Monthly Archives: December 2008
Clifford reports, “In buying Consumerist, Consumers Union is seeking to attract younger readers, with the hope of eventually selling them online or print subscriptions to Consumer Reports.
“It is also something of a logical fit. Consumerist is popular, with about 1.8 million unique visitors a month, according to the online measurement service Quantcast, but has had trouble attracting advertising because the site often criticizes companies. Consumer Reports does not accept advertising, and once the sale closes on Jan. 1, neither will Consumerist.
“Unlike most magazines, Consumer Reports makes its money from subscriptions, which cost $26 for the Web site or print edition. In the companyâ€™s last fiscal year, which ended May 31, it had $229 million in revenue â€” up 10.6 percent from the previous year â€” from Consumer Reports and a handful of smaller magazines.
“In a year that has been difficult for magazines, Consumer Reportsâ€™ subscription and newsstand sales have risen. Circulation was 4.6 million, up from 4.3 million in 2007. The Web site has 3.3 million subscribers.”
Read more here.
As we wind down a tumultuous year in journalism, here are the top 10 events and trendsÂ in business journalism for 2008:
1. The cutting of standalone business sections at metro papers. From the Orange County Register to The (Raleigh) News & Observer, the decision to cut standalone business sections will have far-reaching ramifications for business journalism, especially during a time of economic and Wall Street turmoil. Consumers need such information now more than ever, yet it’s been relegated to the back of the sports section or inside the metro section, making it harder to find. I expect a reader backlash.
2. The continued strength of The Wall Street Journal. Many predicted the paper’s demise after its purchase by Rupert Murdoch, but The Journal has gotten stronger. Its front page now has a sense of urgency to it, and its writing is shorter and to the point. The Journal has aggressively redesigned its Web site and continued to keep its best content behind a pay wall. And its survived the resignation of managing editor Marcus Brauchli in April by shuffling its top managers.
3. Major business journalists crossing over. From Marketwatch columnist Herb Greenberg to St. Petersburg Times senior business writer Helen Huntley, more and more business reporters are joining the other side and becoming investment advisors, or simply leaving business journalism for greener pastures. What do they know that the rest of us don’t?
4. CNBC’s Jim Cramer’s flubs. Yes, it’s just a TV show, but what Cramer fails to realize is that people watch him and act on his advice. Earlier this year, he told investors that Wachovia was safe. It’s now been taken over by Wells Fargo in a mercy sale. And Cramer has seemingly flip-flopped about whether investors should remain in the market. His association with CNBC gives all of business journalism a black eye.
5. The AP overhauls its business desk. Under the direction of new business editor Hal Ritter, the Associated Press is now focusing its business coverage on 12 core beats, which it promises will allow it to deepen its coverage of breaking news and allow it to produce more enterprise stories. If successful, this template could provide a roadmap for other business news desks struggling to determine what they should cover.
6. Steve Pearlstein wins a Pulitzer. The Washington Post business columnist becomes the first from a business section to win a Pulitzer in the commentary category. Pearlstein has been warning about the economic troubles for the past two years. It’s well-deserved recognition and puts business news commentary in the spotlight.
7. The increasing importance of personal finance journalism. With the market in an upheaval, and the Bernie Madoff scandal just now unraveling, new personal finance ventures such as CNBC’s “On the Money” show and Clark Howard‘s show on CNN, not to mention the New York Times hiring new personal finance columnist Ron Lieber back in May, seem prescient. What readers and viewers need more than ever is advice from experts.
8. The Wichita Eagle goes against the grain. At a time when most metro papers are cutting their business news hole, the Eagle has been expanding its business coverage, creating a standalone section on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and focusing more on hard business stories. I think they’re on to something.
9.Â Bloomberg News changes. From acquiring the 20 percent stake owned by Merrill Lynch to new leadership in the newsroom and on the broadcast side, Bloomberg News continues to evolve and grow. It’s poised to gain market share from others in 2009.
