Google to Buy The New York Times?

From this Mark Bowden article about Arthur Sulzberger Jr this quotation:

Among the other prospective buyers whose names have surfaced in the press are Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York; Google; and even, perish the thought, the press baron Rupert Murdoch, whose Wall Street Journal has emerged as journalistic competition for the Times in a way it never was before.

I keep harping on this, but I really don’t see how newspaper’s survive without coming up with a new model. One such model could be finding a corporate patron, like, uh… Google.tra

Google to Buy The New York Times?

Al Gore at the Wang Center Boston

The second event of the 2009 Speaker Series: Live & Uncensored featuring former Vice President Al Gore in conversation with Boston Globe reporter Susan Milligan at the Wang Center was uneventful throughout most of the evening until Miligan became stuck on several questions regarding the (self) importance and likely downfall of newspapers in their current form. While this diversion didn’t diminish the entire evening, it struck me as odd and uncalled for. (I wasn’t able to Twitter this event, so quotations will be even more paraphrased than usual as I was taking notes with a Sharpie, on the back of an envelope, in the dark, in my terrible handwriting.)

Al Gore was introduced by Boston Phoenix Founder and Publisher Stephen Mindich, who called him ‘The truly elected President in the 2000 election’ and asked the audience to imagine what might have been had Gore been allowed to serve. Gore who went to college in Boston began his remarks by praising the Wang Center and saying, “They just don’t build them like this anymore.” From this, he launched into a quasi stand-up routine telling multiple jokes about his time after the White House. This wasn’t the boring Al Gore described by the media in the 2000 election.

He was funny, knowledgeable, and informative and spoke for about 25 minutes, giving example after example of how the climate crisis plus the economic crisis have lead directly to the security crisis. And how all 3 can be mitigated by beginning to address energy issues. Gore restated his goal of 100% renewable energy in the US in 10 years and said, “I need your help…This is your challenge…Political will is a renewable resource.” I cynically wondered if Gore’s humor and deliberate speaking style wasn’t a reaction to years of being stung by the media as boring, wooden, and a serial exaggerator and then I chastised my cynical self for being a jerk.

It should have been clear from the first question which direction the night was headed, but I say that with the benefit of hindsight because at that point, Miligan hadn’t begun to lose the crowd. The question was some version of “Have you been able to change more because you didn’t become President.” Gore amicably spoke for a few minutes, essentially answering, “Uh, no, President would have been better.”

Regarding nuclear power, Gore says he remains skeptical, but not reflexively opposed and said his concern stems from the fact that rogue weapons programs typically grow out of legitimate nuclear power programs. On whether going green is a luxury, Gore’s first sentence was about the need for jobs channeling Van Jones, but stopping short of saying we can’t afford NOT to go green.

It was at this point, in my mind, that Miligan began getting squirrely, asking a question about bailing out the auto industry with so much unbridled disdain that Gore began his answer, “If I had known this was a touchy subject.” This setting off a sputtering denial of bitterness in which Miligan used the word bitter a bitter 12 dozen times. The entire time, neither Gore nor Miligan noted the irony of castigating the autos while ignoring the bank bailouts (both of whom, it could be argued, have suffered from an enormous lack of personal responsibility).

Gore answered a question on whether lack of personal responsibility is more to blame than deregulation by connecting Democracy and capitalism since their birth in the same year of 1776. Gore said, “I like the market, but we have a right to make laws.”

When asking Gore’s opinion on Obama, Miligan quipped “Careful, he might fire you like he did Rick Wagoner.” (I think this was supposed to be a dig at Obama overreaching, but it was confused by Miligan’s earlier attacks about the auto industry, making Miligan seem willing to attack everybody). Gore said, “Well, he can’t fire me” and “I think he’s doing a great job.”

