Times To Pay The Price

March 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Updated: March 28, 2011 8:12 p.m.
And so the experiment begins, with traditional print journalists heaving a sigh of relief and online folks raising an eyebrow or two while posting away jauntily on their blogs with the words “failure” and “mistake.”

Today, the NYTimes website unveiled a small box in the upper right corner entitled “Digital Subscriptions” that has the potential to re-energize what some have referred to as  a sinking paper ship known as the newspaper.  But will people go for it?

That question alone has been the subject of  intense conversation between professional, amateur and even journalists in training (such as myself) at some point or another, touching upon the industry’s ability to charge an audience for what it’s been able to get for free.

But whether the move spells out success or doom for the media giant is yet to be seen.

What we do know is this: it wouldn’t be the first time that a newspaper has evoked a pay wall onto its online twin (The Wall Street Journal claims the prize for largest newspaper to initiate and sustain a pay wall), nor is  it even the first attempt by the Times itself.

Indeed, the Times briefly flirted with the idea of monetizing their online content with TimesSelect only to ditch the plan two years later in 2007. Up until today,  readers were given unbridled access to any of the Times articles written post 1980.  The site’s general manager at the time had this to say on the decision to eliminate what had brought in $10 million a year for the company:

“We now believe by opening up all our content and unleashing what will be millions and millions of new documents, combined with phenomenal growth, that that will create a revenue stream that will more than exceed the subscription revenue.” (Vivian Schiller)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as the Times continues to bleed red and viewers  have much more to choose from now than they did back in ’07 –both for free and online.

The wall has already dominated the blogosphere with some supporters like  The Onion who called  it a “bold business move” and  readers of Business Insider affirming the wall’s future success. But the web also hosts the paper’s ‘fare’ share of wall naysayers like The Street who call it “the dumbest of this week’s dumbest.”

Unsurprisingly,  sites such as this one take a stronger stance on the inadequacies of the wall with instructions on how to evade it entirely. (If anyone tries it, do tell me how it goes. I am very interested in seeing if the web gods really are all powerful–even in the likes of the Sulzbergers). PCWorld does a great job at breaking the terms of the pay wall down for size with their post here.

But while many are anxious to see just how porous or impervious this pay wall is, I for one am dreading the day that I see the pay wall in all it’s digital brick-ish glory upon hitting my 21st article (something that will occur in probably less than a week’s time).

As a broke (journalism) college student, paying that extra $7.40 a week just isn’t an option.

So, food for thought: how many of you are opening your wallets for an online subscription and how many of you are not ready just yet to throw in the proverbial towel?


Coming Soon To A Google Near You: Larry Page

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m not an admirer, more like a user. But then again, who isn’t?

Personally I’ve always found delight in Google doodles, which exemplifies Google’s quirky web nerd roots.

With a multitude of products available for your computer, your smartphone, your iPad/tablet, and now even your tv, Google is taking over–one free download at a time.

It’s hard not to notice when something changes in the Google stratosphere, whether it’s ‘instantizing’ the already instant with Google’s live search mode, or taking on another web giant at its own game (ahem, Skype) with Google Voice.

Indeed, the one blip on Google’s radar (besides China) would probably be social media. The multimedia giant has yet to stake its claim on the lucrative business of making the internet social.

Where Google Buzz failed to attract, well, buzz, Facebook and other socializing empires continue to rake in users, and revenue.

Cue the management change.

Media reports have it that Google, not wanting to be outdone by the likes of such Harvard snobbery (after all, both co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met in Stanford), is gearing up for a change in strategy that has co-founder Page stepping in for long-time CEO Eric Schmidt, who held the post since 2001.

While I think the reaction to the personnel change has been rather disproportional, I’ll admit that it appears that the decision is more than a game of musical chairs.

By appointing Page, (who is set to debut in his new role this coming April 4th) Google hopes to better marry its technological and business side. At first glance that doesn’t seem to point to social media, but then consider one of the most valuable (by speculation anyway) internet companies today, Facebook, and then the most popular cross-media ‘technology’ to emerge in years, Twitter, and you get one thing in common: social media.

And it’s important to point out that Schmidt hasn’t really been demoted, he will still serve as executive chairman, which seems to suggest more of a change in direction versus poor job performance.

So in closing, I leave you with the best headline I’ve found related to the Google change thus far, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal: “Google Turns the Page on Schmidt.”

