual reality, as Oprah recants.

In retrospect, there was a pretty powerful aroma wafting off of Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" and the entire notion of JT Leroy that seems completely Snopes-worthy. As if any of that would stop this from happening all over again some day.

08:39 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 12, 2006

What Happens If Content Players Start Pushing Back At Google?

With something other than lawsuits, that is.

I've laid out some of my thoughts on that prospect here.

What are yours?

06:12 PM | | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

That Was Then . . .

Therre was a boom for media not so long ago, right?

Right?

Fast Company and Inc., then and now.

09:19 AM | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

January 10, 2006

Factoid of the day

Apple has sold eight million video downloads since October 12, Steve Jobs said during his appearance at Macworld today.

06:57 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 05, 2006

Perhaps You Just Put Your Finger On The Problem

From a just-released press release put out by Mort Zuckerman's New York Daily News (emphasis mine):

NEW YORK, N.Y., Jan. 5, 2006 -- Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Chairman and Publisher of the Daily News, today announced the appointment of Marc Z. Kramer - one of the city’s youngest and most highly respected newspaper executives - as Chief Executive Officer.

( . . . )

Mr. Kramer, 50, rejoins the Daily News, America’s fifth-largest newspaper, from the New York Times where he has served in various capacities since 1998.

This won't do much to dispel the perception that newspapers are intended for--and made by--old people.

09:31 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2006

Conde Nast: Mary Berner Out

Mary Berner, former CEO of Conde Nast's Fairchild unit and current Group President of Conde Nast's Fairchild division, is leaving the company at the end of this month.

Ms. Berner, fiercely smart and fiercely ambitious, had been layered in a company reorganization four months ago. After having spent five years as a CEO reporting to company patriarch Si Newhouse, she became a group president reporting to Charles H. Townsend, CEO of Conde Nast Publications.

Friends and colleagues say this didn't sit well with Ms. Berner, who didn't immediately return a call placed to her cell phone. At least one insider suggested her next moves are pretty much mapped out.

Bigger corporate story: The Fairchild division of the nation's second-largest magazine company is finished. All its mags are now scattered elsewhere: Jane, Details and Cookie will report to Townsend; everything else--W, a bridal division, and a constellation of trade titles--goes to Mitch Fox, another Conde Nast Group President.

The news is somewhat surprising given Berner's successes at the company. Under her tenure which began in 1999, Fairchild grew into a significantly larger company with a much bigger consumer magazine presence--its consumer magazines increased from two to seven. Berner also succesfully relaunched the men's magazine, Details, a task that Conde Nast repeatedly muffed.

Two recent Fairchild launches, shopping titles Vitals Man and Vitals Woman, were recently shuttered.

Full Disclosure: I was part of a small team at Advertising Age that named her Publishing Executive of the Year in 2004.

05:24 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

 


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