Monthly Archives: October 2010

Broder’s disturbing advice to Obama

I realize Washington Post columnist David Broder’s expiration date came and went some time ago. But suggesting that President Obama prepare for war with Iran in order to boost his re-election prospects is surely a new low.

“I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected,” Broder writes. Good lord, what is it he thinks he’s doing?

Jon Keller is still at large

When CBS unveiled a new WBZ website a couple of days ago, political analyst Jon Keller’s blog seemed to disappear — just a few days before a wild state election.

Fortunately, Keller is using his old blog until the new site can be fixed. You won’t find it linked from WBZTV.com — or, as it has now been dubbed, BostonCBSLocal.com. But you will find it here.

Update: WBZ is working out the kinks, and Keller is now asking his readers to join him here.

Gawker’s slimy hit on Christine O’Donnell

Christine O'Donnell

I will not link, though you’ll have no trouble finding it if you’re interested. But I want to join those who are calling out the gossip site Gawker for an item that was slimy even by its own consistently low standards.

On Thursday, Gawker posted a piece by an anonymous contributor who claimed to have had a one-night stand with Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell three years ago. There was no actual sex in his telling, but the details are pretty embarrassing. Two problems: (1) we have no idea if it’s true; and, more important, (2) whether true or not, it’s nobody’s damn business.

Yahoo! media columnist Michael Calderone has a great round-up of outraged reaction to the piece, along with Gawker editor Remy Stern’s pathetic defense.

O’Donnell, the longshot Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, is absolutely fair game for her public utterances, including her deservedly mocked statements about dabbling in witchcraft. But what Gawker did on Thursday was beneath contempt.

The sad irony is that this will contribute to public loathing of the media, even though Gawker’s relationship to journalism is approximately the same as that of the WWE to sports.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Rewarding those they despise the most

If the polls and the pundits are to be believed, voters nationwide are about to deliver a stinging rebuke to our most popular elected official by casting their ballots in favor of our most despised political class. No, I’m not making this up. And it really calls into question what people are thinking, given that they appear poised to vote Republican on Tuesday.

Now, who is the most popular elected official? That would be the much-maligned President Obama, whose job-approval ratings are in rough shape, but who, as we shall see, stands head and shoulders above Congress. Take a look at this, and you’ll see that, in recent polls, Obama’s job approval rating is almost evenly divided between positive and negative.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that 45 percent of respondents approve of the president’s performance and 52 percent disapprove. That seems to be in line with other polls I’ve seen. Yet some polls actually reverse those numbers in Obama’s favor. For instance, this Newsweek poll finds that 54 percent approve of Obama’s job performance and 40 percent disapprove. That does not sound like a president who’s down for the count.

Obama’s numbers are not only much better than those of Congress, but the congressional numbers break down in a way that is favorable to him. The public, according to surveys, despises Congress — but it loathes the Democrats slightly less than the Republicans.

Just one out of many examples: A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that the public gives Democratic members of Congress a 36 percent positive/61 percent negative job-approval rating. The same poll shows that respondents gave Republican members of Congress a 30 percent favorable rating and a 67 percent unfavorable assessment.

You might find a few exceptions, but the emphasis would be on “few.” I’ve been following these numbers off and on since Obama’s inauguration, and congressional Republicans have consistently come in last in the three-way race for job approval.

How to explain the likelihood that the Republicans will make huge gains on Capitol Hill next week? I’m not sure it can be explained. For instance, today’s New York Times reports the results of a poll it conducted with CBS News that shows next Tuesday will be a huge day for the GOP. Yet, bizarrely, the poll also finds:

[N]early 60 percent of Americans were optimistic about Mr. Obama’s next two years in office and nearly 70 percent said the economic slump is temporary. Half said the economy was where they expected it would be at this point, and less than 10 percent blamed the current administration for the state of the economy, leaving the onus on former President George W. Bush and Wall Street.

Those findings are everything Obama and congressional Democrats could hope for. The most you can say, though, is that voters will give the president an opportunity to dig out from the rubble they are about to dump on him next Tuesday. Strange days indeed.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The center of the news universe

That would be Danvers, world headquarters of Media Nation and now the home of four — count ’em — news organizations battling it out for local eyeballs. The newest is our very own Patch, joining the Salem News, the Danvers Herald and the Boston Globe’s Your Town/Danvers site. Who says the news business is dead?

