June 21, 2018

The Great Interview Magazine Caper

On May 25, Interview’s chief revenue officer, Jason Nikic, released a memo that said Interview would rise from the dead under the ownership of an entity called Crystal Ball Media. The next issue, he said, would come in September. The new creative director would be Mel Ottenberg, a stylist who works with Rihanna. Interview, he promised, would be “as beautiful, as creative, and as visually stunning as ever.” The president would be Kelly Brant, Mr. Brant’s daughter and the magazine’s digital director.

This was a strangely confident assertion. To assume ownership of the bankrupt magazine, Crystal Ball Media likely will have to earn the support of a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. In all likelihood, Crystal Ball will have to to outbid other prospective buyers.

But Mr. Baron was infuriated that a Brant might again run Interview when Mr. Brant’s company ignored months of prodding to pay him his money.

In a statement, Mr. Baron’s spokesman, Zak Rosenfield, said: “Peter Brant has proven to be an exploitive and dishonorable businessman who considers himself above the law, with his stewardship of Interview magazine the most recent example. It is now abundantly clear that Interview was kept afloat for decades because of half-truths, unkept promises and his exploitation of the passions and pocketbooks of contributors and staffers, some with meager means, who were eager to carry on the Warhol vision.”

The Invention of Synergy

For a magazine whose paid circulation hovered around 230,000 at its peak, Interview had an outsize footprint. Warhol first published it in 1969 and used to stroll down Madison Avenue handing copies to passers-by. He threw parties for it at Studio 54. He carried a tape recorder in his pocket, which he used to supply Interview with content.

It was first populated with film reviews by college kids. But Warhol’s pop culture leanings, his ambitions to get fashion advertisers, and his interest in politics quickly seeped into the magazine.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/16/style/andy-warhol-interview.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

AT&T Executive Taking Over HBO and CNN Promises a Hands-Off Approach

Have you met with Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN?

Yes, and I’m very excited that Jeff has agreed he’s going to spend time with me and teach me the things that I didn’t grow up with and get me deeper in some of the knowledge of how media and the news cycles work. And I’m really anxious to get involved with that. I think we’re going to have a great working relationship.

What about investment? HBO spends about $2.5 billion, for example, to Netflix’s $8 billion. Hulu already spends about $2.5 billion annually. Does ATT plan to invest more in HBO?

I think HBO is a tremendous brand. I think they’ve done a phenomenal job. What I’ve learned about it during the pendency of this transaction, I think they’ve got a funnel and an opportunity to do even more. And I’m very excited personally about opening up those opportunities for them to pursue it and build more audience and more engagement. Because at the end of the day, we want our technology and we want our content to drive more customer engagement. If we have the opportunity to do that by investing we are going to invest to make that happen.

Does that mean more streaming services from HBO?

Whether it’s HBO or Turner or CNN or any other assets, over time you have to have direct relationship with the consumer where you can gauge how many minutes, or how many hours, you’re getting with that end user. And that is the North Star we’re following here.

I think the dynamic is: How do you get more engagement with the customer where you own a degree of that relationship, and you understand what the customer is doing, and you have the benefit of the data they bring to that equation? And you drive that engagement by putting more and engaging content in front of them.

And it sounds like you plan to use data as a way to inform programming decisions at Turner and HBO?

Nothing replaces the creative process, and having the best creative minds and the best ideas.

But data can inform issues like, how do you bundle and aggregate content? Who and how do you choose to distribute it to? How do you find monetization models where maybe instead of charging the customer directly through subscriptions or increasing rates, you can do it through advertising monetization? How do you learn about what kind of content customers are more passionate about that they burn through faster and therefore you want to start the right kind of relationships with creative talent that can build that kind of content? Data can help you be better, but it doesn’t replace a creative process and the value of creative assets.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/business/media/warnermedia-john-stankey-time-warner.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Can Twitter Save the Dictionary?

Ms. Schneider said that while imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, she didn’t think the two accounts were comparable. Merriam-Webster, she said, has “more rigor.”

Grant Barrett, a former lexicographer for the Oxford and Cambridge University presses and a host of the radio show “A Way With Words,” agreed with Ms. Schneider. He said that Ms. Naturale had done a good job of capturing the wry, dry way dictionary editors joke with one another and that, by contrast, Dictionary.com’s tweets were often “too on the nose.”

John Cheney-Lippold, a professor of American culture at the University of Michigan who specializes in digital media, said that dictionaries had a particular interest in promoting their brands since President Trump catalyzed a post-truth news environment.

