Newspapers' Hail Mary vs. Facebook, Google
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Like Donald Trump Jr., the newspaper industry is rather late.
Trump belatedly fesses up about that Russian meeting. Meanwhile, the newspapers' trade group, after years of the industry watching Facebook and Google devour its ad revenues, now wants an antitrust exemption from Congress to bargain collectively with the two giants and others.
They're about 20 years late. When print was king, the industry made the catastrophic decision to not charge for its content, missed the importance of the internet and let the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Sergei Brin destroy their business models.
They even had a hush-hush meeting in 2009 in Rosemont, Illinois that I disclosed in The Atlantic, as if they were Mafia dons. The question on the table was monetizing their content. Zilch came of it. Now some feel congressional help is justified, as their trade group's head argued is best in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Some of the initial modest reporting on the subject omits some relevant history:
In the 1990s, a cantankerous, bottom-line-obsessed and visionary Tribune Company executive named Charles Brumback pushed something that was called The New Century News Network. The top print news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Times-Mirror would form a network in which they'd house their content online and charge for it.
Members would get paid based on usage. They even started a newswire that was similar to what we know as Google News. If it had worked, it's likely "Google might have had a much harder time getting off the ground since they could not have relied so easily on free content," as former Los Angeles Times Editor James O'Shea reminds me. He briefly detailed the effort in a book, "The Deal From Hell," which focused on the 2007 sale of Tribune Company to real estate tycoon Sam Zell.
But the effort ran aground because the industry, which was still producing huge profits, couldn't all agree to join. There were internal rivalries, too, partly involving control. In a key vote, a majority of the founding nine voted 5-4 against contributing an additional $1 million each into the effort after an initial $5 million contribution from a big-shot Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
To make matters worse, Yahoo started providing outlets free news courtesy of the Associated Press and accelerated the industry's original sin of giving away its content for zilch.
Brumback knew this was a mistake but couldn't even get his own newspapers to charge for content. They simply were taking too much heat from circulation departments that feared a loss of readers.
All in all, inaction was a fatal mistake. And running to Congress seems belated and impotent. Like Donald Trump Jr.'s changing tales of why and what at that meeting.
USA Today's Christine Brennan breaks this story: "U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told members of the USGA’s executive committee that Donald Trump threatened to sue the organization if it moved the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting." (USA Today)
Amazon strikes again
It's like what happened when Amazon bought Whole Foods and rival grocery chains' stocks plummeted. This time it was word that Amazon was "quietly building" a competitor to Best Buy's Geek Squad, with Best Buy's stock heading south. (Recode)
In fact, "Best Buy shares down 6.3 percent to $54.23. That was the worst single-day decline since May 2016." (Bloomberg)
Chris Christie, un-shamed
The New Jersey governor surfaced on New York radio and feuded with a caller about his holiday weekend at the beach. "In response to the first caller, Christie reportedly called Hillary Clinton a 'criminal.' During the second, he labeled the caller – Mike from Montclair – a 'communist' and a 'bum.'" (The Washington Post)
Food and sports
"This last weekend saw the soft launch of a new vertical from Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated, SI Eats, a website subdomain dedicated to the intersection of food and sports." (Talking New Media)
"The new food vertical comes at an odd time for Time Inc. as the company recently announced that Food & Wine would leaving NYC for Birmingham, Alabama, home of Cooking Light and Southern Living. The move may appear strange on its surface, knowing that direct shipments of wine are generally prohibited in the state, and Alabama’s restaurant scene is hardly a match for the Big Apple. But Time Inc. recently built an extensive studio with 28 test kitchens in Birmingham, and its titles there are highly prized by its publishing rivals."
Great baseball analysis
Multitasking during baseball's home run derby last night, I was reminded there's no better sports newsletter than one Joe Sheehan does on baseball. At its best, it's a wonderful window on data driven analysis. For example, he dissects the many theories about why the World Champion Cubs stink so far but he makes clear, "It’s not one thing. It’s never any one thing."
He shows the metrics on how their pitching is a bit worse, they are allowing more hard-hit balls and strikeouts are diminished and walks up. But "defensive personnel changes have exaggerated the change in run prevention." He shows why their defensive ills aren't factored fairly enough when reflexively badmouthing the pitching. This decline "is a team effort."
