The lay-offs and cutbacks in the dot.com
industry are spreading to newspapers. Almost daily, companies are predicting bad times for the rest of this year. Dow Jones, publishers of The Wall Street Journal, expects to earn only a third of what it had expected in this year’s first quarter, and plans to reduce its staff. The New York Times has issued a similar earnings warning. And it’s not just the big papers that are suffering. The San Jose Mercury News, in the once-bustling Silicon Valley, has laid off employees. The chief culprit is an advertising decline, especially in classified ads. One Wall Street analyst who specialises in newspapers even predicts: "This could be the worst year since 1991, which was the worst media recession since WW2." Compared to massive lay-offs at such big American corporations as General Motors, Ford, the Sarah Lee Corp and J C Penney, the newspaper cutbacks are a mere blip – so far. But newspapers are more sensitive to a declining economy and the worst, it is feared, is yet to come. One result already: newspapers here are costing more.
More signs of the (bad) times: The museum, television studio and gift-shop that People Magazine was planning to open on the ground floor of the Time Inc building in Manhattan has been abandoned. The original idea was to allow visitors to watch a TV show based on the magazine’s contents, buy souvenirs and wander through an exhibition showing such items as a Princess Di ballgown or the eye-popping miniscule dress that Jennifer Lopez wore at last year’s Grammy Awards. Time executives admit that the declining economy is to blame.
Remember that picture of the young Palestinian boy killed while he cowered with his father beyond a barricade during the street fighting in the Gaza Strip last September? It was nominated on the MSNBC news web here for Picture of the Year. Now a war has broken out over the picture itself. For three weeks the picture topped the list with most votes. Then rival political factions heard about it and got to work. Some thought it engendered too much sympathy for the Palestinian cause. As a result there has been a sudden surge in votes for less controversial pictures. Top of the list at the moment: a picture of a maimed puppy using a set of wheels as its back legs. In fact the top five now are all animal pictures, including a dog peeking curiously through a hole in a fence. The picture of the boy in Gaza is now in sixth place, more than 55,000 votes behind the front-runner.
George, the magazine launched by John F Kennedy Jnr, has published its last issue. Now the Kennedy family is reportedly negotiating with Hachette Filipacchi to buy the title and all its archival material. Not that the family plans to revive the magazine. It wants to protect the copyright to the title and contents. The last issue of George featured JFK Jnr on the cover – for the first time since the magazine was launched five years ago. He always refused to allow his picture on the cover while he was alive.
Despite the gloom over the economy, there was champagne all round at Time Inc when the Magazine Hot List of the Year came out. Of the ten top magazines, three were from the Time Inc stable: Fortune (No.1), In Style (No.2) and Teen People (No.10). Not only that Time Inc chairman and CEO Don Logan was named Executive of the Year. Editor of the Year: Glenda Bailey of Marie Claire.
By Jeffrey Blyth