10. The launch of WSJ. The lifestyle magazine for the rich shows that business journalism can expand its niche, even at a time when advertising is falling.
Douglas McIntyre, the editor of 24/7 Wall St., suggests that one way the New York Times could cut its costs would be to outsource some of its business section content.
McIntyre writes, “One of the sections of The New York Times that must be costly to run is its business section. Looking at all the bylines, the staff must be in the dozens. But, a great deal of what runs in the business pages is not unique. Most of its is covered by Reuters, Bloomberg, FT, or The Wall Street Journal.
“As the cost of being in the news business stays high and revenue drops, networks are pooling reporting resources. Newspapers are sharing coverage of certain geographic areas. Websites such as Politico are offering newspapers coverage of Washington to save money on having bureaus following the federal government.
“The New York Times might be better off if it cut a deal with Bloomberg or the FT to handle its business section. The paper would still be competitive with The Wall Street Journal, and the move might be the start of a system to save a lot more money by doing something similar with other parts of the Times.”
Read more here.
The New York Post reports that New York real estate developer Donald Trump wants to know why CNBC reporter Rebecca Jarvis, who was a contestant on his “Apprentice” show, doesn’t mention that in her online bio.
The Post reports, “‘In your very nice . . . bio, which airs on CNBC, many facts are mentioned about you, some very unimportant,’ Trump wrote to Jarvis. ‘But the only thing you don’t mention is that you were on ‘The Apprentice,’ which is the sole factor leading to your job at CNBC. How quickly we forget.’
“A CNBC flack said: ”The Apprentice’ got Rebecca a courtesy interview, but her intelligence, determination and background in both journalism and investment banking got her everything else.’”
Read more here. Jarvis finished second on the show.
Her CNBC bio can be found here. Note that it’s out of date. She is no longer a SABEW board member.
Homer Brickey, the senior business writer at the Toledo Blade, wrote his last column Tuesday after 20 years and more than 800 columns. Brickey has spent 40 years at the paper and its sister, The Toledo Times.
Brickey writes, “Several times I wrote about the need for business people to admit mistakes and deal with them, and about the soul-cleansing benefits of forgiveness. In one of those columns I wrote: ‘To the fast talker who stole my first love away and married her, I forgive you. May I buy you a drink, sir? To the boss who fired me when I was a young and stupid kid, I forgive you. Of course, you interrupted my promising career as a grocery bag boy, but I forgive you anyway. â€¦ To my father, who was not a billionaire, Dad, I forgive you. There are some things money can’t buy.’
“Many people think it must be fun to write for a newspaper. Not exactly, especially under deadline pressure, when an empty space awaits and the clock keeps ticking. T-i-c-k-i-n-g. T-I-C-K-I-N-G.
“But even though the actual writing is not much fun, it is fun to have written. Lots of fun. Thanks for reading.”
Read more here.
In an e-mail to Talking Biz News, Brickey says, “I am now totally retired. I went into ‘semi-retirement’ in mid-2007 and cut back to a weekly column and some special business stories. But The Blade, like many newspapers around the country, has undergone a series of cost-cutting moves, including a recent layoff of 28 employees, and so the part-timers (like me) had to go, too. By the way, I believe I may have been one of the first SABEW members many years ago — I was recruited to join by Dave Smith, a former Blade reporter who went on to become executive editor (I believe) of Wards Auto World in Detroit.”
The Baltimore Sun announced that its Sunday Money & Life section would begin appearing inside the A section, beginning next week.
A short announcement stated, “Features such as Eileen Ambrose‘s personal finance column and various articles and features on consumer and financial news will remain part of our Sunday coverage.”
ThatÂ was the last business front left at the Sun. The daily section was moved inside the A section with the redesign this past summer.
