Thursday, May 22, 2008

Three Quick Hits

With friends like these: Digital chiefs of the New York Times spoke to CondeNast Portfolio, and had to admit, as hard as it was for them, that print will be around for a long time. Digital editor Jim Roberts:

"'The New York Times is not going to be obsolete in print for a long time,' he said, noting that greater than 80 percent of its revenues are still from print. 'So whatever it takes to keep breathing life into it, we're going to do. We are blessed, in a sense, because in Manhattan there are people who will not give up their papers. It's like the Charlton Heston quote -- we'll have to pry it from their cold, dead fingers.'"

Actually it was his cold, dead hands, but that's why there are copy editors. It may simply be that the quote doesn't pick up the twinkle in the eye and the sarcasm, but taking it at its face value, it's that lack of comprehension -- how could intelligent people possibly favor print? -- seen in online true believers. To me, I'd do a lot more than "breathe life" into something that produced four out of five dollars.

Melancholy Danes: Ernst Poulsen writes for Poynter about a survey of Danes in which newspapers came in behind TV and the Web for the "if you were on a desert island, which news source would you keep" sort of question. Poulsen sees challenges in this for newspapers, and makes a couple of good points. But here are my questions about the survey, which was reported only in the print version of a Danish publication: Is there any previous control for this survey -- over the last decade, did the rise of the Web hurt newspapers more, or TV? (Is it surprising that half the people said they would keep TV and that TV is seen as more trustworthy? Danes aren't that much unlike Americans.) When people say "the Web," do they mean TV on the Web, newspapers on the Web, Danish equivalent of ESPN or the BBC on the Web -- comparing "print" and "TV" to "online" is always an elusive comparison because both can be accessed online? Finally, if 27 percent voted for online and 23 percent voted for print, what is the margin of error?

OK, Poulsen was not reporting on this survey, but commenting on it. I would add to his conclusions, as said before: The real challenge to print has been TV, is TV, may be TV on the Web but will still be TV. And that's true of "print on the Web" as much as "print in print."

Vroom: This weekend, forget about newspapers, department stores and the whole thing for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, finally getting back to what it should be again after years of internecine feuding. Once again open-wheel racing's best (except for those who bolted for NASCAR during the feud) will hear "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines." I will hear it for the 42nd time since 1966. It'll be great for U.S. public attention to the sport if Marco Andretti or Danica Patrick or Graham Rahal win. But I have to pull for pole-sitter Scott Dixon, because his U.S. home used to be in the 5700 block of Broadway Street, around the corner from where I grew up. At any rate, consider spending Sunday watching the 500.

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