American Pie 21.12.05

By Jeffrey Blyth

Although not as drastic (or as dramatic) as
switching its overseas editions to tabloid format , the Wall Street
Journal’s plan to slice three inches off the size of its US edition –
about the width of one column – is a significant trend. Other
newspapers here are likely to follow – if they haven’t done so already.
The shrinking of the parent WSJ is a money- saving attempt, brought on
largely by the soaring cost of newsprint which went up over 11 per cent
in August and September and now stands at over $625 a metric tonne –
compared to $435 just two years ago. . Shrinking the paper is expected
to save the WSJ about $18 million a year. Also it makes its easier for
the paper to switch to other presses if needed.. At the moment it can
only be printed on the paper’s own presses, Retro-fitting the presses
at its 17 printing sites, its estimated, would likely cost around $43
million. There is also a feeling that readers like smaller papers. Many
WSJ readers, especially commuters, are said to be intimidated by the
paper’s present wingspan.. The change in size is expected to reduce the
amount of news space by about ten per cent. A lot of news and features
are likely to switched to the paper’s website. The NY Times – although
already smaller in size than the WSJ – is also considering shrinking
its pages by about an inch. That would save The Times, its estimated,
about $25 million from its annual paper and ink costs.

In
another off-beat move the New York Times is planning to launch a new
entertainment magazine.. Stung by the fall-off in movie advertising,
the NYT in conjunction with Loews, the big American cinema chain, is
planning a magazine called On Movies that will be given away to
movie-goers in New York, Chicago and other big cities when they buy a
movie ticket. . . In addition to stories and features, it will carry
ads and to ensure, it’s hoped, that movie-goers won’t discard the
magazine along with the empty popcorn containers will include lots of
cut-price coupons. The magazine will be updated every six weeks..

Like
Radio Times, TV Guide was once one of the biggest selling magazines in
the world. But over the years it has become, in some critics words,
stuffy and antiquated. Its circulation has declined., Now it has a new
look. For one thing it’s no longer pocket sized. It’s name hasn’t
changed but its contents, apart from the TV listings, lean more towards
gossip and entertainment features – more like such gossip and fashion
weeklies as US and People. And it has a new editor, from Britain. He is
Ian Birch, former editorial director at Heat and Closer. The magazine’s
relaunch was surrounded by lots of hoopla. Including a big public
unveiling in a mid-town Manhattan plaza, dampened only by a downpour of
rain, followed by a floor-thumping jazz-oriented party at a new
fashionable nightclub in what was once New York’s meat-packing district
Among the guests: Anthea Disney, former Daily Mail features editor who
ran TV Guide for a time after a stint as the Mail’s NY bureau chief,
and is now a top News Corp executive. Apart from the changes in layout
and design, Ian Birch insisted the magazine, after 50 years, will be
more timely with a significantly shorter lead times for features and
stories – from three weeks to three days. He acknowledges that tv
viewers tastes and interests have changed dramatically in the past ten
years . When TV Guide was launched 50 years ago no-one could have
envisioned, at least here in the US, 500 or more TV channels…

Having
bought – for a reported $44 million dollars – a new penthouse apartment
on New York’s fashionable Fifth Ave, previously owned by
multimillionaire Laurence Rockefeller. Rupert Murdoch and his wife
Wendi Deng are finding it hard to get rid of their old apartment, a
three-floor loft in Manhatten’s swinging SoHo district. The problem: an
unexpected decline in the New York real-estate market. As brokers put
it: The bubble has burst. So far since June only six prospective buyers
have looked at the apartment. The asking price: $28 million. The
apartment, a former candy factory, takes up 5,300 square feet. It has a
huge living room, a media room with a theatre-sized screen , bathrooms
of carved Carrara marble, a sun- room on the roof (where Murdoch it’s
said reads his Sunday papers) with a view over the rooftops of the
Empire State Building. And, oh yes, no less than 20 telephones.
Originally the Murdochs paid just under $8 million for the top two
floors – but have spent a lot more on exapanding and renovating the
property. Will they get their money back? Even multi-millionaires can
hope…

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