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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"On the same day the New York Times Company reported yet another quarter in which advertising, both print and digital, was down, along with total revenue, it also announced its long-touted plan to turn things around. Yes, the top quality journalism we've come to expect and rely on is part of it — subscriptions and circulation revenue continue to outpace money made from advertising, an industry anomaly — but in addition to more a la carte digital subscription packages and expanded video production, there's also that dreaded corporate-speak: 'brand extensions.' As in, 'The planned areas of focus are games and e-commerce. An expansion of the company's conference business is also planned,' according to the 'New Strategy for Growth" announcement. Details are scarce so far — 'initiatives will begin to roll out in the fourth quarter of 2013 into 2014' — but we can extrapolate.
Games! Maybe not the first thing you think of when you think of the New York Times, but already a lucrative business. Premium crossword subscriptions are $20 annually for subscribers and $40 for word-nuts who don't want the paper. An Awl column on the economics of puzzles points to a 2010 interview with crossword boss Will Shortz, who put the number of crossword-only subscribers at 50,000, totaling $2 million a year." (NYMag)


"I went down to Michael’s (Wednesday, natch). I was meeting our No Holds Barred diarist Blair Sabol who is in town for a few days, and she invited her friend Ali MacGraw to join us. Ali was in town to go to last night’s opening of 'I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers' starring the One the Only Divine Miss M, Bette Midler. Michael’s was wall-to-wall. It turned out there were other California girls in the room (technically Ali MacGraw lives now in New Mexico but she still goes back and forth to Los Angeles as it’s only an hour and a half away by plane). Terry Allen Kramer, who is one of the producers of the Midler show, was lunching with Wendy Stark who came in from L.A. for the opening, and Alana Stewart aka Alana Hamilton, also in for the opening. At the table right next to them was another interesting group: Pat Kluge, Sharon Bush, Patty Raynes, Anne Hearst and Elizabeth de Kergolay. I don’t know if any of them were going to the opening last night." (NYSocialDiary)


"Where to begin? This week at 55th and Fifth, the scene in the dining room provided whiplash-inducing people watching with a tasty mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein, Jimmy Finkelstein) with a side of social swans (Sharon Bush, Patricia Kluge, Terry Allen Kramer) ...Speaking of the power of celebrity, I was joined today by Charitybuzz CEO and founder Coppy Holzman who dazzled me with tales of his work with the famous and philanthropic. His company, which he founded in 2005, is currently the world’s largest online charity auction site and is the go-to partner for every famous person with a charity looking to raise serious money for their pet causes. It all started at a backyard fundraising party for The Clinton Library in Westport, Connecticut that Coppy attended where he met President Bill Clinton and Chevy Chase. 'Isn’t there a way for you to use your experience on the Internet to raise for the library?' the host of the party asked Coppy. On the spot, he came up with the idea of auctioning off a lunch with the former president. One year later, The Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction brought in $250,000 for the library, including $80,000 paid by one bidder to lunch with Clinton and Chase. Since then, Coppy has worked with Clinton on many different initiatives. 'There is no bigger celebrity in the world,' he says. The top dollar paid to spend the day with Hillary’s husband: $255,000 in an auction last year ... (at Table 18) Producer Beverly Camhe, whose documentary, In God We Trust, premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival and is generating major buzz. None other than Andrew Madoff slipped into the theater for the premiere and was, says a spy, 'very moved' by the film which purports that both he and his late brother Mark Madoff knew nothing of their father’s Ponzi scheme. Today, Beverly was with Jennifer Lee, Richard Pryor‘s wife." (Diane Clehane)


"A story posted last night by Politico's Dylan Byers characterizes Abramson as a woman on the verge of a newsroom breakdown. The culprit is her personality, but also, to be fair, the way that personality has manifested itself in a few decisions, none of which were particularly key decisions.Today, the story has readers charging sexist bias, thin sourcing, and a certain naivete about how the great big newsrooms work. I don't think any of these is really applicable to Byers' reporting, but this article does speak volumes about all three issues. (It also speaks to the particular place of Politico in the media ecosystem, and its exceptional appetite for windy indictments of the Times and Washington Post. But that's another story.) I was talking to a few friends about some of Abramson's predecessors." (CapitalNY)


"When we started to put together the paidContent Live conference, which we held in New York last week, one of the driving forces behind our selection of speakers was to find those who are doing interesting things — either in new or traditional media — so that we could try and figure out what the future of media is going to look like. As I said during my opening remarks, we may not have all (or any) of the answers, but we do have plenty of interesting questions, and that is a start ... At one point during the panel on monetization — which also included Richard Tofel from ProPublica, Raju Narisetti from News Corp. and Bob Bowman from Major League Baseball — Atlantic Media president Justin Smith said that his organization didn’t really have a single answer to the question of how to monetize content, because it was more or less trying everything it possibly could (which is one of the reasons why I have said Atlantic is one of the media companies worth watching) ... For the Atlantic, that means experimenting with sponsored content (despite its potential pitfalls, which were highlighted during the Scientology incident) as well as doing live events, and introducing a premium offering — which Smith wouldn’t provide much detail about but is supposedly coming soon." (Matthew Ingram)


"One afternoon in March, I walked through Timbuktu’s Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Studies and Islamic Research, stepping around shards of broken glass. Until last year, the modern concrete building with its Moorish-inspired screens and light-filled courtyard was a haven for scholars drawn by the city’s unparalleled collection of medieval manuscripts. Timbuktu was once the center of a vibrant trans-Saharan network, where traders swapped not only slaves, salt, gold, and silk, but also manuscripts—scientific, artistic, and religious masterworks written in striking calligraphy on crinkly linen-based paper. Passed down through generations of Timbuktu’s ancient families, they offer a tantalizing history of a moderate Islam, in which scholars argued for women’s rights and welcomed Christians and Jews. Ahmed Baba owned a number of Korans and prayer books decorated with intricate blue and gold-leaf geometric designs, but its collections also included secular works of astronomy, medicine, and poetry." (TNR)



"Nobody in Hollywood today is as cool for so many uncool reasons as J.J. Abrams. A film and TV producer, screenwriter, director, designer, editor, composer and all-around geek god, Abrams is the bespectacled creative titan behind projects most likely to have fans sleeping outside box-office windows in itchy space costumes ... In the meantime, Abrams has another to-do item: reboot Star Wars. He will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first in a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm, which Disney bought from George Lucas last year for $4.05 billion. At first the Twitterverse cried out that it was too much for one mortal to oversee both galaxies, but the blowback ended fast. Having helmed Trek, Mission: Impossible III and TV sensations including Lost, Fringe, Revolution and Alias, Abrams is probably better suited than anyone to juggle both phaser and lightsaber. Jeffrey Jacob 'J.J.'Abrams was born June 27, 1966 in New York City but grew up on the glitzier side of Los Angeles, where both parents produced TV movies. At the age of 13, young J.J.—'Only my father’s mother called me Jeffrey,' he says—first operated a Super 8 camera and by the age of 16 earned the notice of Steven Spielberg, whose office asked Abrams to edit Super 8 movies Spielberg had made when he was a teenager. (Many years later they collaborated on an action adventure called Super 8.) Abrams sold his first script in college and later earned his cred writing Regarding Henry and Forever Young. Felicity made Abrams a TV giant, and the script for Armageddon made him rich; they also show an unusual range and a talent for crossing genres. Playboy Contributing Editor David Hochman, who last interviewed Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for the magazine, was the first journalist to sit down with Abrams in the aftermath of the Star Wars announcement." (Playboy)

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