Bad news for Beantown bean-counters. Forget all that talk about paywalls — metered or otherwise — discussion of click-throughs, digital ad rates, blaming Facebook, REA Group, Killing Fairfax and anything else that has been blamed for the woes of the media. The “cheap” sale of The Boston Globe at the weekend in the US has the potential to undermine the balance sheet values of print media groups the world over, starting with the recently created News Corporation, controlled by the Murdoch clan.
The huge discount in the value of the Globe, as indicated in the low sale price of just $US70 million in cash at the weekend, will worry the new News Corp as it prepares to report its 2012-13 results sometime in the next week or so. While the Globe is a loss maker, it’s said to be smaller than the $US100 million a year the New York Post is said to be losing. News has already revealed plans to write down the value of its Australian papers by at least $US1.2 billion for the year to June (after slashing their value by around $US2 billion the year before).
The New York Times has been trying to sell its New England media interests, including the Globe, since February of this year, initially seeking $180 million. The Times bought the assets (and some other businesses, disposed of long ago) in 1993 for $US1.1 billion, which was seen as a very high price even at the time. In 2007, the company slashed the value of the Globe and other papers by $US807 million, leaving it valued at around $US300 million.
NYT management whipped the Globe into shape, lifting the number of vital digital subscribers, but ad revenue and circulation have fallen steadily for years, and digital revenues have only covered part of those losses. The Globe had 39,000 digital subscribers at the end of June, up 70% in the past year. But the paper continues to operate at a loss. Total revenues fell more than 7% to just over $US179 million in the six months to June, with ad revenues off 10%. — Glenn Dyer
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Genu- mistake at AFR. To cope with falling revenue, The Australian Financial Review has cut costs (it is not alone on this issue; every media company in the older areas of print and broadcast is doing the same). One of the favoured cost cuts of the AFR and other Australian papers is the outsourcing of subediting functions to NZ (Pagemasters), where the subs are cheap and not very good, judging by the increased number of typos, silly, meaningless headlines in all papers and just plain errors.
The editorial on page 54 headlined “Confession of a broken budget” ended with the following incomplete sentence: “Rather than a new a new bank levy here and a hike in cigarette tax there, we need genu-” Yep the final word was “genu-“. So instead of a rave about a “broken budget”, we had a broken editorial. Presumably the editorial was going on to talk about something genuine, or was it telling us it was a time to genuflect? — Glenn Dyer
Fuhrer furore in The Oz. Just when you thought you had seen everything from the tobacco cheer squad, their arguments descend yet further into the gutter. An article by Adam Creighton in The Australian on Friday (“Butt out of individual choices“) attacking tobacco tax increases in particular and public health campaigns in general equates activities aimed at reducing smoking with Hitler, Nazi Germany and fascism …
There are no fewer than 11 references to Hitler, Nazi Germany, National Socialism, the Reich and fascism, as well as a quote from Mussolini. The only other individual quoted is an extremist Canadian economist with a documented history of working with tobacco companies. There is nothing new in the observation that Hitler disliked smoking — although it is also true, as Robert Proctor notes in his wonderful history of smoking, that the tobacco companies prospered in Nazi Germany, supported the regime, produced brands such as “Brown Cigarettes” to support the Brownshirts, promoted Hitler on cigarette cards and “wrapped themselves in the Nazi flag, accusing their critics of being unpatriotic or worse …”
There are other areas where Creighton’s comments run off the rails, from his minimalist acceptance of the harms of smoking to his remarkable claim that taxes on alcohol and cigarettes “typically don’t much alter behaviour”, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. — Mike Daube (read the full story at Croakey)
Independence day at The Age? Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden has trumpeted his staff’s editorial independence as it kicks off its election coverage today:
“… as always, we remain a rare bastion of independent, unmanipulated coverage.”
In an article about asylum seekers, however, journalist Michael Short nails his colours to the mast:
“Today’s guest in The Zone is seeking to bring another perspective, one based on the mutual benefit of Australia and asylum seekers, to the discussion. Gavin Ackerly is a director of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre …
“The ASRC, of which I am an ambassador …”
So not independent on everything, apparently.
Correction of the day. The Sydney Morning Herald has apologised to former Labor MP Belinda Neal for claiming she had had a physical altercation with Deputy PM (and minister for almost everything) Anthony Albanese during their student days …
Video(s) of the day. It is on like Donkey Kong! PM Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have launched their opening salvos in what is sure to be a long ad war until September 7 …