Jul 252009

I’ve read the New York Times Dining Section for years. I’ve been attracted by the photography, design, and writing, and it’s still one of my favorite sections to read each week. I was thrilled when they renamed the section “Dining In/Dining Out,” and enjoyed the revitalized design and writing. I still talk with friends about some of the famous writers of that section, like R.W. Apple. I’ve stashed the Dining Sections for years, and occasionally I like to pull them out and check out the yellowing photos and stories.

I remember when the section was a minimum of 12 pages and chock full of both full page display advertisements and classifieds. But I’ve started to notice a shift. Late October in 2008, the New York Times quietly renamed the section back to the simpler “Dining” name. And gradually the section has become slimmer and slimmer–in the past few months the section has not exceeded eight pages.

One metric of a newspaper’s health is the ratio of advertisements to editorial content. An important aspect to consider is that the time of the year does matter–newspapers typically have fewer advertisements in the mid-summer. However, a healthy section will typically have almost a 50% split between advertising and editorial content. It is not uncommon for the size of any periodical to be controlled by the number of advertisements.

This week’s Dining section appeared to be an all time low for the number of advertisements. The back page of the section has two advertisements from New York Times properties: one from about.com and one from The New York Times Store. These advertisements are probably not revenue-producing. Inside, there was a single classified column-inch from Le Perigord, a classic French restaurant in New York City. I’ve seen this advertisement for at least five years; I’m a bit curious if it has run in the Times for the entire 45-years that Le Perigord has been open.

Inside the rest of the section was single column-inch display advertisement for California olive oil, and a two column by three inch advertisement for sommelier training in Umbria, Italy. And a couple of more house advertisements for the New York Times related ventures.

And that’s it.

To sum up, this week’s New York Times Dining section has eight pages, eight column inches of advertising, and a bit over a page of house ads.

I don’t know how long the Times will choose to continue this section with that amount of advertising. And this is not a one-time occurrence. I cannot remember the last time there was a paid advertisement on the back page of the Dining section. And the only time in the past few months that the Dining section has exceeded three full pages of advertisments was a few weeks ago. The “official marketing, tourism and partnership organization” of New York City, NYC & Co., ran a double-truck advertisement for New York Restaurant Week. (A double-truck advertisement is two full facing pages, typically on a single sheet of paper.) I don’t consider their advertising efforts a good barometer of a newspaper’s health.

I think a publisher should think long and hard about the financial viability of a section when the majority of advertising is from other branches of their company and government-sponsored entities. I enjoy the Dining section of the New York Times, but I can’t understand how it is working as a business venture. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Times uses the departure of Frank Bruni as the main critic as an impetus for reworking the section.

[I know I’ve written on this topic before, but I think it’s an interesting barometer of the health of a newspaper.]

 Posted by at 5:24 pm
Mar 262009

Yesterday’s New York Times Dining In/Dining Out section, aka the food section, had eight pages. Excluding advertisements by and for the New York Times, there was a single full page display advertisement and two small display classified advertisements. If that doesn’t make the Times management a little nervous, I don’t know what does.

In other New York Times Dining News, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin had dueling dinner parties to see who could cook the best meal. Frank Bruni, the restaurant critic for the Times was the judge. Unfortunately, in a non-critical piece, he ultimately weaseled. Unsurprisingly, it’s more difficult to criticize people you know and work with than it is to visit restaurants anonymously and potentially destroy their livelihoods with your critiques.

 Posted by at 1:31 pm
Nov 242008

Last week, while I was still at PhotoShelter, a coworker and I looked out the window and wondered what the commotion was outside of a van in Union Square. it turns out that it was newspaper distribution. The next morning, she picked up what seemed to be The New York Times from a person handing them out.
The New York Times wrote an article about the prank; there is also a well-done companion site.

 Posted by at 5:43 pm
Oct 312008

Today it was announced that Cond√© Nast would be cutting 5% of it’s staff and 5% of it’s budget. I personally know one person who has lost their job; I hope I do not find out about others. American Express also announced layoffs of 7,000 jobs worldwide, and American Express publishing has announced a layoff of 22 positions, or 10% of its staff. Cutbacks by Gannet and the Tribune Company have also been reported.

Both of the publishing cuts come on the heels of the Time Inc. announcement. These cuts will certainly have a large impact in New York City in combination with the financial industry meltdown.

 Posted by at 12:08 am
Oct 282008

There have been a lot of rumors swirling about the last few weeks about my old employer, Time Inc. Folks I talked with has said that approximately between 200 and 300 people would be laid off: it seems that the number is much higher. The New York Times reports Time Inc. Plans About 600 Layoffs.

One of the changes described by the article is that the publishing division of the “lifestyle” magazines will directly control the editorial content. Time Inc. had always had a principle of “Church and State” where the editorial and publishing divisions had strictly separated reporting lines. And while the editorial side lost some control of the company during the formation of Time Warner, the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Brothers, there was always a culture of editorial independence.

In addition, it’s notable that “the news and entertainment units will continue to report to John Huey.” At first glance, this appears that Huey’s responsibilities are continuing as usual, but as I just noted, the article states that the “lifestyle” magazines will not report to Huey.

From the outside, these might not seem like significant changes, but they may be the most significant change in Time Inc. since the creation of Time Warner. I’m hoping my friends at Time Inc. are doing okay.

The Times also reported on another significant media event today: Christian Science Paper Ends Daily Print Edition. This is one of the first national newspapers to switch to an all online format; I certainly don’t believe it will be the last.

And in other media news, less significant to the general populace, but more significant for my company: Digital Railroad Shuts Down and Confusion as Digital Railroad Shuts Down

 Posted by at 10:41 pm
Apr 302006

I wrote a letter to the Public Editor responding to his column regarding the coverage of the Duke rape allegations. The New York Times published my letter in today’s paper. I found out it was going to be published on Friday. It was edited for space, but we negotiated for a few minutes so that the gist and context of my letter was not distorted.

 Posted by at 9:47 pm
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