понедельник, 2 ноября 2009 г.

What could Dostoevsky communicate with Twitter?

The New York Times

One London Paper to Rule Evening Commute

By ERIC PFANNER

In the latest of the great newspaper wars of London, two lions of Fleet Street, Rupert Murdoch and Jonathan Harmsworth (the fourth Viscount Rothermere), have been outflanked by a former Soviet K.G.B. officer, Aleksandr Lebedev.

London Lite, a free newspaper published by Mr. Harmsworth’s Daily Mail & General Trust, signaled its intention last week to shut down. That would leave the London afternoon newspaper market to Mr. Lebedev’s Evening Standard.

In January, Mr. Lebedev, a Russian tycoon, acquired a controlling stake in The Standard, a 182-year-old fixture of London commutes, from the Daily Mail & General Trust. The Standard put intense pressure on London Lite by becoming free three weeks ago, rather than charging 50 pence (80 cents) a copy. This vastly increased its distribution.

The Standard’s move followed the recent demise of another afternoon free paper, The London Paper, published by Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation. For three years, London Lite and The London Paper fought a battle that ended up bleeding both, as well as The Standard.

Circulation of The Standard had fallen to 225,000 in July, from 443,000 nine years earlier, and many of those copies were discounted or given away.

Since the paper became free, Mr. Lebedev said, its popularity has soared.

Whether Mr. Lebedev’s coup translates into profits is another matter.

“At the personal level, I’m quite happy about what we have done,” he said in an interview. “Whether I will be unhappy someday with the financial results — let’s wait and see.”

The decision to shift to free distribution goes against the grain, at a time when other papers are raising prices to compensate for a plunge in advertising. Across Europe, dozens of free papers, with all their eggs in the advertising basket, have shut down.

Andrew Mullins, managing director of The Standard, said the move would result in lower distribution costs, balancing the effects of lost newsstand revenue. And while printing costs will rise as circulation increases, the paper hopes to recoup that and more by raising ad rates.

“We had to be brave and do something bold,” Mr. Mullins said. “It had become abundantly clear that the paid-for model could not generate the audiences we needed.”

The Standard has increased distribution to 600,000 papers a day, filling the gap left by The London Paper. The Daily Mail & General Trust, which has kept a 25 percent stake in The Standard, is still publishing London Lite for now. But it said it had begun consultations with its staff about the future of that paper, a formality before a shutdown.

While The Evening Standard will pick up many of the other two papers’ readers, advertisers are not guaranteed to follow, said Vanessa Clifford, head of press at the media-buying agency Mindshare in London. Many advertisers, she said, are more interested in reaching specific groups of readers than in reaching the largest possible circulation.

“I hope they aren’t skipping around saying, ‘Yippee, all that money is now going to come in to us,’ ” she said of The Standard. “That would be naïve.”

Mr. Lebedev said advertisers had been reassured by the paper’s insistence on maintaining journalistic quality — something that is not a hallmark of free publications.

“It’s good to see people getting newspaper literature, rather than litter, for free,” Mr. Lebedev said.

The Evening Standard is not Mr. Lebedev’s only media holding. With the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, he owns a majority stake in Novaya Gazeta of Moscow.

Mr. Lebedev installed a new editor, Geordie Greig, who was hired away from Tatler, a Condé Nast magazine. The decision to drop the cover charge, Mr. Mullins said, had been personally approved by Mr. Lebedev after a study in which a number of business scenarios were presented to him.

Now, Mr. Lebedev and his London-based son, Evgeny, are keeping a close eye on developments.

“There’s a phone call once a day from one of the Lebedevs,” Mr. Mullins said. “They bought an influential paper and want to make sure it stays an influential paper.”

There have been reports that Mr. Lebedev might move to acquire another paper, like The Independent.

“Most of the speculation has been inaccurate,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t want to, but there’s no substance in it now.”

