A story you’ll never read in The Australian. The company’s first big newspaper buy in the US, The New York Post, is fading and that brought a report on its slump from the rival New York Times, which Murdoch and his minions have regularly abused. Murdoch would see the Times report as a “get square” for that abuse, but it is actually a well-informed look at Murdoch’s greatest media challenge, how does he save the failing New York Post?.

Instead of reporting on problems such as this in the News Corp empire, all we got at the weekend and yesterday were soft interviews with Murdoch by Terry McCrann, Sky News and in The Australian and other News Ltd papers: formats that do not allow for any challenging exchange or for the 78-year-old to be pressed on the future of a paper that has seen the biggest sales slump in the US in the past year. Why risk a career-ending entanglement with the owner?

As Crikey has reported this year, the New York Post has seen almost 20% of its circulation disappear in the 12 months to September 30 and yet the paper and Col Allan, the editor of the Post and the former editor of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney (and a Murdoch pet) seem to be Teflon-coated. While News Ltd has sacked (as has Fox TV and Broadcasting in the US, and papers in the UK) hundreds of staff and saved more than $US300 million ($A326.5 billion), including people who had worked at News for a decade or more on newspapers and magazines, Allan and Murdoch hold a love fest on the Post.

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A cover price cut from 50 cents to 25 cents helped push up the sales to more than 700,000 a day, from 440,000 in the six years from 2000. But the cover price has returned to 50 cents, the recession and internet have struck, monstering the Post and sales have sunk by nearly 30% in 30 months to 508,000 a day in the six months to September 30. The rival New York Daily News, which the Post passed on the way up, (and celebrated) now sells more than 30,000 papers a day extra (or a sales advantage of more than 5%)

“Three years ago, Col Allan, the editor of The New York Post, pumped his fist and waded into a cheering crowd at a Midtown restaurant, celebrating The Post’s overtaking its rival, The Daily News, in weekday circulation. The Post trumpeted the news on a Times Square billboard and in its pages,” the Times said in its report.

“Mr Allan, who called it a joyous occasion” when The Post took the lead, now takes a more subdued view of the competition, saying in an e-mail exchange that “whether we are a little in front or a little behind has no impact on our forward business plan,” the New York Times reported.

“Still, he voiced contempt for the industry’s conventional wisdom that as advertising tumbles, some sales no longer make business sense, and circulation should be allowed to fall.

“The Post and Mr Allan answer to a constituency of one, and Mr Murdoch shows no outward sign of tiring of the paper or its editor. Though it has pushed out some of its roughly 300 editorial employees, pruned expense budgets, frozen salaries for years and eliminated some sections, like a short-lived Page Six magazine, The Post has actually done less newsroom cutting than most big papers.

“But in a nervous time for newspapers, people at The Post have reason to wonder about their future, starting with its losses — as high as $70 million last year, according to some people briefed on the finances — which have become a bigger concern for News Corporation executives.”

And with the Wall Street Journal hiring a dozen staff (a day or so after closing its Boston bureau) to write for a New York section in the Wall Street Journal (which is barely breaking even at the moment), there’s a rising suspicion that Murdoch is planning to merge the papers in the not too distant future and then rebrand everything with the WSJ brand. — Glenn Dyer

It’s what people are talking about … A tip of the hat to today’s NT News for its issue of the day:

Caution: advertorials ahead. The narrowing gap between editorial and advertising within News Ltd has been highlighted by two initiatives by the company. Last month David Higgins, editor of News Ltd’s news.com.au was quoted in The Walkley Magazine as describing traditional divisions between editorial and advertising as “a luxury of the past”. — Mumbrella

The democratisation of intimacy. Stefana Broadbent talks about her research into the impact of social media on our personal relationships. Her research has found that even though most people have some 120 friends on Facebook, they probably only ever speak regularly to four or five people. She talks about the “democratisation of intimacy”, and argues that companies should stop trying to block social media websites watch. —  Stefana Broadbent on TED TV

Twitter — not just for celebrities! The use of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote businesses has exploded over the past six months, according to the results of a study that were released today. People using Twitter to get the word out about their company, sales and promotions jumped more than 250% from this past spring, according to a study done by Palo Alto Networks, a maker of firewall technology. The number of companies using Facebook for such tasks grew by 192%, the sudy found. The report said that workers are using social networks as promotional vehicles both with and without management knowledge — Computerworld

UK surveillance project put on hold. Legislation for a £2bn Home Office surveillance project to track details of everybody’s email, mobile phone, text and internet use has been put on hold after a consultation raised concerns over its technical feasibility, costs and privacy safeguards — The Guardian

Journalism is dead, long live journalism! Nation contributor John Nichols weighs in on the journalism debate. He predicts that the US will be journalist-free within eight years, and says that journalists will still be able to get their work out there — they just won’t be able to get paid for it. Nichols thinks that the free market is killing journalism, and thinks that it will ultimately have to be publicly funded — watch at The Nation

Russian whistleblower on YouTube. A Russian police officer has been sacked after exposing corruption among his senior colleagues in an audacious homemade video blog posted on YouTube. Tired of miserable pay, long hours and requests to solve fictitious crimes, Dymovsky decided to take matters into his own hands. In two personal videoblogs recorded while sitting on his sofa at home, Dymovsky appealed directly to Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, urging him to improve conditions for Russia’s demoralised police. More than 400,000 people have visited Youtube and Dymovsky’s own website to watch his emotional video appeal. Dymovsky’s disclosures have turned him into an overnight celebrity. They also appear to have cost him his job: on Sunday interior ministry officials announced he had been fired. His crime was slandering his force, they said. – The Guardian


Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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