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

December 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Move on over to irrelevancy, New York Times Co.

Well perhaps not to irrelevancy, but to the corner where all the other slightly less relevant companies sit.

That’s right fellow media junkies, NYT Co. is no longer a crown jewel of the S&P 500, which lists the top 500 American companies (though it’s not strictly a U.S. list as some multinational companies also make up the S&P). According to Mashable, the New York Times Co. is out and Netflix is in.

Netflix, the Blockbuster-esque company that first made strides with its video rental services via postal mail, has since expanded to the popular option of video-streaming which requires no red paper envelopes. Other video-streaming companies like Hulu are also cashing in on the convenience of the web.

The New York Times will now be on the S&P MidCap 400, which lists the median range of US stocks. It’s not the slums, but it’s not the elite either, and for a company that has built its reputation as the finest paper in the U.S., it’s a hard economic reality to swallow.

The Times is also set to unroll its paywall on its http://www.nytimes.com site sometime within the next few months. Forbes recently reported that the Times is serious about its paywall and is taking a Financial Times approach to the overhaul as opposed to WSJ’s porous wall where users can access articles for free via a quick google search.

I remember first reading about the Times paywall on its website last January with a bit of incredulousness. Even as someone who plans to go into the industry in the next couple of years, the idea of being charged for the NYTimes bothered me.

There’s no doubt that my life would be different as a j-school student if I didn’t have access to the Times. It was the first newspaper I started to follow on a consistent basis and it set off my growing love affair for print, which has since expanded to other major dailies. But as a college student, the idea of paying hundreds a year for a subscription really really hurts. It not only hurts, but I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ll be able to actually afford the Times.

I shiver in anticipation as I await for more details to roll out. But for now, I’m pretty much at the mercy of the Times. Their sweet, no-longer-free, high quality, journalistic mercy.

So, what say you, fellow blogosphere warriors–will you be shelling out some cash for the Times online? Do any of you subscribe to the Times in print and will you continue to do so?

The Daily Newspaper Minus the Print

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ahh, just what I wanted for Thanksgiving, a paper-less daily paper on my non-existent iPad.

Here’s the rundown on Rupert’s newest pet project:

Who: News Corp.’s “The Daily,” a staff of 100, and Mr. Murdoch.
What: A daily digitial newspaper available only from an iPad app.
When: Set to debut sometime in 2011.
Where: Available on iPads everywhere, for a price that is.
Why: Cha-Ching $

Like its namesake, The Daily will be published daily. Imagine a newspaper website, now imagine never being able to refresh it until the next day. The limitations don’t stop there; the staff of 100 is expected to churn out mostly original content, with some recycled bits of content and videos from News Corp. and Fox Sports. [Compare that to most large daily operations which feature at least a couple of hundred on staff.]

Staff highlights include the likes of Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, Steve Alperin of ABC, and Richard Johnson of Page Six fame. While I’m interested to see what this static, multimedia daily will look like, I’ll admit that I lack the capabilities to do so. The access cost, in this case, an iPad, is quite high–and that’s before I can even access the content via the application.

No need to fear, Murdoch expects half a million to snatch up the app [about 5 % of current tablet users according to the Times]–an ambitious feat, even for the media magnate.

But with tablets and smartphones representing a growing cash mine with users routinely spending on apps, it just might pay off.

Television Without the Box: Ads Galore

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

With Google TV and Apple already making their rounds on the online television circuit, a report from Turner Broadcasting that claims web viewers may be willing to watch even more ads online is drumming up support for television without the television.

The report found that online viewers may be willing to sit through ads comparable to that of current television ads (read: a half hour of NBC’s “Community” actually breaks down to a 23 minute episode with the remaining seven minutes left for 30 seconds+ ads).

Currently, Hulu viewers are accustomed to much less, watching that same 23 minute episode with four to five 15-30 seconds breaks–totaling a whopping minute and a half of ads. Viewers on Hulu also have the option of watching a minute-long trailer or long-form commercial first and bypass the 15-30 seconds breaks entirely for an uninterrupted viewing experience.

The plan? Pad online streams with so many ads that its simply television online. Really? Moving backwards much?

Granted that online viewing still has its limitations, the idea of online streams simply becoming jam-packed with ads will still not bode well with online viewers. The flexibility of the web is still hampered by traditional media, with some shows running on a delayed posting date in conjunction with broadcast agreements (e.g. popular shows like Fox’s “House” is posted 7 days after the original broadcast).

