Does NY Mag Understand Newsweek's Business?

In New York Magazine's "numerical summary" of our economic times, they list the decline in the number of cars and light trucks sold, the proposed rise in the price of a transit farecard ... And the decline in guaranteed circulation for Newsweek magazine from 3.1 million in 2007 to a proposed 1.6 million in 2009.

But there's something the writers miss. Not only do they for some reason neglect 2008 (reported base of 2.6 million), but they also leave out a reasonable argument for the newsweekly to be cutting its circ: cutting costs, and the ability to raise ad rates for a more choice audience. As Ad Age reports:
Newsweek will likely take the opportunity to simultaneously steer toward a more a elite readership -- by eliminating the least-valuable, most-discounted subscriptions on its books.
Times are tough for print pubs, and magazines in recent months have started suffering some of the same steep declines newspapers have gotten used to. But it's also no secret that to get subscriptions, general interest weeklies and monthlies have practically given away the "book" for subscription prices that don't pay for the editions and thrown in premiums (such as umbrellas or tote bags) that can cost a good chunk of the subscription price.

So, while one could look at the move by Newsweek as an act of desperation brought on by declining economic times, we should also note that the company's rate base cut -- something Time did a couple years ago -- has been rumored since well before the current economic decline . It can get a smaller more valuable audience in print, leaving the less valuable but higher numerical audience, a lower-priced commodity for advertisers, to its digital side.

It's safe to say, too, that Newsweek isn't the only magazine thinking along these lines.

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Off the Media: Media Arrrgh!

Infrequent and horribly irregular musings about WNYC radio's "On the Media."

This week, the show explores whether photographers are within their ethical rights to shoot subjects, especially for magazine covers, in a way that serves to influence the perceptions of the audience seeing them. Making Ann Coulter look longer and leggier with use of a wide-angle lens shot from below, shooting someone with certain kinds of lighting or camera filters to make them look darker or more evil, and so on.

One of the reasons photos get so much notice is because the manipulations are so much easier to see, and even feel at a visceral level than in other media. Any distortions or filters can even be quantified (this kind of fisheye lens, that gradient of filter...), while the filters through which we record and write are less obvious if just as important.

My Fulbright project in Japan in the early '90s was about Japanese vs. American coverage of specific news events. Neither side saw its coverage as biased, and the journalists for top-notch organizations on both sides worked very hard to be objective and fair. But they also were coming at the stories -- whether about weighty business and policy issues or more frothy sports matter -- from their own points of view, often culture-bound and even politically influenced. Many seemed to not realize they were coming at a story from a specific angle that was not the only possible angle, did not see that their points of view colored the ways they wrote and talked, that they were strongly steered by sources, and by the editors they filed to who came with their own preconceptions. The classic example of distortion on TV is the protests in Iran after hostages were taken during the Carter administration. The cameraman used a tight shot to make it look as if Tehran was in full protest mode; in fact, a group of about 300 people were dwarfed in a largely empty plaza.

So, while it's reasonable to ask whether photojournalists have an obligation to be more fair. But the question is equally valid for all forms of journalism. There is really no such thing as objectivity. Every time a choice is made about how to portray something -- point a camera, frame a subject, take a quote, ask a question -- the person committing the act of journalism is injecting themselves into the process.

Oh, and why the "arrgh" in the headline? OTM brings on one of their faves, Jeff Jarvis, to talk about whether media "is" or "are" -- Jarvis appears to be talking about platforms, and how there's no longer a distinction between the different forms of media, since anyone can now contribute in multiple ways (photos, text, audio, video). Show hosts Garfield and Gladstone, though, are talking about a multiplicity of voices, and agree, as Garfield says, that it's "are," which sounds when he says it like a pirate exclaiming.
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