Smells Like Teen Spirit

"We have the nirvana that people are looking for," Time's managing editor Rick Stengel says in a bizarre quote at the end of a typically fluffy profile by legacy media critic Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post:

After being locked for decades in a Coke-Pepsi race, Time and Newsweek both decided to downsize. Time has shrunk its circulation from 4 million to 3.25 million, shedding giveaway or discounted circulation.

Both abandoned weekly news summaries, which in the digital age felt like an irrelevant throwback to the days of Henry Luce. Time adopted what Stengel calls "reported analysis," stories with a clear point of view -- often left of center -- that were rooted in shoe-leather work. Newsweek, which moved more sharply left, bet the ranch last year on more opinionated essays and columns -- and lost.

Some of Time's reporting-driven covers this year: "Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry"; "The Broken States of America"; "The Best Laws Money Can Buy"; and a fascinating look back at the cultural impact of "The Pill." There were also such well-worn newsweekly compilations as "The 100 Most Influential People in the World" and "10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years."

Having cultivated a long relationship with Steve Jobs, Time landed an exclusive interview for a cover on the launch of the iPad -- and becoming the first news publication to have its app on the hot new tablet.

Of course, it's not possible to be original all the time. After the recent cover story titled "What Animals Think," Slate's Jack Shafer pointed out that Time ran a 1993 story ("Can Animals Think?") and a 1999 cover (also headlined "Can Animals Think?") on the subject. Stengel laughs off the history, saying: "It actually sold really well."

Backed by the resources of Time Warner, Stengel has also pursued such moneymaking ventures as a two-day conference in South Africa during the World Cup, staged with Fortune and CNN. The keynote speakers were Bill Clinton and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

One lasting change may have been the simplest. Stengel believes that switching publication from Monday to Friday -- he unveils the cover every Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" -- was important because the magazine became weekend reading.

Time.com now offers a news feed, a collection of links aimed at stopping such sites as the Huffington Post from cannibalizing its traffic. The company plans to offer tiered pricing for access to the Web site, the magazine or something in between.

Another upgrade is the Swampland blog, with reporters such as Klein contributing. "I thought it was important for us to have an interactive relationship with our readers," Klein says. But he still has reservations: "I'm sometimes too quick. I've made mistakes as a blogger that I would never make as a columnist." He says the feedback is valuable but that the posted comments tend to be dominated by extremists.

Buoyed by Time's recent success, Stengel uses a word not generally associated with plain old journalism: "We have the nirvana that people are looking for. We have a product that people actually like and are willing to pay for."

Wait, which people? I'm guessing 70 percent of the American public didn't appreciate this recent oikaphobic cover:

Meanwhile, even with its recent divestiture of sclerotic Newsweek, Will Collier notes that the Washington Post is still hemorrhaging serious money:

I thought it was a big deal with Creative Loafing reported that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was losing $1 million a week. If the Politico story above is correct, the WaPo is losing about half a million dollars a day. That makes the AJC look like middling country cousins.

Rather delightfully, the Politico piece includes a quote from WaPo honcho Don Graham whining about the effects of Obama Administration regulations on the Kaplan division.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap...

The Kaplan division was something that Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media looked at earlier this month, writing that, in his opinion, the Post "Has Watergate Scandal of Its Own:"

President Obama’s Big Government socialism is threatening the profits of The Washington Post, and Post reporter Steven Pearlstein can remain silent no more.

Not only does a Post company now stand accused of fraudulent practices, two high-powered law firms are considering lawsuits on behalf of the shareholders of the Post against the company’s directors, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ wife Melinda.

The company, Kaplan, is part of The Washington Post Company and “has provided the handsome profits that have helped to cover this newspaper’s operating losses,” admits Pearlstein in an extraordinary August 11 column. “Although we in the Post newsroom have nothing to do with Kaplan, we’ve all benefited from its financial success.”

Please understand that Kaplan is facing the threat of tough new federal regulations from the Obama Administration.

Isn’t it interesting how profits are now being defended when they benefit liberal journalists?

Heh. But then, all of Conquest's Laws work remarkably well when it comes to Post.