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Oct 9 2006
Kinsley's Take on Tribune's Vision (or Lack Thereof)
Call it sour grapes. But a year after famous talking head Michael Kinsley was thrown out as the Los Angeles Times� editorial page editor, he finally lets loose on Tribune Co. and its problems �fixing� the Times.

In various comments, Kinsley said the Times is still one of the best newspapers out there. But he noted that it also has the worst Web site among major U.S. newspapers; that Tribune probably hadn't had any vision for the Times (or for Times Mirror), although it paid $8 billion for the company in 2000; and that there has never been any serious attempt to develop the national presence that would ensure long-term survival, despite footprints in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington (via Baltimore) and New York. Kinsley also guesses that the Times will be sold within six months, although the results won�t be pleasing to a local owner.

Where did his comments appear? In the Times� Current section on Sunday.

Kinsley, now the American editor of the Guardian (London), doesn�t provide inside dope on what really goes on behind the scenes. Truly, Kinsley�s idea of a successful newspaper is pretty much limited to one that is read by influentials in politics, culture and business (in that order). He couldn't care less about the success of the paper in selling full pages to car dealers in Orange County. For sure, it is a noneconomic view. For most newspapers, national is the gravy. Local is the bread and butter.

But his charge that Tribune lacked any vision at all for Times Mirror is one to seriously ponder. He scores some points. Aside from providing valuable scale for CareerBuilder, and other verticals, anyone can observe that the Times� editorial and ad sales have been under-leveraged. The Times hasn�t even dominated in entertainment coverage, despite being located in the company town of the entertainment industry (in fact, it looks like The New York Times� might steal a good portion of the market with its acquisition of Baseline, a leading entertainment database).

Perhaps the arrival as publisher of David Hiller, the very smart corporate lawyer who ran Tribune Interactive for a couple of years, might bring a new focus as Tribune tries to �right size� the Times� economics while increasing market share. But it is hard to say.

Ultimately, Kinsley concludes that Tribune might want to get back to its provincial roots and just get rid of the Times. He also predicts that it will do a deal with a local magnate like David Geffen or Eli Broad.

�If I were Dennis FitzSimmons, chief executive of Tribune Co., and someone said, �Here is a large check. Take it and you will never have to think about the Los Angeles Times ever again,� I would pinch myself, then grab it and scurry back to the Midwest before the buyer changed his mind or I woke up,� said Kinsley.

�But a sale to a local or locals is not likely to produce an equally happy ending for the buyer or for Los Angeles. Buying a newspaper is different from inheriting one,� he notes, referring to the built-in sense of noblesse oblige of The New York Times� Sulzbergers or The Washington Post�s Grahams. Me, I think that part of it is overrated.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Peter Krasilovsky at  20:10 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [6]

Oct 9 2006
CBS-TV Sites Launch 'Best of' Cities
TV station Web sites and other local media will be hosting local �best of� contests developed by CityVoter, a new company started by Forrester Research alum. The "best of" contests are using a tried-and-true format popularized by city magazines such as New York and Washingtonian and widely adopted by city guides such as Citysearch and Digital City. In this case, the best of sites are being branded as �The A List� and enable local residents to nominate local businesses in up to 90 categories.

The featured businesses will be able to populate information about themselves and will also be offered upsells such as coupons. Other local and national advertising will be sold around them.

CityVoter has launched with in Boston, an Owned & Operated station, as well as, a Gannett-owned CBS affiliate. The latter station launched with more than 600 nominated businesses. Other local media outlets are now being approached. Vista Print, which prints materials for SMEs such as business cards, is listed as an additional marketing partner.

A friendly Forrester writeup suggests that the �best of� format will eventually take over local advertising. �I think the CityVoter model finally replaces ye old Yellow Pages,� says analyst Shar VanBoskirk (ahem-cough-sputter-cough).

Readers know I�m not going to be so bullish over such a narrow ap. But over the years, it has proved to be a good format, and we know that TV stations are fine for partnering with content packagers. CityVoter seems to be off to a good start.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Peter Krasilovsky at  20:10 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 9 2006
Google and YouTube: It's Official
After many days of swirling rumors about a Google acquisition of YouTube, the companies announced today that this will happen. Read the press release here, a recording of the conference call that followed the announcement here, and more to come on this blog and in this week's issue of Local Media Journal.
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Mike Boland at  18:46 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 9 2006
Craigslist Adds Fees in 4 More Cities
Craigslist will be adding $25 fees Oct. 22 for recruitment ads in four more markets: Boston; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego. The markets join New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco as cities where fees have been imposed on its mainstream recruitment ads. (In homebase SF, recruitment ads are $75.) Beyond an additional $10 fee for brokered housing in New York, ads remain free for �gigs,� �odd jobs,� domestic help and all other categories.

According to Classified Intelligence, Craigslist is already pulling in $30 million a year from such fees and is �sucking out� many millions more from newspapers and other recruitment sources that have seen a negative impact on their fee structure and overall ad units. San Diego Union Tribune reporter Kathryn Balint reports, for instance, that her newspaper�s Web site, SignOn San Diego, charges $350 for 30 days. charges $395 for 60 days, and San Diego charges $65 for 60 days.

If history is a guide, little friction should be anticipated from the imposition of the new fees. When fees were first imposed in Los Angeles and New York City in August 2004, for instance, the absolute number of ads in those markets dropped significantly, but the remaining jobs were of much higher quality. Both markets, of course, have more than recovered their original share.

Craigslist, of course, is rationalizing the need for fees as a means to help reduce clutter from spam and reposting ads to stay on top of categories. The explanation is apparently good enough to its users, which comScore says have increased 99 percent in the past year. Unique users have climbed from 6.9 million in mid-2005 to 13.8 million in mid-2006.

I think the �public interest� explanation is plausible, too. But is it churlish to note, once again, that after several years of fees, it is wearing a little thin? In my opinion, Craigslist would also serve its public by beginning to tackle its scaling issues and growing beyond its status as a dumb bulletin board. Ideally, it would help its users cut through the clutter by making its site more searchable and adding a few basic features.

It would also benefit its users more by reaching out beyond its urban cores. The site is practically useless in most suburbs, where much of local commerce actually occurs. And if the small-by-design company can�t handle such efforts, maybe the industrial-strength tech wizards at eBay, which owns 25 percent but has a �hands off� policy, can be called in to help?
Blog: Local Media Blog
posted by  Peter Krasilovsky at  18:39 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

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