And we still haven’t seen anything comparable to a 6 o’clock news show online that doesn’t originate from a network. [And even so, how many times will you go online to watch Nightly News with Brian Williams the DAY AFTER the original broadcast? It’s old news made even older.]

But for now, it’s good news for those hoping to squeeze the nickels and dime out of online viewers, who, for the most part–don’t really pay attention to ads. At least I don’t. The best part of watching House online, even if it’s a week later, is being able to quickly toggle to my Facebook page while some Toyota ad blares on in the background. Is it just a case of the dollar-dime rule, this time applied to television and the web instead of print and the web?

Newsweek: The One That Got Away…

November 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Only to come back.

That’s right fellow media romantics, The Daily Beast‘s Tina Brown is at it again with  Newsweek Magazine.

The Daily Beast's Tina Brown.

After parting ways just last month, the Daily Beast is finally set to merge with Newsweek, making Brown editor-in-chief of not only her feisty web aggregator child, but also head honcho at the iconic and failing weekly magazine.

Newsweek's Sidney Harman

Brown confirmed the rumors on a column on the Daily Beast, which read: “Daily Beast, Newsweek To Wed!

It’s nice to see the two crazy kids finally get past their differences and just tie the media knot already, but in case you’re interested–here’s the nitty gritty of the new deal:

  • New company to be named “Newsweek Daily Beast Company”
  • Ownership will be split 50/50 by IAC’s Barry Diller (co-founder of the Beast in 2008) and Newsweek’s Sidney Harman.
  • No word yet on what the merger will mean for Newsweek and The Daily Beast as separate entities, although the Times is reporting that both “would retain their separate identities” (whatever that means).
  • Harman will finally get an editor-in-chief for the magazine with extensive print experience and an online following (Brown was former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.)
  • IAC and the Beast have the potential to see mega-profits with the redesign of an old print favorite.

Not to split hairs, but what exactly broke up the two anyway?

Well, apparently Harman felt like he was getting squeezed out of the company during deal talks. The 92-year-old audio pioneer, who purchased the company from the Washington Post Co. for $1 this past summer, absorbed the magazine’s $71 million debt and poised to turn around the failing weekly.

Only time will tell if these two can make it work. Here’s hoping that I won’t have to return that blender.

Joel Klein: A Lesson In Media Restructuring…Sort Of

November 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

Image: Daily News

Imagine my surprise when I received this text alert from the NYTimes today at 4:29 p.m.:

“Joel L. Klein, New York City Schools Chancellor, Will Step Down, Officials Say

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banked his current third term on an education overhaul and worked closely with Klein to secure mayoral control of the massive City school system.

Klein, who has served as chancellor for eight years, is most well known for putting an end to “rubber rooms,” which were seen as a costly band-aid for reprimanding teachers, as well as ending “social promotion,” while also controversially pushing for charter schools, testing, and his disdain for teacher unions.

So why ditch out now in the middle of Bloomberg’s term?

The Los Angeles Times reports that Klein is leaving his close partnership with New York’s most powerful billionaire politician (calculated net worth by Forbes: $18 billion) for another politically savvy New York billionaire with an Aussie flavor.

That’s right folks, Mr. Klein will be playing for Rupert Murdoch’s team now (Forbes net worth calculated at $6 billion) as executive VP of the Office of the Chairman of News Corp–a newly created post.

What’s an education bureaucrat to do in a mega media corporation like News Corp.?

One only needs to look at the Washington Post Co., which receives over half of its profits from Kaplan, the popular testing and test prep company.

In a statement, Murdoch commented on the decision to appoint Klein:

“His record of achievement leading one of the country’s toughest school systems has given him a unique perspective that will be particularly important as we look into a sector that has long been in need of innovation.”

News Corp. isn’t the only company to jump on the potentially lucrative education bandwagon. The New York Times public editor, Arthur Brisbane, recently elucidated on the Time’s Education Network in one of his Sunday columns.

As failing media companies look into creating alternate revenue streams, restructuring almost seems inevitable. The recent clash between Cablevision and Fox boiled down to News Corp’s heightened demands for retransmission fees and even the popular NYTimes.com is priming itself for a paywall in the near future.

The cherry on the media-education sundae?

Just ask Klein’s replacement, Cathleen Black, aka. Chairwoman of Hearst Magazines.

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