March 23, 2023

Media Decoder Blog: News Corp. Will Provide $2.6 Billion to Its New Publishing Company

News Corporation’s new publishing company will receive a $2.6 billion infusion of cash and have no debt when it separates from the company’s higher-growth cable channels and Hollywood studio this summer.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, the company confirmed what analysts had expected: Rupert Murdoch will make sure his beloved trove of roughly 175 newspapers will have plenty of capital once they are split off on their own.

The $2.6 billion figure, $1.82 billion of which will come from the parent company, is slightly higher than investors had anticipated, leading to speculation that it might be used to acquire additional newspapers.

The Tribune Company, which emerged from bankruptcy late last year, is looking for a potential buyer for its eight newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, which Mr. Murdoch has long coveted, according to several people with knowledge of his thinking who could not discuss the News Corporation chairman publicly. (Tribune may also decide to sell its papers as a bundle.)

The new publishing company, which will retain the name News Corporation, will include strong newspapers, like The Wall Street Journal, and weaker ones like The New York Post, that will no longer have the security of billions in revenue from Fox News, FX and movies like “Avatar.”

In an interview last summer when News Corporation confirmed the split, Mr. Murdoch said his newsroom employees “shouldn’t feel like they’ve got a crutch” in the entertainment assets.

In the six months that ended Dec. 31, the assets that make up the new publishing company had $1.31 billion in profit and revenue of $4.45 billion. Robert Thomson, who will serve as the company’s chief executive, will earn a base salary of $2 million and a performance-based annual bonus of around $2 million beginning in 2014.

The company warned investors in Friday’s filing about potential pitfalls to investing in the new News Corporation, including investigations and lawsuits related to a phone hacking scandal that erupted at The News of the World tabloid in Britain in 2011. Legal fees and other expenses related to the scandal cost News Corporation $250 million from July 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2012, plus $25 million paid to claimants to settle civil lawsuits, the company said.

The Wall Street Journal will introduce WSJ.Money, a glossy magazine devoted to wealth management and personal finance, on Saturday. The magazine arrives after The Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones Company, ceased putting out a printed edition of Smart Money. The move underscores the new News Corporation’s emphasis on the Journal brand, and its bullishness on print.

“While others have scaled back in print, we’ve continued to buck the trend,” Gerard Baker, managing editor of The Journal, said in a statement.

News Corporation’s announcement comes two days after one of its competitors, Time Warner, said it would spin off Time Inc., its publishing arm. Analysts expect Time Inc. to have a less favorable financial structure.

“In no way does this mean that Time Warner must follow the same blueprint,” Dave Novosel, a senior investment grade analyst at the research firm Gimme Credit, wrote Friday in a report.

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App Smart: A New Free Apple App for Parents

App stores are part of that money rush. There’s mobile software that can help parents name their babies, soothe their babies, entertain their babies and speak to their babies in sign language.

The newest baby app of note on the market, though, WebMD Baby, is free, and it is arguably more practical and useful than many of the others combined.

WebMD Baby is available only on Apple devices, at least until the company releases an Android version later this year. It provides a strong complement to — if not a total replacement for — Baby Connect ($5 on Android and Apple), the best mobile assistant for new parents.

Unlike Baby Connect, whose strengths and weaknesses I’ll detail in a moment, WebMD Baby comes packed with information. The app takes advantage of its parent company’s trove of medically related content to offer parents guidance on what to expect from their child’s physical and emotional development, as well as health-related counsel when things go wrong.

At the app’s core are roughly 400 articles, 600 tips and 70 videos.

For parents of a 1-year-old, for instance, the app recently offered a video question and answer with a pediatrician about top mistakes parents make with toddlers. (Hint: to properly calibrate discipline, issue one-minute “time outs” for 1-year-olds, two minutes for 2-year-olds, and so on.)

Oddly, the app doesn’t allow for full-screen video in landscape mode, but since this is a new app, I’d expect WebMD to fix this flaw quickly.

The app also presents daily and weekly packages of information aimed at helping parents understand a child’s development during the first year. Last week, the daily tip for a parent with a 3-week-old baby, for instance, offered details about what to expect at a one-month doctor’s visit. (There are packages for the child’s second year, as well, but at longer intervals.)

Some have criticized WebMD for publishing medical advice that might encourage readers to use its advertisers’ products, but I found the section on “Illnesses and Emergencies” to be generally free of specious advice. For now, at least, there is no advertising on the app.

