Posts Tagged ‘the New York Times’

 

The TV Model Is Broken

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

I love television. I’m a student of the media. It was incredibly important in shaping who I’ve become.

TV’s model is broken.

There were seven channels in NYC when I grew up. Most cities had less.

No remote control. No DVR or VCR. You watched it when it aired. If two shows you wanted to see aired simultaneously–tough.

In 1960, Gunsmoke finished the season in first place:

1 Gunsmoke CBS 40.3 rating 65 share

That’s 40% of all homes and 65% of those homes where the TV was turned on!

Last week’s number one entertainment show was “Big Bang Theory.” It had a 5.1 rating.

In those more innocent days you had to be careful not to get hit by the falling bags of money! Not today.

Before WTNH was sold in 1985, Geraldine Fabrikant wrote this in the New York Times:

The jewel in the ABC-Capital Cities package is WTNH-TV, the Capital Cities station affiliated with ABC, that covers the New Haven and Hartford markets. Its 1984 net revenue was $24.9 million, and operating income was $14.6 million. That meant operating profit margins of 58 percent. During the past five years, the margin has never been lower than 58 percent, and it has been as high as 62 percent.

They took in $25 million at 8 Elm Street for an operation that cost $10 million to run!

Those days are long gone. Though the broadcast networks and their affiliates are still the dominant force, their audience is a fraction of what it was.

Technology has been the difference. The pie has been sliced into many more smaller pieces.

Whether they take advantage or not, most people are currently equipped to see shows without benefit of television. We’ve got computers and tablets and smartphones and they’re all very capable of video playback.

I knew Saturday Night Live was going to be good last night because I read tweets from the East Coast. Why did I have to wait to see the show? Only because it breaks television’s business model!

The same with this afternoon’s Cowboys/Redskins game. It wasn’t on in SoCal. I wanted to see it and did… don’t ask. Free and easy access to all the games breaks television’s business model.

We need local TV. We need local news and other local programming (scant as it is), but won’t have it for long unless TV stations find a new business model.

I can see a future where shows will stand on their own without a station or network. Netflix productions are a step in that direction, but why do you even need Netflix?

TV’s current model is broken. The more viewers realize it, the harder it will be to hold back the tide.

You’re Nobody If You Don’t Die In The Times

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I read the obituaries in the New York Times nearly every day. Unlike a local paper the Times is geographically agnostic with obits reserved solely for the accomplished. The Times obituaries introduce me to lots of people who weren’t necessarily famous–like Dr. Allan Sandage. He died this past weekend.

Dr. Sandage was an accomplished astronomer who spent the bulk of his adult life trying to ascertain the value of the Hubble constant. This single number allows astronomers to estimate the age of the universe. He was a prolific author with over 500 scholarly papers published under his name.

That’s not why I’m writing this!

What I like best about Allan Sandage is summed up in this one sentence from Times writer Dennis Overbye’s masterfully poignant obituary:

Dr. Sandage was a man of towering passions and many moods, and for years, you weren’t anybody in astronomy if he had not stopped speaking to you.

Wow. I feel sorry he didn’t stick around long enough to read that. He probably would have agreed. It’s a helluva way to be remembered.

The New York Subway System: 660 Miles, 468 Stations, 106 Years

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I got hooked on the New York City subway system as a kid. Not sure why. Still strangely attracted to it. It is my favored mode of transport while in the city.

This week to mark the 106th anniversary (some parts of the subway look every bit that old) the New York Times has published two photo essays under the heading “660 Miles, 468 Stations, 106 Years.” One is a contemporary view of the system, the other a timeline from day one.

I love this stuff.

Four Words About Cyndi Lauper I Never Thought I’d See

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

I get the New York Times thrown on my doorstep every day. It’s one of life’s finer luxuries–I understand. Most of what’s in the paper is also online though there are some differences.

For instance, online right now there is a story in the Metro section about Cyndi Lauper and her 12 year old son. The headline reads:

Just Wanna Have (Family-Friendly) Fun

What you missed is the headline in the print edition:

Cyndi Lauper, hockey mom, still having fun.

Cyndi Lauper, hockey mom?

Really?

Four words about Cyndi Lauper I never thought I’d see. Four words that mark the end of society as we know it.

Is Buck Hollywood Proof Of My Hipness?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Michael Buckley was in the station this afternoon. Until recently he was a worker bee for Live Nation the concert promoter. No more. Michael Buckley is Buck Hollywood.

Seriously, you don’t know Buck Hollywood? What are you, my age?

