So Eddy has made some moves on the business side.
And then there’s the new Zetabid to sell distressed properties. It was obviously in the works before Eddy but will go forward under his watch.
To these, the Retch says bravo. These are the first smart things that the Zellots have done. They are finally focusing on the business side of the paper. Introducing new products, bringing in new leaders. This is where the salvation of the newspaper lies.
Firing journalists, creating half-witted redesigns, cutting back newsholes. Those are all things that lessen the entire reason for being of the newspaper: publishing news.
Investing in the business side, inventing new streams of revenue? See a hole in the real estate market? A demand that needs filling? That’s smart business.
Of course, there are reasons to wonder. The Retch is especially interested to know how high and wide the wall is between the remnants of the editorial’s real estate reporters and the new Zetabid product. (Will we see more and more stories about distressed properties and the fabulous solution found in Zetabid?). The chance for a conflict of interest is obviously great. But no more so than in any other advertising/editorial overlap area.
So here’s to a potentially bright idea. And hopes for more to come.
A Tribute to Lee
Depths of Summer Part 2 Guest Post! This time from ex-Times reporter and current William Lobdell, inspired by Lee Abram’s latest bromide.
You all have to admit Lee Abrams is a genius — especially if he doesn’t have naked photos of Sam Zell stashed away somewhere.
Who else in America can earn a massive paycheck writing bizarre stream-of-consciousness memos and rehashing tired ideas from the late 20th century and pass them off as a way to “reinvent” today’s journalism?
My hat’s off to him.
Today I checked out the Baltimore Sun’s new redesign, a vision of Abrams. There’s some promise there, but the website is almost impossible to navigate. Don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself.
At any rate, here’s a clue for Abrams (and those web folks who have to deal with him). Newspapers (and their websites) have three advantages over the rest of the media: the ability to cover breaking news in a superior fashion, the resources to report in-depth on stories and the history to offer readers a vast reservoir of information in text and photos.
When I was at Los Angeles Times, I could never figure out why the newspaper didn’t promote the richness of its archives. I once wrote a memo to say The Times should sell its historic photos – it would be a nice revenue generator and provide a wonderful service to its readers. But I was told that was something “we don’t do.”
Not to sound like Abrams, but just think of what’s archived in the 125-year history of The Times: movie reviews for “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “North by Northwest.” Plus, critiques of “The Great Train Robbery,” “Easy Rider,” and hundreds of other classic movies.
This vault of history could be opened for hundreds of other subjects of interest. For instance, what USC football fan wouldn’t want to read articles on every game of historic significance and be willing to purchase photos of Trojan triumphs throughout the years? Wouldn’t readers love to read obituaries throughout the years?
The lesson: leverage your strengths. If you are The Times, and you have 125 years of history behind you, use it. No one else has that.
Local, Local, Nocal?
It’s late in the summer and time for Guest Post!
Gentle readers will remember that Zell and crew tout local, local, local news as the salvation of the Los Angeles Times. A former Times reporter who takes his paper seriously had this to say on how well they have delivered.
I made the mistake of picking up today’s LA Times California section. As a reader, I felt angry and betrayed. Earlier in the year, I stood in a meeting room in the LA Times Washington bureau and listened to Mr. Zell and Mr. Michaels tell us that local news was the end all and be all. That local news, like the Santa Ana city council, was what readers cared about. That they were going to add to local news, and to do that they would have to cut “overhead” in DC.
It’s August–six months after Zell’s DC appearance. Where’s the local news? The metro section is a shell. Today there were four stories on the cover, one of them a column from Sacramento, and two tiny news stories inside. That’s it. Another column, a page of photos and obits. Nothing about the Santa Ana city council. Here’s a ratio: a paper with 5 local stories means one story for every 2 million people in Los Angeles County. Or 1 story for every 3 million people in Southern California.
Even after several cycles of brainless cutting, the LA Times has lots of talented reporters and editors. They’re still full of ideas and vigor, and they’re probably producing lots of excellent stories. But apparently in the Zell era, we no longer get to read more than a handful of such stories in one sitting. This is the Catch 22 world of the diminished Times. Stories pile up quickly in hold folders because there’s no space to run them. Readers flee because there’s nothing to read.
The point of the newspaper is to deliver lots of news to readers. There’s plenty of local news out there. When do we get to read it?
Lee’s Loves His Ideas
Lee Abrams has posted his latest rambling on the Baltimore Sun redesign. Guess what? He loves what he did to the place!
Check out the Sun’s new porn videos, which includes a full-length body shot for columnists on the front page. (Steve Lopez, hope you’re working on those abs.) You can also see the porn movies here.
Here’s Lee’s take, and take, and take, and take. Highlights include:
* His next target is the Tribune’s opinion sections:
OPINION PAGE: This is probably the number-one location that needs rethinking. If opinions are important, then make them as attractive as possible. This page is not sacred.
* He is apparently unaware that the Cubs are being sold, since he puts a big focus on the Chicago Tribune boosting circulation by having a kiosk in the stadium.
WRIGLEY KIOSK: Do we have one? We should. We own it, and there’s 42,000 there every game. As long as we own the Cubs, we need to maximize the relationship.
* Lee goes green in his latest display of newspaper ignorance, since he apparently believes that newspapers are the people picking and choosing ad stock:
GREEN: In mailers, use recycled paper. More and more people are aware of this inheirant environmental problem with things printed.
If there’s one thing the Retch hates, it’s inheirant problems.
* He wants to create a reader reward program that includes a prize to “meet a Garth Brooks (easily doable).” It’s hard to discern, as many things are when it comes to Lee, what this means exactly. The reader gets to meet “a” Garth Brooks, presumambly not the real guy. And this is “easily doable” for reasons unclear. That’s gonna rock circulation.
You know one thing that Lee never mentions in his posts? Improving the journalism. These redesigns may be jazzy, exciting or vomit-inducing, take your pick. But they are nothing but a flash for a day or two. And then the paper goes back to being the newspaper. Where you get news. Not fireworks or Jackson Pollack lookalikes.
If you don’t improve the news — the gathering, writing and editing of news — your are not really improving the newspaper. It’s nothing but deck chairs.
Lee Abrams memo follows. In yet another demonstration of his Internet ignorance, he includes a link that will take you to an oversubscribed file that you can no longer download. Just try the links above if you want to see the actual redesign. Here’s the memo.
THINK PIECE: THE NEW SUN HAS RISEN
The Baltimore Sun has launched their re-invented newspaper. It was Tim Ryan, Tim Franklin, Tim Thomas and Monty Cook (a lot of Tim’s) that led the charge with more than a little help from literally every other part of the Baltimore Sun organization. I was told this newspaper would be “tough.” I heard they were conservative, kind of stuck in the old tradition. Well, that was VERY wrong. They came to the table and delivered an amazing product. They blew up the playbook and created a Baltimore Sun for 2008 Baltimore. as with all of the re-invents, it is 100% the work of the dedicated and passionate people in the building that understand their market and despite the extraordinary challenges and issues, come through with some pretty bold new thinking with the idea of reversing the trends and creating a positive new era for their papers.
They came to the table and delivered an amazing product. They blew up the playbook and created a Baltimore Sun for 2008 Baltimore. as with all of the re-invents, it is 100% the work of the dedicated and passionate people in the building that understand their market and despite the extraordinary challenges and issues, come through with some pretty bold new thinking with the idea of reversing the trends and creating a positive new era for their papers.