Mr. Lebedev said that he felt an obligation to support the newspaper business at a time when many were struggling with the challenge of the Internet. Much of what he learned about business and finance on the way to assembling a multibillion-dollar fortune came from reading the papers, he said.

“It’s good that we have online, but there’s so much rubbish in it,” he said. “What could Dostoevsky communicate with Twitter?”

9 комментариев:

  1. It's hard to see why a change in The Standard's ownership is perceived by some as a controversial move. Why the suspicion?

    When Gorbachev launched perestroyka and its twin "glasnost" more twenty years ago, the rationale was to decentralize control over news flow and mass media, which had previously been controlled by nomenklatura and apparatchiki.

    Gorbachev wanted to enable free exchange of opinion - an important agent of change in a free society, as we all well know.

    As a matter of fact, concentration of ownership over influential media groups has been a concern for many in the West, for quite a while.

    Lebedev - not your typical Russian tycoon, a man of integrity and intellect - is known here in Russia, first and foremost, for his vast charitable projects, in such diverse areas as healthcare, affordable housing and religion.

    At a time when print publications are facing fierce competition from electronic media, a move to preserve and develop those "endangered species" should be met with enthusiasm, in my opinion.

    After all, no one here in Russia has been complaining that the popular Vedomosti newspaper, a daily business publication, is a joint project of the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal.

    To the contrary, the Russian readers are happy to have an additional information source, one which enriches the information landscape.

    Dan
    Moscow, Russia

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  2. The concept of "loyal opposition" is aline to the angliskii.

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  3. Alexander Lebedev is, as always, insightful and right on point.

    Really - what could Dostoevsky communicate with Twitter? (other than, maybe “beauty will save the world” - signed Dostoevsky)

    Yet FYODOR MIKHAILOVITCH, with his often gloomy attitude, NEVER REALLY DIRECTLY ADDRESSED THE ISSUE OF ORGANIZED VOLUNTEERING WORK IN RUSSIAN SOCIETY, per se.

    TODAY THIS GAP IS BEING FILLED by a number of important charitable and volunteering initiatives, such as this one:

    http://diaconia.ru/

    Got to think how we can contribute to this important project. You can contribute, inter alia, money, time, or intellectual sophistication.

    You can contribute a cup of water, or words of support (which can be priceless).

    You can contribute by thinking about ways to connect the dots. The key is to get a cumulative, synergetic effect.

    I’ve already done some clean-up work at the project site, together with several other volunteers, planning to do more this Saturday.

    Leonid

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  4. I also support the project.

    And

    http://diaconia.ru/

    is a very good resource. Helping others makes my life meaningful.

    Leonid is right, it's about connecting the dots. Music is similar. You connect the dots, you define the process, then you implement it.

    I encourage everyone to watch the video of the press conference, and start thinking.

    Ruslan

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  5. Hi, I can see clearly what Mr. Lebedev's vision is. He is a fine man and I think what he sees and wants for Russia and from Russia is the reality for progress. Only hiskind of vision will take Russia into the future.

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  6. Earning money online never been this easy and transparent. You would find great tips on how to make that dream amount every month. So go ahead and click here for more details and open floodgates to your online income. All the best.

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  7. I know my Russian friends are disturbed by Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov's lack of genuine interest in city affairs.

    He is all about cheap spin, and supporting casinos.

    According to a number of sources, his wife Baturina appears to have indirect control over a number of assets, through certain offshore vehicles.

    While this assertion, even if true, would not be a violation of Russian law, or other applicable laws, per se, this state of affairs does look bad.

    This is exactly why many Moscovites, according to reliable sources, had supported Lebedev's ambitious plans for change in Russia's capital.

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  8. Personally, I find it puzzling that Mr. Lebedev has largely been ignoring in his posts the art of Samir Tahar, a brillian Oud player.

    Samir Tahar has a composer's sense of form, his sound is versatile, and the music has remarkable depth, which makes it feel like a conversation.

    Examples of the gifted musician's work can be found at the bottom of the following page:

    http://www.mikeouds.com/music.html

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