Miligan then asked Gore, a former journalist himself, his opinion on the crisis facing newspapers around the country. Gore’s answer appeared to be that Americans are watching too much TV with time they used to spend reading the newspaper. And then there was a follow up. And then another. And then an attack on ‘the blogs’ and their veracity, and their lack of posting corrections, which is about the time my eyes filled with a white light and my ears a rushing noise. And I can’t obviously connect the theme of the talk to this, but about 10 minutes before the evenings abrupt end and 10 minutes after Miligan’s self-important rant, people started leaving in 2s and 3s until entire rows were pocked with empty seats.

One question from one reporter to a man who could have been President (but also a former reporter) strikes me as relevant and Gore’s head is stuffed full of interesting examples of successes on the internet, but Miligan broke the first rule of interviewing (and giving toasts, incidentally) in that she made the interview about her. Instead of Bostonians filing out of the Wang enthusiastic about making a difference on climate change, they ambled out listlessly wondering who they had paid to see. It was similar to Ann Coulter vs Bill Maher when hecklers attempted to interrupt the evening in a ‘look-at-me’ bid for attention, except tonight it was Susan Miligan attempting to curry pity and Al Gore was too polite to tell her off. This is the second bad moderator in a row for the speaker series, and I hope Charlie Rose is better for Karl Rove vs James Carville.

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Al Gore at the Wang Center Boston

The New York Times Kills Itself and Bacon Meme at Same Time

A couple weeks ago, The New York Times wisely introduced Article Skimmer as an additional way for readers to interact with the news. It’s fast, intuitive, and easy to use. I put this in the solidly innovative column that I’ve seen a bunch of from the Times over the last year or so.

But then let me introduce Skimmer’s Bacon topic. I’ve been trying to think of a way to kill the bacon meme since January or so, but the New York Times just did it for me. I’m tired of the internet that allows lazy marketers to layer whatever they want with bacon and score cheap internet traffic. That’s not an internet I want to live in, and I don’t think that’s the internet you want either.

I can’t help but think the bacon topic is aimed at this cheap internet traffic and by catering to it, the New York Times has debased itself. Who do they think they are, really? They could have maintained their stodgy standoffishness, but by rolling around the mud with the pigs…well, let’s just say that ‘arbiter of cool’ The New York Times is not. To say nothing of the fact that if you’re a meme, and people send around links about you, and then everyone on the internet is talking about you, and then The Paper of Record talks about you, you’re not a meme anymore. You’ve baconed the Times or some other cute play on jumping the shark. It should be noted for the record that, for the sake of my argument, I’ve ignored the likely scenario that the Topics on Skimmer are automatically created based on what the readers are searching for and reading. If that’s not how Topics get created, well that’s just sad. (Thanks, Aaron!)

Click image to enlarge.
ny-times-skimmer-bacon

The New York Times Kills Itself and Bacon Meme at Same Time

Some Hope For Media?

A reader of Talking Points Memo writes in to suggest there may be hope yet for struggling newspapers. Essentially, quite a few of the troubled newspapers operate profitably, just not profitably enough to cover the interest payments of these over-leveraged corporations.

So, these bankruptcies may in the medium to long run be good for journalism (in the traditional sense). Assuming the new owners emerge from bankruptcy with limited debt, the papers have many positive attributes upon which to earn a reasonable profit while building new sources of revenue. They have an unparalleled local focus and understanding, they are the most efficient vehicle for several categories of advertising, and they have significant advertising sales forces that can be re-focused on lines of business that can sustain the papers over the long haul. This is particularly true if the surviving owners are people who believe in the public trust mission of their papers and news-oriented web channels.

Also, in an interview with Michael Lewis in The Atlantic, we learn that Lewis isn’t concerned about the magazine industry.

Well it makes it a little hard for me to prophesize doom. And I hate spinning theories to which I’m an exception. So my sense is, there’ll always be a hunger for long-form journalism, and that it’s just a question of how it’s packaged. And that people will always figure out how to make it sort of viable. It’s never going to be a hugely profitable business: it’s more like the movie business or the car business in that there are all sorts of good non-economic reasons to be involved in it. The economic returns will always probably be driven down by too many people wanting to be in it.

But I don’t feel gloomy about the magazine business at all.

Some Hope For Media?