With the recent sale of The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos, the less-recent sale of the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and the N.Y. Times’s exuberant denial that it is for sale, one thing came to mind: family businesses.
Not an obvious common thread, perhaps. But I have long been interested in how family-run businesses succeed or fail — and in fact this week have just re-released an hour-long Freakonomics Radio podcast on the topic, “The Church of ‘Scionology’” (subscribe here). It features stories on a pair of family beer businesses — Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling — as well as the strange tale of adult adoptions in Japan in the service of corporate stability (i.e., if your son or daughter isn’t up for the job of running your company, then you can simply adopt your successor).
The Post and Journal were long-held family businesses, the Post by the Graham family and the Journal by the Bancrofts. The Times, in an ownership structure similar to the Post, is a public company whose voting shares are controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, and Arthur Sulzberger, like his ancestors before him, is the publisher of the newspaper. I haven’t worked at the Times for some time but the feeling then — and I am told that the feeling persists — is that the Sulzberger family has done an extraordinary job of protecting the editorial integrity of the newspaper, as might be expected of a family steward, but has been less competent than one might wish in shepherding its business interests. (This is all speculation, of course, as there is no counterfactual.) Read More »
From a friend, who got them from a friend, who got them from someone else, here’s a collection of newspaper headlines that don’t quite accomplish what the writer set out to accomplish. Anyone who has ever written or published anything can surely sympathize — and laugh. Read More »
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Participants were surveyed shortly after the paywall was announced and again 11 weeks after it was implemented to understand how they would react and adapt to this change. Most readers planned not to pay and ultimately did not. Instead, they devalued the newspaper, visited its Web site less frequently, and used loopholes, particularly those who thought the paywall would lead to inequality. Results of an experimental justification manipulation revealed that framing the paywall in terms of financial necessity moderately increased support and willingness to pay.
The New York Times published an interesting article last week about an ongoing dispute in Europe between Google and European newspapers (and their supporters in government). The issue is whether Google must pay for the privilege of linking to those sites, or should be able to link for free. Of course, at stake is who gains the revenue that comes from aggregating and compiling links.
As the Times notes:
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Google got rich by selling a simple proposition: The links it provides to other Web sites are worth a lot of money, so much that millions of advertisers are willing to pay the company billions of dollars for them.
Now some European newspaper and magazine publishers, frustrated by their inability to make more of their own money from the Web, want to reverse the equation. Google, they say, should pay them for links, because they provide the material on which the Web giant is generating all that revenue.
Here’s what most hurts most about the new Amazon threat: It aims directly at the one category of newspaper advertising that has fared the best, retail.
Classifieds has decimated by interactive databases. National has migrated strongly digital. Retail, which made up of just 47 percent of newspaper ad revenues 10 years ago, is now up to 57 percent of newspaper totals. Now that advertising, albeit in just a few markets initially, will have to compete with Amazon-forced marketplace change.
Doctor also considers the implications of the move for Google, cityscapes and shopping centers, and employment.
Felix Salmon recently proposed an interesting new profit source for newspapers like The New York Times. Citing the Times‘s recent expose on Walmart and the resulting drop in the company’s share price, Salmon wonders why the company doesn’t charge companies for early access to big stories:
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[S]houldn’t the NYT, which can always use a bit of extra revenue, take advantage of the fact that its stories can move markets so much? Not directly: I’m not suggesting that the New York Times Company should start buying out-of-the-money put options on Mexican corporates in advance of its own stories. But how much would hedge funds pay to be able to see the NYT’s big investigative stories during the trading day prior to the appearance of the story? It’s entirely normal, and perfectly ethical, for news organizations, including Reuters, to give faster access to the best-paying customers.
It includes an interview with University of Chicago economist Matthew Gentzkow, who discusses a study he coauthored with Jesse Shapiro about newspaper bias. They used a sample of 433 newspapers and sorted the phrases favored by Congressional Democrats and Republicans. Read More »
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond (not this one) has written an interesting article headlined “Belichick’s Coaching Tree Bears Very Little Fruit.” Here, from my iPad edition, is the accompanying photograph:
The caption reads “Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, who was hired last week as Penn State’s new football coach.” That’s not quite right. The Bill from the Patriots who was hired by Penn State was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, as Diamond’s article makes clear in the first paragraph. Belichick is still very much the head coach of the New England Patriots. Read More »