WebMD Baby also has a “Baby Book” section, where you can record and store videos, pictures and notes of a child’s milestone moments. The videos and photos also remain in the device’s photography storage area, so they’re not held hostage by the app.

Thankfully, every page is designed in a way that would make it easy for a parent to use with one hand — while, presumably, holding a sleeping baby with the other.

One of the app’s shortcomings is that parents can’t peek in on the app from different devices and see the latest information. If you log information into WebMD Baby from an iPhone and then your spouse logs onto the app from an iPod Touch, for instance, it won’t show her the information you entered in the iPhone.

With Baby Connect, however, such an arrangement would work nicely. Even if you have an Android phone and your spouse has an iPhone, any time you enter new information into the app, those changes will appear on your spouse’s app the next time it’s opened.

Baby Connect lacks the information and advice that makes WebMD Baby so valuable, but it has more tracking options than its competitor. The app prompts you to create a separate page for each child. From there, parents and caregivers can track mood and activities, as well as health-related items like vaccines, temperature and medicines.

If you’d like to simply remember where you were at a given moment with the baby — so you can remember their first public tantrum, perhaps — the “My Location” button will make a record of it.

The app is generally easy to use, and it includes a helpful summary page for each child so you can scan recent entries at a glance.

That said, it can be difficult at times to understand the app’s internal logic. Seven main features are included on a child’s home page, including “Medical.” (Additional features are expected in an updated version the company plans to release this week.) When pressed, the Medical button yields a list of items like weight, or vaccines.

Alongside those main buttons on the child’s home page is one titled “More,” which leads to another screen of items like nursing, solid food and, again, vaccines. Unlike the vaccine section found through the child’s home page, though, this one includes a list of common inoculations.

If you choose one from the list, thereby indicating that your children received that particular vaccine, the app will record the event in the other “Vaccine” location. That’s helpful, but it would be much simpler to offer the list of vaccines in the original “Medical” section.

New parents have enough to figure out. They don’t need to add tricky software to the list.

Yet Baby Connect remains a more fully featured app for new parents than WebMD Baby. For people who are approaching parenthood for the first time, and who have a tendency toward extreme organization, Baby Connect is a good complement to WebMD Baby.

Otherwise, I’d leave space for WebMD Baby and feel grateful for a moment’s respite from spending money on parenting products.

Quick Calls

Fans of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine should check out Only the Pearls ($4 for iPad), which includes 250 strips, 12 animated strips and video interviews with the author. … Want a ballpark estimate of your tax refund? Consider TaxCaster by TurboTax (free on Android and Apple). … Asteroids Gunner (free on Apple) is a well-executed reprise of the classic Atari arcade game.

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Farewell to Filene’s Basement

It was there, at the flagship of the now-defunct discount retailer, on Washington Street in Boston, that I scored my Madame X gown: black velvet with the one (rhinestone) shoulder strap, marked down to $19 and not only gorgeous, but from I. Magnin. That was a magical name, light-years removed from the Basement chain, which recently closed, sunk into bankruptcy.

My mother saw the dress first. She grabbed for it, microseconds ahead of another shopper (you had to move fast in Filene’s Basement), and I tried it on, right there on the floor.

Dressing rooms? Don’t be silly. You pulled it on over your clothes and elbowed your way to a sliver of mirror, just like everyone else. And if other women eyed you and hung around, jockeying for position just in case you weren’t buying it — that was when you knew you had a winner.

I wore that gown to my junior prom and my senior prom and a couple of Harvard proms. That rhinestone strap was mangled in the back seats of cars and mended each time to twinkle yet again, and when I graduated and came to New York to find a job, the Madame X came with me.

Even here it was a hit, and whenever anyone asked where I had bought it, I would say, in all truth, that it had come from I. Magnin.

The fever of Filene’s Basement! Once I was fighting for space at a rack filled with overstock from Saks Fifth Avenue, another magical name. A woman beside me pulled out a dress and shrieked, “My God, Mabel, look! It’s the same dress.”

She began falling backward in a faint, toward me, and I knew that I should try to catch her, but she was very fat, and I did not. It shames me still to recall that I stood by as she went down (she was unhurt; Mabel hoisted her up and away) and that I instantly pushed back into that trove of Saks dresses. Again I scored: Mollie Parnis, coatdress in black wool crepe; still works.

There was the annual one-day bridal-gown sale, only in the flagship store. Some marketing genius named it the Running of the Brides, which caused near riots and got great press coverage.