Here's a bit of the data: "The 2016 Cubs converted 74.5% of balls in play into outs. This year, they have the second-best DER in the NL, but it’s .713. Roughly speaking, they’re turning one less ball in play into an out each game. Run at from a different direction, the Cubs allowed 535 hits on balls in play in the first half last year. This year, it’s 610. That’s about 75 outs turned into singles, doubles, triples and ROE. That’s real runs, and as I keep coming back to, more pitches thrown, more pitches thrown from the stretch, more exposure to swings in cluster luck" (essentially one's luck in clustering hits).
This newsletter $34.95 a year, but you get 10 percent off if you go this link on Facebook.
Advice for Betsy DeVos
Education Week put out a to-do list for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. By total coincidence, we'd mentioned her minimal level of contact with the press that morning. So number five and last on its list proves to be this:
"Hold a press conference."
"Okay, that may not be on the secretary's to-do list. But we wish it was, if only so we can hear from her what kind of progress she's making on all these different fronts."
A day of judgment
The board that oversees the money-losing Chicago Sun-Times is between a rock and a hard place as it convenes Tuesday: It wants to sell to the owner of the Chicago Tribune. But the Trump Justice Department's antitrust division is essentially insisting it sell to a group with no media experience and comparatively very modest resources that consists of a former politician and local unions.
That group yesterday met a deadline to come up with the government-mandated $11.2 million. Still, Dallas-based Jeremy Halbreich, who once ran the Sun-Times and now oversees a company of smaller papers, wonders about such a deal. He concedes the government has been very helpful to the Sun-Times in the past, especially during bankruptcy proceedings in 2009, but that the competitive landscape these days is dramatically worse for metro papers, especially if you're No. 2.
He thus thinks the paper would be better off as part of Tronc, the far better-resourced owner of the Tribune, especially if editorial independence were assured.
"It seems clear there are no experienced, well-funded buyers interested in acquiring Sun-Times and any other type of buyer will prove short-lived and quickly end with the closure of the publication.”
But the government is intent on the late bidder that it essentially forced by delaying deadlines on bidding. It leaves the Sun-Times board with a fish-or-cut bait decision on whether to say no and then perhaps be dragged into court by the government at great expense.
Filing suit against Black Lives Matter
A police officer badly wounded in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, attack by a former Marine sued Black Lives Matter for helping to inspire the attack. Here, University of Chicago free speech expert Geoffrey Stone argues why it should be thrown out.
News missed by The New York Review of Books
"After 27 years, Steve Whitmire will no longer be the voice of Kermit the Frog, a Muppets Studio spokeswoman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter."
"Whitmire took over the role of the beloved Muppet frog after character creator Jim Henson died in 1990...Muppets performer Matt Vogel will take over as Kermit the Frog."
Speaking of Jim Henson
Henson and Sammy Davis Jr. died on the same day, with the 20 biggest papers at least mentioning both on Page 1 (in a pre-internet world, I was curious and actually called them back then). Most ran both obituaries out front but The Boston Globe ran Henson inside, with the Cleveland Plain Dealer running both obituaries inside. (Chicago Tribune)
The Chicago Tribune gave Henson considerably more prominent play, pissing off a fair number of readers by putting Henson out front and Davis on the obituary page. We were culturally tone deaf.
The Times attacks, Fox defends
"Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email." (The New York Times)
"The White House on Monday adamantly defended President Trump's eldest son against a new wave of scrutiny after he acknowledged meeting a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the campaign.” (Fox)
No surprise, "Trump & Friends" downplayed the Donald Trump Jr.-Russian meeting story, going heavy with a military helicopter crash that killed 16 in Mississippi and on fiddling the Senate Republicans have done with their troubled Obama replacement bill.
No surprise, CNN and MSNBC did not. "Morning Joe" got deep into the weeds, touching upon all the omissions the Trump campaign made in coming clean about Russian interactions, which includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner.
CNN's "New Day" went deeper with a graphic of seven "Trump associates who did not disclose meetings with Russians until reported in the media" (namely Sessions, Kushner, Trump Jr., Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and J.D.Gordon). It found it irrelevant whether anything actionable came out of the meeting, as was a point of contention during a marathon dialogue between co-host Chris Cuomo and Kellyanne Conway yesterday.
And things to know about Donald Trump Jr.
What's his role in the administration? "Publicly disavowing any role in the Trump administration."
Hobbies? "Is an avid amateur national security advisor"
There's more in The Onion.