“They are trying valiantly to reassert themselves as the epistemic chiefs of the world,” he said.

There’s another reason that dictionaries have taken to tweeting. Their industry, wedged between the fast-shifting media and publishing industries, has been struggling.

“Dictionaries, to be frank, are not one of the hot brands that you think of when you think of brands,” said Kory Stamper, the author of “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries” and a former employee of Merriam-Webster. (She left in March.) “No one names Apple, Google, Merriam-Webster. The dictionary industry itself is shrinking, so the more brand awareness you can get the better.”

Not all dictionaries have leapt into the fray. The Oxford English Dictionary still tweets like, um, a dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries account is comparatively restrained, as is the American Heritage dictionary.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/11/style/dictionaries-tweets-merriam-webster.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Yesterday in Styles: ‘Metrosexuals’ Were Just Straight Men Who Loved Self-Care. Right?

Original headline: “Metrosexuals Come Out,” from June 2003.

Loyal Order of Mousse: Picture this: a young, professional male who loves tailored shirts, $40 face cream, wine bars and shopping with friends — and he’s not gay! I know, stop the presses. But 15 years ago, metrosexuals were news, and a gold mine for marketers.

Although the term felt overused as soon as you heard it, metrosexual was an unavoidable feature of the early-aughts cultural landscape. Looking back 15 years later, it’s hard to know what to make of it. Was the idea of straight men adopting a purportedly “gay” aesthetic at some fundamental level homophobic (“I may look gay, but please don’t think I am!”)? Or was it a step toward breaking down old, rigid definitions of masculinity?

Ecce Pomo: So what were “metrosexuals” anyway? For those who were cryogenically frozen before “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” first debuted that year, metrosexuals were a supposed new breed of aesthetically-attuned straight men promoted by trend forecasters like Marian Salzman and epitomized by the soccer star David Beckham, who “paints his fingernails, braids his hair and poses for gay magazines, all while maintaining a manly profile on the pitch,” as Warren St. John wrote in this much-discussed Styles feature. “Along with terms like ‘PoMosexual,’ ‘just gay enough’ and ‘flaming heterosexuals,’” he added, “the word metrosexual is now gaining currency among American marketers who are fumbling for a term to describe this new type of feminized man.”

The Buy-Sexuals: Among those quoted was Marc d’Avignon, a 28-year-old East Village graduate student with an impressive collection of Diesel jeans and Kiehl’s lotions. “If someone’s going to judge me on what kind of moisturizer I have on my shelf, whatever,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. Call it homosexual, feminine, hip, not hip — I don’t care. I like drawing from all sorts of sources to create my own persona.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/style/metrosexuals.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Shujaat Bukhari Was a Fearless Journalist in Kashmir. He Was Also My Friend.

When the insurgency was reinvigorated in 2016, after the death of its leader, Burhan Wani, I spent months reporting on dozens of funerals of militants, police officers and civilians. The stories haunted me, as did the lack of hope for my homeland, and I was eventually treated for chronic depression and anxiety. This is what life is like for a reporter in the Kashmir Valley.

No one knows which side of the conflict your journalism may offend, or which sentence may mean a bullet in the head, like Mr. Bukhari received.

Before Mr. Bukhari, the last journalist in the region to be killed was Parvaz Mohammed Sultan, shot in broad daylight in 2003 for reporting on a militant group’s internal feud. A seasoned reporter, Yusuf Jameel, survived a parcel bomb explosion in his Srinagar office in 1995, after his colleague Mushtaq Ali opened the packet and died.

Another friend, Zafar Iqbal, was lucky to survive being shot at point-blank range, although his face still bears the scars from the assault.

“We are soft targets,” Mr. Iqbal once told me.

In Kashmir, journalists have faced threats, detention and harassment for decades. But this, as Mr. Bukhari would say, is part of our job.

On Thursday evening, a group of journalists gathered outside the offices of Rising Kashmir. The road was littered with shards of glass from his car windows. One journalist, Masood Hussain, broke down. Now the editor of Kashmir Life magazine, he had mentored Mr. Bukhari in the 1980s.

“Shujaat, I never thought that I will write your obituary,” Mr. Hussain cried aloud.

He then walked away, disappearing along a dark road, the glass from Mr. Bukhari’s car windows crunching under his feet.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/world/asia/kashmir-shujaat-bukhari.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Corner Office: Marc Benioff of Salesforce: ‘Are We Not All Connected?’