Here’s what the New York Times said:

Mr. Buckley, 33, was the part-time host of a weekly show on a Connecticut public access channel in the summer of 2006 when his cousin started posting snippets of the show on YouTube. The comical rants about celebrities attracted online viewers, and before long Mr. Buckley was tailoring his segments, called “What the Buck?” for the Web. Mr. Buckley knew that the show was “only going to go so far on public access.”

“But on YouTube,” he said, “I’ve had 100 million views. It’s crazy.”

All he needed was a $2,000 Canon camera, a $6 piece of fabric for a backdrop and a pair of work lights from Home Depot. Mr. Buckley is an example of the Internet’s democratizing effect on publishing. Sites like YouTube allow anyone with a high-speed connection to find a fan following, simply by posting material and promoting it online.

Of course The New York Times only counts so much. My 22 year old daughter is probably a better authority. She went slightly delirious and totally breathless when Michael sent me a message via Twitter. I have 806 followers. He has (seriously–no BS) 478,829!

There is no secret recipe to what Michael does in front of the camera. He is just a more frenetic, more amplified, more flamboyant version of himself. Think ‘reducing’ a gravy to enhance its flavor. In online video that really works!

Michael Buckley’s product is Michael Buckley, though a more concentrated version than you’ll meet in real life.

We, the denizens of a rapidly shrinking TV universe, marvel at his ability to make a living without worrying about whatever the boss is worrying about.

I think he looks at me as a historical artifact of television. I see him as the future of video. We’re both happily impressed.

Photo by Bill Koczocik

Rupert Murdoch From Both Sides Of His Mouth

Friday, October 9th, 2009

My friend Farrell forwarded an article from Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News:

Rupert Murdoch has warned internet search engines the time has come for them to pay for news content.

The News Corp chief executive said sites such as Google and Yahoo, which take content from a range of sources, would soon be charged for the service.

This is totally within Murdoch’s right and if he wants to put his content behind a paywall he should. The New York Times used to do this with much of their exclusive content, like columnists, but later relented.

If taken at his word, Murdoch could implement a change to cut off search engines now.

To stop search engines from indexing your site you simply add a tiny text file to the root directory. It’s beyond simple and can be totally accomplished with one line of code. The Journal, or any news site, could do that in a few minutes.

Not only is that not what Murdoch’s doing–he is doing the opposite!

If you go to the Wall Street Journal site you’ll find many (not all) stories run for a few paragraphs and then stop with “…” Here’s an example I found in a link from the Journal’s home page:

As of July, nearly 90% of U.S. households paid for television either from cable, satellite or phone companies rather …

It’s obvious the story continues, but it only continues for subscribers.

However, if you enter that same sentence fragment into Google you get a link to the full Journal story!

As of July, nearly 90% of U.S. households paid for television either from cable, satellite or phone companies rather than getting it free from broadcast stations, according to Nielsen.

The Google link and the direct link from WSJ’s home page produce the same URL link. I believe WSJ’s website is configured to deliver the full content when the referrer is Google or Yahoo!, etc.¹

The URL for the Sky News story I quoted at the beginning of this post is optimized to make it more visible to search engines. Many of the story’s key words are embedded in it: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/News-Corp-Chief-Executive-Rupert-Murdoch-Tells-World-Media-Summit-Search-Engines-Must-Pay-For-News/Article/200910215402865?lpos=Business_First_Buisness_Article_Teaser_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_15402865_News_Corp_Chief_Executive_Rupert_Murdoch_Tells_World_Media_Summit_Search_Engines_Must_Pay_For_News_.

The Journal and Sky probably do this because search engines drive traffic to their sites. Without the search engines wsj.com and sky.com would see a lot fewer hits. They are making money from those hits–though certainly not as much as they want nor probably not enough to survive in their current business model.

Murdoch blames the search engines, but the truth is the entire business model for advertiser supported information is broken. The type of journalism the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other ‘classic’ news sources provide is dependent on selling high cost advertising.

Unfortunately, the same eyeball on the net is worth a lot less than in the paper or on TV. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The Internet has opened up the supply so there’s nearly an infinite number of places to run your ad.

Murdoch will grouse and yell and flail like the bully he’s always been–but he’s screwed and he knows it. He’s not in that boat alone. Mass media as we know it is terribly ill.

¹ – My research on this is less than voluminous. How they do it isn’t as important as the fact they do it.

My Life As A Web Designer

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I’ve been working on-and-off on a website showcasing Roxie. In case you didn’t notice she photographs well.

Stef took a look at my work today and said it looked awful. She was right. She was brutally honest. Maybe just plain honest would have been enough.

