Friday, June 5, 2009

let the grandees do it.

Michael Kinsley has an interesting take on what he thinks might be the best business model to keep news orgs alive: "to be a flyspeck on the balance sheet of a large company with other things on its mind."

From the post:
For seven years I was editor of Slate, owned then by Microsoft (and now by The Washington Post Co.). We watched our pennies, but we were given what we needed to produce a good product. Never once did the company interfere with our content, no matter how much we goaded it. Never once did it even ask politely if we would publish an executive's op-ed about the future of computing. Why? Partly because we were too small to bother with. But mainly because as unsentimental business types they knew that interfering would destroy the value they were investing millions to create.

One trouble with placing your hopes in a grandee restoration is that earlier grandees made money from newspapers. Pouring money acquired elsewhere into a money-losing business is a less appealing proposition. Amazingly, though, there are rich folks who are eager to do this. Why? Based on my experience as editor of the New Republic, owned then and now by Marty Peretz and family (as well as close observation of others who have chosen to squander large fortunes on media properties), motives include sincere concern to preserve an important institution, a desire to influence the political debate, a misplaced belief that better management could make the thing profitable, hunger for status and -- believe it or not -- a desire to hang around with journalists. Hey. We're better company than horses, a more traditional way to squander a fortune.

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