Reflecting on the latest circulation figures

In Japan, advertising accounts for just 35 percent of newspaper revenue. In Britain, it’s 50 percent. And in the United States, ads have traditionally amounted to a whopping 87 percent of newspaper income. That’s why it can truly be said that, in the U.S., newspapers have always given away the news, charging only for paper and delivery.

These days we pay for computers and broadband access while getting the news for free — same as it ever was. That is among the most important explanations for why news organizations are going to have a difficult time persuading more than a handful of readers to pay for online access. I wish them well. But the challenge is enormous.

One thing some readers will continue to pay for is the convenience of print. (Spare me your nostalgia for the romance of print. Print persists for one reason: it’s still more ergonomically friendly than any electronic version. Someday that will change.)

After yesterday’s newspaper circulation figures were released, showing a continued but slowing decline in print sales industry-wide, Boston Globe publisher Chris Mayer issued a memo — a copy of which was obtained by Media Nation — attributing the Globe’s continued slide to last year’s decision to raise the price to as much as the market would bear. (Here is the Boston Herald’s take.)

The idea is that there’s a sweet spot. Up to a point, you can raise prices and make more money, even if the total number of print readers declines. Somewhere, though, there’s a top to the curve, and the challenge is to find the top and not raise prices so much that revenues start to fall. The result, unfortunately, is that you end up with a niche product for an elite readership. But it’s either that or die.

And here’s a good piece of news. There’s also a sizable subset of readers who will pay for electronic editions like Times Reader and GlobeReader, which are cheaper than print but more convenient than newspaper websites that keep you chained to your desk. Given that iPad editions have barely kicked into gear, that’s a promising sign.

The full text of Mayer’s memo follows.

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier today the Audit Bureau of Circulations issued their Fas-Fax report for the six months ending September 30th. The Globe has shown year-over-year declines in line with our expectations, as a result of our circulation and pricing strategy instituted last summer.

The good news is the rate of circulation decline has slowed as we cycle through the impact of the price increases. One indicator is the comparison between September’s report and March’s report. Viewed this way, the declines are 2.8% for Sunday and 4.2% for daily. These are encouraging trends for our business and in line with others in our industry.

The past few months has also seen continued excellence in our reporting and positive contributions to the community. Our Spotlight Team investigation of patronage in the state’s probation department; our sensitive series of stories on bullying; the amazing coverage of the Amy Bishop case; coverage of the earthquake and aftermath in Haiti and its impact in Boston; and our current coverage of the political races are just a few examples of the important journalism we’re delivering.

The Globe’s circulation, now at 368,000 on Sunday and 223,000 daily, still makes us the largest newspaper in New England by a wide margin. The year-over-year decreases of about 15.7% on Sunday and 12.0% daily were expected and budgeted.  To offer some context, we raised prices last summer in most areas by 30% to 50% to grow circulation revenue and stabilize the business.

Of course, circulation numbers are not the end of the story. Print and online media work in concert with one another to build audience. It should be noted then that in terms of readership, during an average week, the Sunday Globe, the daily Globe and Boston.com together will reach 51% of all adults in the metro Boston area.  It will also be reported in Monday’s Fas-Fax that Boston.com’s local audience grew by 2.9 %.

The recently announced two-brand digital strategy is now officially under way and we are developing launch plans for our new subscription-based Web site BostonGlobe.com, and the next generation Boston.com. And, watch forperiodic launches of digital products in the upcoming months.

So, as we look ahead we will continue to execute on our strategy, building on the strong foundation of quality journalism, original content, broad audience reach, higher reader engagement, advertising effectiveness, and strong connection with the community that is reflected by, and results in, our more than 50% of the market.

We can all share a sense of optimism and purpose as we focus on our future success.

— Chris

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Too much automation?

Check out this wildly inappropriate juxtaposition in today’s GlobeReader. Here’s the same story, with a rather different photo, from Boston.com.