American Pie 29.04.05

It’s not circulation but the quality of readers that counts. That’s
what many large American newspapers, beset by declining sales, are
telling advertisers. The number of papers that are losing circulation
is growing – including among them The New York Times. Even at The Wall
Street Journal sales are flat. At several sales conferences lately,
publishers have been pushing the idea that it’s no longer fair to judge
a paper by its sales. Gauging the quality of readers is more important.
For example, how long readers have subscribed to a paper, how many
minutes a day they spend reading it. At The Wall Street Journal,
circulation for the past two years has remained at about 1.8 million.
But, as a spokesman for the paper put it: “We prefer to emphasise the
quality of our circulation.” The increased emphasis on readership comes
amid revelations that a number of newspapers have been inflating their
circulation figures. Among the biggest transgressors has been Newsday,
the New York suburban paper owned by the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune
has said it plans to reimburse advertisers – to the tune of almost $90m.

 

When, in 2001, Felix Dennis launched a US version of his news mag The Week, there were many who predicted it wouldn’t sell.

America, they pointed out, already had a surfeit of news weeklies.

But
they were wrong. Four years later, the US version of The Week has
tripled its original sales, has a circulation of more than 300,000, has
more than doubled its ad pages and is regarded as America’s “upmarket”
news weekly. According to general manager Justin Smith, who joined from
The Economist, it should even be turning a profit within 18 months. It
helps, of course that it has a tie-in with The Conference Board, a
business group that offers copies of The Week to its 25,000 members at
a discount. As a result, The Week can claim it’s the news mag of
America’s top CEOs. The US version of The Week is only slightly
different from its British parent. It has a score of “reader-subs” who
cull hundreds of publications from around the world. Unlike the British
edition, the US version has a team of lawyers who check every word. It
also pays writers for everything it uses. That makes it expensive to
produce. However, what has helped sell the title are the news lunches
hosted by Sir Harry Evans, a consultant at The Week. The most recent
event in New York’s Grand Central Station featured Henry Kissinger
(pictured)n discussing the future of the Middle East. Admitted Smith,
who is part British, part American: “Harry has been an inspiration to
us all. We owe a lot to him.”

 

The prison gates are
looming for two US journalists, Judith Miller of the NY Times and
Matthew Cooper of Time, who are still refusing to co-operate with a
government inquiry into who leaked the name of a secret CIA operative
in the build-up to the war in Iraq. Ironically, neither reporter wrote
a story about the secret agent. Nevertheless, they are charged with
concealing the identity of their informant. Both are appealing to the
US Supreme Court. If that fails, they could be behind bars within weeks.

 

Keep
it short! That’s the new edict at the NY Times, a paper long noted for
the verbiage of its reporting. An order, signed by editor Bill Keiller,
has told the paper’s staff that no story can exceed 1,800 words –
unless it’s approved by at least three top editors. Most American
editors, polled about the Times edict, said they agreed.

Some papers now say they are trying to stop stories jumping from page to page. That old habit, they agree, annoys readers.

It’s
hardly Stars and Stripes, the GI newspaper of the Second World War, but
Dennis Publishing is urging subscribers to Maxim to dig under their
beds, or wherever they keep their old stashes of the sex and babes mag,
and send them to troops serving in Iraq. The company is sending 20,000
copies of its latest issue to the troops. The issue to be distributed
features Sin City star Brittany Murphy (pictured) on the cover.
Supposedly, she only agreed to pose undressed for the cover if the
issue went to the troops.

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