Money & Life was a consumer section created last year to substitute for a traditional Sunday section. It was the primary printÂ vehicles for Ambrose, a SABEW Best in Business winner in the columnist category last year, and Dan Thanh Dang, who won the AP Chesapeake Award for columnists — all types of columnists — last year.
Before it was announced that the section front was being killed, Dang, who was also the paper’s Consuming Interests blogger, took a buyout and left the paper. She’d been there 18 years as an intern, reporter and columnist, and the Sun was the only place she had ever worked.
Owen Thomas of Valleywag writes Monday about how Fortune magazine has decreased the popular feature of dumbest moments in business from 101 to 21 this year.
Thomas writes, “It’s just the articles that are getting smaller. 2008 was 80 percent less dumb than 2007, according to Fortune! A year ago, Fortune readers were treated to a full 101 moments of dumbness in an end-of-year comic look-back. This year? Only 21 dumb moments to be found.
“A necessary disclosure here: I worked on this list for several years when it was put out by Fortune’s now-defunct sister publication, Business 2.0. It was a pain in the tuchis! It was a lot of work! I had half-a-dozen factcheckers going full speed for weeks on that mother! Oh, and also, it was funnier when I wrote it.
“So I can’t blame Fortune for cutting back. Tough times, which make for great stories of business disaster, are exactly when advertising-dependent publications are least able to afford covering them. In fact, Fortune laid off some of the people who contributed to this year’s list. Next year, I’m betting this one goes to eleven.”
Read more here.
Michael Eisner, the former Walt Disney Co. CEO who has had a show on CNBC for nearly three years, says he is stopping taping to devote time to his investment business, writes Peter Lauria of the New York Post.
Lauria writes that there are enough new shows taped to allow CNBC to continue running “Conversations with Michael Eisner” for another three to four months.
Lauria writes, “The show was heavily promoted but never gained ratings traction, averaging about 100,000 viewers per episode.
“The low viewership is a direct reflection of the show’s sporadic scheduling.
“‘Conversations’ aired about once a month, and though CNBC at one point wanted to increase its frequency to once a week, Eisner didn’t want to devote that much time to it.”
Read more here.
RIchard Anguiano, the editor of the Ocala Business Journal in Florida, writes Monday that the publication has changed its size and its publishing schedule.
Although the paper is now printed on different paper, Anguiano says no content has been cut.
The paper has gone, however, from publishing every four weeks to once a month, eliminating one issue for next year.
Anguiano writes, “As I write this, the next day OBJ is scheduled to arrive in your hands is Friday, Jan. 30, and that edition won’t have a mile-long publication date on the cover as this issue does, but will simply be the February 2009 issue.
“For those of you who are paid subscribers â€” thank you, again â€” your year’s subscription will still consist of 13 issues per year with the 13th being a special edition.”
Read more here. The paper is a publication of the Ocala Star-Banner, a New York Times paper.
Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times writes for Monday’s paper about NPR senior correspondent Ketzel Levine, who was reporting a series of stories about how people were handling the economic turmoil when she was laid off.
Clifford writes, “Ms. Levine, who has worked at NPR since 1977, said she decided the final episode, and her final piece for NPR, should be about her own situation.
“Ellen McDonnell, the director of morning programming, was not immediately sold on the idea. ‘I had some natural hesitation,’ she said. ‘As a reporter, you never want the story to be about you.’ At the same time, she said: ‘I also recognized a very unique opportunity for Ketzel to tell a story that lots of people can relate to. She found out in a very personal way what itâ€™s like to have to start over again and to have that moxie she spoke about.’
“The end result ‘was kind of eerie,’ Ms. McDonnell said. ‘The whole concept that one person in the story would lead to another, and then it would all end with her, was not something any of us anticipated.’
“In the short piece, which first ran last week just after a ‘Moxie’ story about a Chicago landscaper, Ms. Levine took a personal approach. ‘Itâ€™s only today that Iâ€™m sane enough to tell you’ about her having been laid off, she told listeners.”
Read more here.Â