The summer before my junior year, I worked for Apple. There was a pirate flag on the roof. There was a motorcycle in the lobby. Steve Jobs was running between the two Macintosh buildings. It was a big scene.

What did you do there?

No one was really paying attention exactly to what I was doing. I wrote this piece of software which was a game called “Raid on Armonk,” which was where IBM’s headquarters were at the time. And my manager said to me, “No, no. You cannot do this.”

What did you do after college?

I wrote a business plan for a network-type company based on something that Apple was working on called AppleLink. But U.S.C. was like, “No, no. You’re not going to create a company when you graduate from school. We want you to go get a real job in a real company, and we want you to go into sales.” So I asked around, and this person who I was working with at Apple mentioned this company called Oracle.

What did you learn while you were at Oracle?

The professors at U.S.C. said, “When you play with better tennis players, you’re going to get better. You need to go find the best salespeople possible.” And these were phenomenal salespeople at Oracle. They started to work with me and helped me understand how to be a better communicator.

Then Larry [Ellison, Oracle’s co-founder] took notice of me, and I started working directly for him. That was a very powerful moment, when he started to shape how I thought about business. Larry took the long view. He was like, “I want to think about this company over 50 years, not over 10 years or five years.” Now he’s been doing it for 40 years.

Why did you strike out on your own?

As I came into my 10th year at Oracle, I was really burning out, but I couldn’t exactly figure out why. I didn’t have a good feeling when I went in the building. I went into Larry’s office and said, “I need to take some time off.” And right away he said, “Yeah, why don’t you just take a sabbatical. You’ve worked really hard for 10 years.”

First I went to Hawaii for a few months and really, really worked on my meditation practice. Then I went to India for six weeks with a friend of mine who was also going through a similar life transformation. We had these amazing experiences going to all of these different ashrams and meeting all these different spiritual masters. It was almost like a guru tour. I definitely came back from that trip as a different person.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/business/marc-benioff-salesforce-corner-office.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Facebook’s New Political Algorithms Increase Tension With Publishers

“I don’t want trust to be a popularity contest decided by users of Facebook,” Lydia Polgreen, the editor in chief of HuffPost, said at the panel discussion, which was held at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The panel, moderated by Emily Bell, the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia, also included Erica Anderson of Google News Lab and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, who presented the institute’s annual Digital News Report.

Publishers have been vocal in their protests of being included in the same archive as political ads. This month, organizations representing more than 20,000 publishers in the United States wrote to Facebook to object to the policy, and some outlets, like New York Media and The Financial Times, have vowed to suspend their paid promotions on Facebook if the policy is not changed.

Facebook has agreed to create a distinction between publishers’ content and political ads, but it has not yet built a separate archive.

Moves like those have only inflamed tensions with publishers, said Jason Kint, the chief executive of Digital Content Next, a trade group that represents entertainment and news organizations, including The Times, and who signed the publishers’ letter last month.

“Facebook communicated poorly,” Mr. Kint said. “They have not built trust with publishers.”

Although Facebook remains a vital outlet for publishers, its power has diminished. According to data from Chartbeat, an online analytics company, publishers’ traffic from Facebook has declined about 15 percent in the last year. At the same time, traffic from Google is up 20 percent since last August.

During the discussion on Thursday, Mr. Thompson sparred with Ms. Brown, who was an NBC News correspondent and a CNN anchor before joining Facebook.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/business/media/mark-thompson-facebook-algorithm.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Will AT&T Be Able to Handle HBO?

Those statements suggest that ATT wouldn’t get in Mr. Plepler’s way. But at another conference, Mr. Stephenson let slip one comment that hinted at a more aggressive brand of corporate oversight.

“It will cause Plepler at HBO to panic when I say this,” he said, “but can you begin to think about things like ‘Game of Thrones,’ as an example, where, in a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode may not be the best experience? Should you think about 20-minute episodes?”

Although HBO still generates big revenue ($6.3 billion last year), its status as the ultimate prestige network is under some threat. While it has led all TV networks in Emmy nominations for 17 consecutive years, that gap is narrowing. Netflix, which makes shows like “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” had 20 fewer nominations than HBO last year; three years ago that gap was more than 90.

And in an effort to be all things to all viewers, Netflix turns out programming in dramas, comedies, stand-up specials, documentary series and unscripted reality shows. To counter that approach, HBO executives have begun describing their network as the home of curated content, something like a high-end content boutique.