I started fooling around again with the ‘skinning’ of the site. Most websites separate content from layout. As you redesign you keep the words and just change how they’re displayed.

This time I showed Helaine.

“Too sterile.” Not her exact words, but close.

More playing will follow. Designing websites is fun for me, but not without obvious artistic challenges. How do you find the right mix of open space/images/text? How do you make a static webpage look like fun at first sight? How do you hide the fact that the web demands rectangular layouts?

Stef also asked why I was doing this in the first place? I think money can be made on blogs—though surely not this one you’re reading which grossed $1.04 so far today (an exceptionally good day judging by recent history).

Maybe a sharply focused, dog oriented blog is worth something if it can attract a crowd? And, of course, you don’t have to strike it rich with one blog when you can easily run many.

From The New York Times: Lisa Sugar began blogging about celebrity gossip in her spare time four years ago. Now she and her husband, Brian, have a little media empire called, sensibly enough, Sugar Inc., with 12 blogs, 11 million readers a month and advertisers like Chanel and Sony.

The dream of quitting the day job and making a living from blog revenue has proved to be far-fetched for most bloggers. But a few entrepreneurs, like the Sugars, have found success in blog networks.

For every success story like the Sugar’s there are thousands of geoffffox.com-like sites with limited reach and earnings potential. How can you know which you are if you don’t try?

The Times Dodges My Cancellation Bullet Again

Friday, May 29th, 2009

nytlogo379x64.gifI am slutty for The New York Times. I can’t say whether it’s gotten better or worse with time. Today it’s the finest newspaper in the United States. No one comes close.

The writing is pretty good and no one matches the breadth or depth of coverage. Their reporter’s byline is on a story I’m reading about troubles at Petrobras, Brazil’s oil company. The story is datelined “Rio De Janeiro.”

I get the Times delivered at home. I’ve thought about canceling. It’s not cheap. It is a luxury–I recognize that. I can get it all online and faster.

The Brazil story is part of the reason I stay.

Online you find stories based on your interest. In print you often stumble upon stories by accident because you’re limited to exploring the paper in a linear fashion, page-by-page.

Print will die some day. When it does those paper induced accidental finds will disappear. Sad.

We Need Less Credit

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I’m in a pissy mood tonight, so let me vent about another thorn in my side. Have you read the threats from the credit card industry? That’s what they are–threats. They don’t like the recently passed credit card legislation and are throwing a financial hissy fit.

From The New York Times: “Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.

“It will be a different business,” said Edward L. Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association, which has been lobbying Congress for more lenient legislation on behalf of the nation’s biggest banks. “Those that manage their credit well will in some degree subsidize those that have credit problems.””

Yeah–take that consumers! They threaten to raise fees and cut accounts. Shhh… they are speaking like a monolith and forgetting there is (supposed to be) competition.

OK, here’s the deal. When folks pay a significant portion of their weekly income in interest and fees as opposed to using it for things they might actually need, we’re all getting screwed.

Some credit for durable goods purchases makes sense. Car loans and mortgages seem like reasonable uses. Unfortunately, when you buy a meal or DVD or pants and end up paying and paying and paying no one except the bankers benefit.

Though it will be a temporary inconvenience, we need less easy access to expensive credit, not more. We need more money spent going toward paying for things, not paying for fees and interest.

Addendum: Ron Lieber writing in Wednesday’s Times agrees with me competition will keep banks from raising fees

Guest Blogger–My Friend Peter

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I just got an email from my friend Peter Mokover on the Jersey Shore. “If I had a blog” he began, He doesn’t have a blog. Actually today he does–mine.

Over the past several months I´ve read or heard interviews of several leading broadcast journalists in which they expressed their concern about how more and more people are getting their “news” from bloggers on the Internet and late night comedy shows. I share that concern. The majority of bloggers have limited journalistic skill. Late night hosts are comedians not journalists. None of them are The New York Times, NBC or CNN.

Then I watched John Stewart interview Jim Cramer tonight (and several other pieces Stewart has done recently) and I wondered: why didn´t one of the network news shows do this? Why didn´t CNN do this? Stewart put them to shame. So much for their journalistic skill.

PM

Peter has a point… and then again he doesn’t. Though Stewart takes on the media, he does it on the cheap. In fact it’s The New York Times, NBC, CNN and the rest that pay for The Daily Show’s coverage. They send reporters to the field and buy cameras and satellite trucks.

And, of course, The Daily Show isn’t answerable, so they can call someone a douche (or other term). I’m not sure how that would play in news.

Where Peter is totally correct is that mainstream media often take those in power at their word. That is a shame. I suspect it might get worse with newspapers dying and TV stations retrenching.