All About About

The New York Times’s quarterly earnings report offers a lens into that company’s transition from print to online revenues, and its attempts to charge for at least some online access. Online revenues rose 22 percent and, though still presumably a fraction of overall revenues, they seem to be the sugar that sweetens the company’s cup. Online revenues are not separately accounted except for Quoting now from the release:

” … advertising revenues for the Company’s business units increased 3.4% … Excluding, which was acquired in March 2005, advertising revenues decreased 0.3%.”

Separately the Times said it has 410,00 Times Select subscribers. Paid Content, which called the Times earnings to my attention, noted that

“about 62 percent get the service as part of their print subscription and about 38 percent are online only. No mention of whether any of the new subs are half-price academic sign-ups.”

Doom, Gloom & College:Reader Andi Silver recently pointed me to a hilarious essay entitled “Are Newspapers Doomed ?” This would not automatically be funny to moi, who derives both sustenance and satisfication from a major metro that has, to put it mildly, seen better days. Chalk it up to the skill of writer Joseph Epstein and the editors of Commentary magazine for serving up a dish that me laughing even as it suggested my goose is cooked.

Consider, for instance, this following line that Epstein tosses off while explaining why he considers today’s newspapers irrelevant as compared to legendary opinion leaders of the past such as Walter Lippmann:

“I almost never read the editorials, following the advice of the journalist Jack Germond who once compared the writing of a newspaper editorial to wetting oneself in a dark-blue serge suit: “It gives you a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices.”

But the point of the essay, so far as I could distill it in a sentence, is that newspaper journalism has become a leak-driven process of fault-finding that presumes the Fourth Estate is there to wag the finger at the naughty. Journalism, he says, has become politicized and Epstein knows where to affix the blame, as he writes:

“The politicization of contemporary journalists surely has a lot to do with the fact that almost all of them today are university-trained. In Newspaper Days, H.L. Mencken recounts that in 1898, at the age of eighteen, he had a choice of going to college, there to be taught by German professors and on weekends to sit in a raccoon coat watching football games, or of getting a job on a newspaper, which would allow him to zip off to fires, whorehouse raids, executions, and other such festivities.”

This thought has been stewing in my head for weeks. I’m not sure whether I entirely agree or what I should do. Burn my degrees? But I will think on this some more in future entries. Meanwhile, read Epstein yourself.

In case you wondered: Poynter commentator Chip Scanlon has a piece entitled “Why I Blog,” that has some interesting and prescriptive tips, once you get past what I considered to be the navel-gazing up top. There is a recipe that is fun and which I clipped out and pasted to my computer. Satisfaction is the prime ingredient — it sure ain’t the money!

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media