But that strategy comes with some risk.

With far fewer releases each year than Netflix, each of HBO’s shows is under more pressure to succeed. “Here and Now,” a drama from Alan Ball that premiered this year, has already been canceled. “Succession,” the network’s new drama about a warring media family, has had so-so ratings and mixed reviews, but HBO has already renewed it for a second season.

“Game of Thrones,” the most popular series in the network’s history, has six episodes left before it bows out. The network has ordered a pilot for a potential spinoff series, with at least three others in development. “Westworld” has had steady ratings in its second season, drawing more than two million viewers an episode, according to Nielsen’s delayed-viewing data. That’s bigger than anything else on premium cable right now.

The network’s next big bet is on a limited series starring Amy Adams and directed by the “Big Little Lies” director Jean-Marc Vallée, “Sharp Objects,” which premieres in July. If HBO executives knew that “Here and Now” was a miss — as its sedate marketing campaign suggested — they are telegraphing the opposite for “Sharp Objects.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/business/media/att-handle-hbo.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Douglas Bennet, Who Led NPR and Wesleyan, Dies at 79

His tenure at the university was not without controversies. One involved his decision, in 2002, to place a moratorium on “chalking,” a university tradition in which opinions and other messages, some of them profane, would be scrawled on sidewalks. The practice, he said the next year when he turned the moratorium into a permanent ban, did not “meet the civility test.”

Some students and faculty members complained about the stifling of free speech. A group of students marched on his house chanting, “We want chalk!”

The issue was still being debated years later. In 2012 a student blog ran a five-part series called “A Decade Without Chalk.”

Mr. Bennet’s first marriage, to Susanne Klejman, ended in divorce in 1995. His survivors include his wife, Midge Bowen Bennet, whom he married in 1996; a brother, John; and three sisters, Phoebe Bennet Boyer, Lois Bennet Hager and Mary Bennet Rhodes. They also include two sons, Michael, a United States senator from Colorado, and James, the editorial page editor of The New York Times; a daughter, Holly Bennet, global managing director of Deloitte Touche; two stepchildren, Richard Ramsey and Elizabeth Ho Chee; seven grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.

When he left NPR, Mr. Bennet was given a farewell party that featured staff members doing impressions of him and some off-key singing.

“No wonder he’s leaving,” the NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg deadpanned in a report on the party.

She also made reference to the financial stability he had brought to the organization.

“Thanks to Doug Bennet,” she said, “we have no debts anymore, except to him.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/obituaries/douglas-bennet-who-led-npr-and-wesleyan-dies-at-79.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Comcast Offers $65 Billion for 21st Century Fox, Challenging Disney

“In light of yesterday’s decision in the ATT/Time Warner case,” Mr. Roberts continued, “we are pleased to present a new, all-cash proposal that fully addresses the board’s stated concerns with our prior proposal.”

The businesses that Mr. Murdoch has agreed to sell include the 20th Century Fox film and TV studios, almost two dozen regional sports networks like the Yankees’ YES channel, a lineup of cable networks that include FX, and a 30 percent ownership stake in the streaming service Hulu.

But the key attractions for Comcast are Fox’s broad international assets. Among them are Fox’s 39 percent stake in the European pay-TV operator Sky and its control of Star, one of India’s largest media companies, which reaches 700 million people every month, according to the company.

Mr. Murdoch’s overseas business accounts for 27 percent of annual sales, about $7.8 billion. Comcast, whose cable business is strictly a domestic operation, draws in only 9 percent of its revenue from foreign agreements, largely through NBCUniversal.

Comcast has already made an offer to buy the other 61 percent of Sky in a separate deal. The Fox News cable network, the Fox broadcast stations, the Fox Business Network and the sports network FS1 would not be part of a transaction.

A Fox combination could help Comcast amplify its streaming services. Netflix, YouTube, Apple and Facebook are spending billions of dollars a year to create original series and are competing directly for content and sports programming.

Hulu, which has more than 17 million subscribers, would come under Comcast’s control if it pulls off the acquisition. “We think it’s a wonderful asset,” NBCUniversal’s chief executive, Stephen Burke, said Wednesday on a conference call with analysts. “It’s an important part of this deal, and we’d be very interested in growing that business in the future.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/13/business/media/comcast-fox-disney-bidding-war.html?partner=rss&emc=rss