Friday, July 25

The “News” Math

What's the old saying? "Figures lie and liars figure"?

Did you see that the New York Times is raising the newsstand price of its paper, Monday-thru-Sunday, by a quarter to $1.50? A buck-and-a-half for a newspaper? Damn! There'd better be some terrific grocery store coupons inside. Maybe $1 off a pint of Ben & Jerry's. No? Oh, well.

How about the Wall Street Journal, raising newsstand prices by fifty cents to an even $2. Two bucks? I guess anyone who's anyone in high finance can afford it.

Math was never my best subject, so help me out if I get this wrong. The Times, when last I checked, had a daily circulation of about 1,100,000. So (forgetting about advertising) it will take in about $1,650,000 a day just from selling the paper.

The WSJ, with a readership of just over 2,000,000 will take in about $4 million a day from peddling papers.

The Journal seems to be holding its own in circulation. Times readership has dropped precipitously.

In newspapers in general we've seen dramatic drops in circulation—huge cutbacks in news staffs—shrinking page sizes (to save on costly newsprint)—and now big price increases as they try to stay afloat waiting for the "magic bullet" of Internet revenue to ride to the rescue.

I don't know. I haven't heard of any huge successes in Internet news delivery. I know people are spending big bucks trying to coax people to their web sites—but is anyone making big bucks yet?

If the New York Times circulation drops to, say, 700,000—will the Times start charging $2.25 for a paper? Won't that drive more readers away? When circulation is down to 500,000—will the paper got for $3.30?

I know, I know—think of all the cost savings when newspapers no longer have to have printing presses and delivery trucks. Maybe a staff of 1,000 of the best reporters, editors, photographers and layout people can produce the gol-durndest web-based New York Times ever!

Maybe they can sell off that fancy new office building in midtown and have everyone work from home via computer.

But how are they gonna make money from an on-line newspaper?

If you have an answer, send it to me wrapped in a $20 bill. Don't worry; I am, at least to my way of thinking, a tax-deductible charity.

Monday, July 21

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

This blog is more about reminiscing than about current events and commentary--but I can't resist this one.

It's an article in the Las Vegas Sun by Abigail Goldman.

Eye-opener with a pitch
TV news program tries product placement as revenue source

Oooooooh, they’re calling out your name.

Two cups of McDonald’s iced coffee (BUY!) sit on the Fox 5 TV news desk, a punch-you-in-the-face product placement (BUY!) to chase down your morning news.

They’ve been on the Las Vegas station set for about two weeks, following the lead of a few TV stations across the country, and they’re still looking every bit as frosty and tantalizing (BUY!) as they were the first day you laid your eyes on them.

But wait, here’s the best part: They’re not real. Fake coffee on the real news, two plastic cups permanently filled with some kind of bogus drink. The anchors aren’t even supposed to acknowledge them, McDonald’s reps explain. That’s part of their genius, my little lambs! They get into your mind without you knowing it. So they just sit there, two logo-emblazoned plastic cups, percolating into the psyche. Made-to-scale models that weigh something like seven pounds each — refreshing, and bottom-line boosting!

Fox is starting its day with a “nontraditional revenue source,” KVVU news director Adam P. Bradshaw says.

The station and McDonald’s won’t disclose how much the fast food empire paid for the product placement. But lest there be any concerns about mixing fact (the morning news) with fiction (fake coffee), he points out that the cups are put out only after 7 a.m., when the hard news gives way to light lifestyle news.

“I stress the fact that it is being done on a program that is a combination of news entertainment and lifestyle programming,” Bradshaw says.

And if there’s ever an E. coli outbreak beneath a certain set of golden arches, he says, KVVU will report the daylights out of it, gosh darn it.

Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader for Poynter Institute, the nonprofit journalism training organization, isn’t convinced. Product placement in a newsroom, she worries, represents the “slippage” of news into advertisement, a descent into a dark world where conglomerate companies control coverage.

If so, the slippage is also occurring at stations in Chicago, Seattle and New York.

And when Las Vegas is done suffering this dry-your-eyeballs-out-of-their-sockets summer heat, Bradshaw says KVVU might switch to ceramic mugs with massive McLogos filled with fake black gold McDonald’s coffee. (BUY!)


I tell you, friends, I didn't leave television: television left me. I'm so glad I no longer have to try to explain to the higher-ups that anything that makes it look as if we're in bed with a sponsor damages our credibility, and credibility is all we newspeople have to sell.

"Non-traditional revenue sources?" Sounds to me like BJs for bucks, the oldest "revenue source" in history.

Don't get me wrong. I ain't no saint (hey, it rhymes!). In my last (and I do mean last) ND job, I fought in vain against having the "news ticker" along the bottom sponsored. It came down to make more money, or have fewer people. I had already trimmed fat, gristle and bone from the news budget, what's a little blood donation if it keeps blood off the floor? So I rationalized it all by saying I was looking 0ut for my people. Shame on me!