Old Media Belatedly Discovers That Elections Have Consequences
Back in April of 2009, only a couple of months after Mr. Obama took office, Megan McArdle, then with Atlantic magazine, wrote:
Conde laid off Julian Sanchez yesterday amid more cuts in its digital properties. Conde is in an especially bad place with the web: their core competency is selling beautiful, glossy ad pages that readers enjoy looking at. This does not translate well to a digital format, and it’s hard to make your company over overnight.
A bunch of my journalist friends and I have decided that our new toast is “to 2010″. 2009 has so far been pretty disappointing for almost everyone I know, not to mention the country for which we all have great affection.
One year later, in April of 2010, Newsweek told the nation that America's Back! Time to Barack and roll all night and party every day!
I thought everything was green grass and high tides forever after that. (Well, other than Obama's ocean reset.) Recovery Summer, the Obama economy is in full steam, Happy Days Are Here Again! (To borrow from the refrain of another "Progressive" president who carried with him his own perma-Depression.)
You do remember Newsweek, don't you? The Washington Post began to unload it less than a month after the above cover story ran, and it died as a print magazine less than two months after the 2012 election. And it might have company. Or as John Nolte writes at Big Journalism today, "Obama Economy Hits Media: NYT, Time Announce Major Layoffs":
It’s not your business model that sucks; it’s you that sucks. -- Andrew Breitbart
As many as 700 -- almost ten-percent of the overall staff -- are on the chopping block at Time Magazine. According to New York Magazine, a whole herd of top-level sacred cows at the New York Times will be given the non-choice of a buyout or a forced layoff within the next few weeks.
And in both cases, it's due to "rapidly declining advertising revenue."
Yeah, that's a shame.
This is what you call going down with the ship. Time and the NYT are Exhibits A and B in the case to expose everything wrong and self-defeating with today's mainstream media. Rather than do the job honestly (which would undoubtedly improve the customer base), and wake up to the reality that the Internet has removed the monopolistic distribution bottleneck on the flow of information that kept them alive for so long, both publications chose instead to double down when it came to pushing a left-wing agenda.
It was almost as if they knew the end was coming, and this was their last chance.
Indeed -- much more after the page break.
Of course, blaming their layoffs on a lack of advertising revenue is a dual-edged sword for both Time and the New York Times (especially the New York Times). Fareed Zakaria, the erstwhile Obama advisor who contributes to both Time and CNN, the television network owned by Time-Warner, said in December of 2010 that Americans needed to reduce their consumption:
Parker asked Zakaria if he had faith the American people could handle the fiscal discipline he advocated. Zakaria used the platform as an opportunity to attack Americans and refute the notion “the American people are wonderful.” His solution: Less consumption by the American people.
“No, I think the people are the big problem,” Zakaria said. “I mean, Americans — everybody wants to say the American people are so wonderful. You know, I think that when they come to recognize that they have to make sacrifices too that it’s not just wasteful — they need to have — they need to recognize that some of what’s going to happen here is fewer. They have to consume fewer things. They have to accept slightly higher taxes. And in the long run, you will have a much better economy.”
The New York Times survives on advertising from both local and national retailers, and yet frequently runs puritanical environmentally correct articles on the "joys" of higher gas prices, and using less air conditioning and consumer goods -- all the way down to using less toilet paper.
And of course, the president that Time and the Gray Lady went all-in-on in 2008 and 2012 concurs -- we must consume less:
Well, hey, good news! The American public voted twice for the president these publications openly championed. The economy, influenced by his actions, has slowed dramatically. That economy has forced consumers to consume less. Consuming less means less to manufacture and promote. Which means less advertising, which means less money changing hands with publications. Which means less money for payroll.
Which means less journalists on the payroll.
As the Mencken quote that has continually made the rounds since early 2009 goes, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
But the common people getting it good and hard also has ramifications for those who believed they were insulated from such suffering.
Beyond the open and increasingly partisan politics that Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times espoused in the course of the last decade (yes, I know they were always liberal -- except, arguably, for Time during the Jurassic Luce years -- but the trend certainly accelerated after 9/11), there's the quality of their writing. As part of its final print issue, Newsweek looked back on its glory days in the 1960s, and made them sound like a rerun of Mad Men, with loads of boozing and interoffice skirt chasing. But that era of Newsweek put out an infinitely better product than its successor. And even fluffy Time spin-off People isn't immune to a drop in quality. At Ricochet, Emily Esfahani Smith compares and contrasts the early mid-1970s version of People -- both the quality of the writing, and the quality of the celebrities it covered -- with its current incarnation, and finds the latter version wanting badly.
Related: "We have met the 1%, and he is us." Read the whole thing.