Tag Archives: publishing

Who will buy the Boston Globe?

By Christopher B. Daly 

imgresThe Boston Globe carries a story today about the impending sale of the newspaper by its owner of the past two decades — the NYTimes Co. Bids are due by June 27. As a regular reader, I hope, of course, that the new owners will be very, very rich people with very, very high standards of journalistic integrity. I hope they will be innovators who have a clue about how to make a business out of quality journalism. I also hope they really care about Boston and New England. I hope they have the nerve to stand up to people like Whitey Bulger (and Billy Bulger, for that matter) and an appreciation for why this is a special place. (Yes, every place is special, but I am looking for someone who gets the particular special-ness of this particular place; in other words, no Sam Zells, please.) I hope they have wit, and style, and grace.

Know anyone?

2 Comments

Filed under Journalism, New York Times, Uncategorized

Readers to the rescue! NYTimes gains in circulation

By Christopher B. Daly 

Yes, the New York Times company reported a sharp drop in earnings this week.

Yes, the figures for advertising revenue were wretched and getting worse.

BUT, buried in the financial details, there is some potentially important good news: Money coming in from circulation is rising. In fact, it rose 6.5% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter a year ago. Therein may lie the salvation of the most important news organization in the country.

The reason is that “circulation revenue” is all the money coming in from the subscriptions to the traditional print edition, the dollars paid by folks picking up a copy of the Times at newsstands, and — most important of all — the money coming in from digital subscribers who bumped into the Times “paywall” and decided to pony up and pay for full access to the Times online. They are important because they are the future. In the digital era, the key metric is whether you can make money online. Historically, newspapers depended on a “dual revenue stream” of money coming from both circulation and advertising. For more than a century, both sources increased, and they fluctuated around a ratio of 50/50 in terms of total revenues.

If the Times can continue to gain readers who will pay, then there is no reason it could not sustain itself mainly on the basis of its own readers — who are, ultimately, a better base for journalism than advertisers. Thank you, Tiffany and Bloomingdales, and may your ad spending continue. But ultimately, the Times might be better off if it were funded like the old PM newspaper, or I.F. Stone’s Weekly, or NPR, or the AP or other news organizations that do not depend on advertising.

According to the latest figures, readers now account for a majority of the Times revenues.

Here’s a chart from the company’s press release.


First Quarter
2013 2012 % Change
Revenues
Circulation $ 241,789 $ 226,994 6.5 %
Advertising 191,167 215,234 -11.2 %
Other(a) 32,977 33,204 -0.7 %
Total revenues 465,933 475,432 -2.0 %

When I looked at the numbers more closely, here’s what I found on a percentage basis:

First quarter

[                                 2013               2012

Revenues

Circulation             51.8%          47.7%

Advertising            41.0%          45.2%

Other                          7.1%             6.9%

So, it appears that “the people formerly known as the audience” are pointing the ( or a?) way forward.

Readers to the rescue!

chart

This chart (which I customized using a tool on the NYTCo corporate site) shows how the NYTCo stock has performed in the last six months, compared to the Dow Jones average, which has been on a tear. 

Leave a comment

Filed under business, Journalism, journalism history, New York Times, Uncategorized

Be you.com (but don’t expect you book publisher to help much)

By Christopher B. Daly 

The Monday Times round-up:

There are two interesting pieces about the media businesses, but they appear in different sections and were probably not planned as a package. Nevertheless, these two articles are more informative if read together.

First, I recommend David Carr’s celebration of the business acumen of the recently departed film critic Roger Ebert. Carr points out that Ebert consistently experimented with new outlets for his work and did not shy away from new technologies. In the process, he became a brand name and added to our vocabulary. (Whether he really elevated film criticism is another question)

Extra credit: Carr discovered (remembered?) that Ebert played a key role in the success of another media entrepreneur — Oprah Winfrey. As I explain in my recent book Covering America (p 424 in the print edition), it was Ebert who opened Oprah’s eyes to the power of owning a stake in your own brand. Taking his advice, Oprah went from being a media employee to being a media mogul.

Ebert and Winfrey even dated for a while in Chicago.

Ebert and Winfrey even dated for a while in Chicago.

All that said, Carr’s column should be read in conjunction with an op-ed by the famous (and wealthy) lawyer, legal novelist, and president of the Authors Guild, Scott Turow. In his op-ed, Turow documents the many ways in which publishers and book-sellers worldwide are turning their ingenuity to finding ways to NOT PAY WRITERS. This is a very bad thing, under any circumstances and in any medium. It also undermines the effort of every writer, like Roger Ebert, who wants to escape the hamster wheel of working for someone else and to live independently on the earnings from their own writing (or painting, or photography, or film-making or any creative venture).

Quoting Turow:

And there are many e-books on which authors and publishers, big and small, earn nothing at all. Numerous pirate sites, supported by advertising or subscription fees, have grown up offshore, offering new and old e-books free.

The pirates would be a limited menace were it not for search engines that point users to these rogue sites with no fear of legal consequence, thanks to a provision inserted into the 1998 copyright laws. A search for “Scott Turow free e-books” brought up 10 pirate sites out of the first 10 results on Yahoo, 8 of 8 on Bing and 6 of 10 on Google, with paid ads decorating the margins of all three pages.

If I stood on a corner telling people who asked where they could buy stolen goods and collected a small fee for it, I’d be on my way to jail. And yet even while search engines sail under mottos like “Don’t be evil,” they do the same thing.

Yikes. Someone should get him a lawyer!

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, publishing

Times’ paywall is paying very well

By Christopher B. Daly

Buried in the business section of today’s New York Times is a story with some very encouraging news about the future of quality journalism. The story concerns the New York Times Company itself. There’s a lot of noise in there about the sales of assets such as About.com. There’s also the usual gloomy news about the continuing declines in print advertising (down 5.6 percent).

But there are also two positive signals in all the details:

1. Digital advertising revenues rose 5.1 percent. That’s the money the Times makes from selling the electronic ads that appear in the online version. They are rising from a small base, to be sure, but they represent the ad dollars of the future.

2. The biggest good news: revenue from circulation grew 16.1 percent. In other words, the Times‘ paywall is paying very well. I would say this story “buried the lead” — because this is the biggest news in a while. The increase in circulation revenue is certainly not coming from a surge in subscriptions to the old-fashioned print version of the paper; nor is it from an upswing in newstand sales. It is coming from people who bump into the Times‘ online “paywall” and decide that it’s worth paying for the Times‘ content online. That may well turn out to be the paper’s salvation: the readers.

Here’s an excerpt from the NYTCo official earnings statement:

Paid subscribers to The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune digital subscription packages, e-readers and replica editions totaled approximately 640,000 as of the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, an increase of approximately 13 percent since the end of the third quarter of 2012.

That’s impressive. Readers in those numbers (plus some more, of course) could carry the paper into the digital future.

Can a restored dividend be far behind?

 

Here’s a chart of the company’s stock performance. NYTCo stock is up today, but it has a long way to go to get back to the glory days of a decade ago.

NYTCo stock

NYTCo stock

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, New York Times, publishing

Book notes

By Christopher B. Daly

A couple of updates from the world of letters:

–My B.U. colleague Amy Sutherland has a Q+A with the estimable Tracy Kidder in the Boston Globe. A brief highlight:

BOOKS: Anything else you avoid?

KIDDER: Most biographies are too long. But I loved “King Leopold’s Ghost” by Adam Hochschild. I don’t want to read any more memoirs about dysfunctional families. I don’t think it’s a form that should be condemmed. It’s just there’s been a surfeit of it.

I certainly agree with his point about biographies: they have become so vast that they are approaching the point where they are both un-readable and un-writable. There are a number of biographies I’d like to read and a handful I’d like to write, but the prospect of either is daunting. Bring back the short biography!

–My friend Amy Wilentz will be speaking this Friday at the Harvard Bookstore at 7 p.m. aboutWilentzAmy_creditPaulaGoldmanher new book on Haiti, which has been getting great reviews. Come if you can.

 

 

–I found this review in today’s NYTimes irritating. What bothers me is the premise that Adam Begley brought to his reading of a new history of Venice by Thomas F. Madden, titled Sunken Treasure. The reviewer takes the author to task for writing a book of history that tackles a great subject, synthesizes a tremendous amount of material, and writes a readable version for intelligent general readers. Where’s the harm?

But if it’s new, it’s not innovative. Madden has written a conventional narrative history, sweeping in scope and calmly, blandly authoritative. Though he’s a professional historian who teaches at St. Louis University, he seems more proud of his storytelling than his scholarship.

That view is what drives the mania among academic historians for writing books with novel arguments on arcane subjects. Later in the review, Begley calls Madden a “breezy, cheerful, evenhanded” debunker of myths. Begley begrudgingly allows that the last general history of Venice was written a generation ago, and that book dropped the tale in 1797. Madden has tapped newer research, brought the story up to the present, and done so in an engaging way. Why is that not enough?

Painting by Gentile Bellini/Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice (1496; detail)/Photographed by Erich Lessing, Art Resource, NY

Painting by Gentile Bellini/Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice (1496; detail)/Photographed by Erich Lessing, Art Resource, NY

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

E-books

By Chris Daly

In the letters to the Times today about ebooks and the future of publishing, I am struck trying to figure out the answer to this question:

In all this upheaval, who is on the side of writers? (without whom, need it be said, there would be no books, in any format)

It feels kinda lonely here in the writer’s corner.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under publishing

Another one bites the dust

By Chris Daly

This is not another nostalgic piece about the demise of Filene’s Basement, prompted by today’s stories about the closing of the “legendary” discount retailer. (Fact is: I never really liked the place that much; in order to take full advantage of Filene’s Basement, you had to go there a lot, and I hate shopping, so it was not for me.) For people who care about the news business, the thorn on this withered rose is that there goes another source of display advertising for Boston-area newspapers.

When I was a kid delivering those newspapers in the 1960s, Filene’s department store (and not just the basement) did battle with Jordan Marsh from their proud flagship stores facing each other across Summer Street, and they competed with a slew of other department stores as well, including Gilchrist’s and some others I have forgotten. Back then, when those stores had “white sales” or wanted to tout their new fall fashions, or get ride of some extra mattresses, they took full-page ads in the big dailies.

Now, the area known as Downtown Crossing is literally a hole in the ground, from which no advertising dollars escape.

 

 

 

 

 

This is part of the reason that the Globe and the Herald are shells of their former selves. One of their most important revenue streams simply dried up — and shows no signs of ever gushing again.

Footnote: a whimper-out to Globe staff photographer Suzanne Kreiter for having her photo chosen to illustrate today’s story. The last-century photo dates from the heyday: 1988.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Boston, business, Journalism, journalism history, publishing