Three of us went with Bea, the first of our crowd to get engaged, to help her pick a dress. As soon as the doors opened and the madness descended, we pushed through and grabbed armloads of bridal gowns, holding them hostage for Bea to try on.

Her choice was awash in seed pearls. We stood admiring it. We swore we would all buy our wedding gowns in the Basement.

We were helping Bea out of the gown when a young woman said, “I saw it first,” and tugged at it. Bea tugged back. The tulle made a sickening sound as it ripped. Seed pearls scattered. The woman disappeared. Bea cried. She found another, and it was pretty enough, but she always mourned the one that got away.

By the time I was marrying, in the ’60s, I was gainfully employed in New York, at this newspaper in fact, and could have shopped anywhere I chose, but loyalty took me back to the Basement. (I found no wedding gown but did find what we used to call the Going-Away Dress: pink silk ombré; provenance: Saks; at $39, perfect.)

The great Basement innovation, but only at the flagship, was the automatic markdown system. Roughly every week, the price of unsold items was reduced by one-quarter. Anything unsold after a month went to charity. You would covet a jacket, and see on the sales tag that in two days it would be discounted.

The game then was to protect it from other shoppers, which you would do by shoving it stealthily onto, say, a maternity rack, or even under the rack.

You would arrive early the next two mornings to reposition your prey, if you could find it, and should you and it emerge together to close the deal at the lower price, what sweet triumph!

There was never anything that sweet at the chain’s branches, like my local one at 79th and Broadway, which was better than no Filene’s Basement but still a pallid enterprise (with dressing rooms; how pretentious) for a city where discount retail thrives.

Compared with New York, the Boston of my youth was a deeply dull town to live in. The blue laws were fierce. It sometimes felt as if anything that might be construed as fun would be reliably Banned in Boston.

But we had the Basement. That was fun. If you were a girl who loved clothes but grew up in homes where there were no dollars to spare, it was more than fun: It was heaven incarnate.

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Hackers Select a New Target: Other Hackers

The hackers, calling themselves the A-Team, assembled a trove of private information and put it online for all to see: names, aliases, addresses, phone numbers, even details about family members and girlfriends.

But their targets were not corporate executives, government officials or clueless bank customers. They were other hackers.

And in trying to unmask the identities of the members of a group known as Lulz Security, the A-Team was aiming to take them down a peg — and, indirectly, to help law enforcement officials lock them up.

The core members of Lulz Security “lack the skill to do anything more than go after the low-hanging fruit,” the A-Team sneered in its posting last month.

In recent weeks, attacks on companies like Sony and government sites like have raised concerns about increasingly organized and brazen hackers. On Monday, a Twitter account for Fox News was hijacked.

But much of the hacking scene is a fractious free-for-all, with rival groups and lone wolves engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on each other, often on political or ideological grounds but sometimes for no better reason than to outwit — or out-hack — the other guy.

The members of Lulz Security, or LulzSec, have been at the center of the sniping lately. The group won global attention through attacks on the C.I.A., Sony, the Arizona state police and other organizations, putting at risk the personal information of tens of thousands of people in the process. Even as they attacked, the LulzSec members craftily concealed their own identities, all the while articulating an ever-changing menu of grievances, from government corruption to consumer rights.

LulzSec’s provocative attacks and flamboyant style made it a tempting target. Other hackers, equally adept at maintaining their anonymity, have been seeking to penetrate the online aliases of the group’s members.

Late last month, LulzSec announced that it was disbanding, and that its members would continue their activities under other banners. But the F.B.I. and other agencies are continuing their pursuit, aided by information unearthed by other hackers. In fact, the Lulz Security members face the real possibility that if they are caught, it will be their fellow hackers who led the authorities to their doorsteps.

“This unfortunately represents one of few ways law enforcement gets good inroads into this community,” said Bill Woodcock, research director at the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit group in Berkeley, Calif., that tracks Internet traffic.

In hacker parlance, to be unmasked is to be dox’d, as in documented. And by hacker logic, to be dox’d is to be put out of business. An online alias is an essential weapon: it conceals a person’s name and whereabouts, while allowing the creation of an alternate identity.

Indeed, the handbook for new recruits to Anonymous, the global hacker collective from which Lulz Security sprang earlier this year, contains tips on safeguarding one’s identity — from how to steer clear of Web sites that track online activity to masking one’s Internet provider.

One of the tools it suggests is Tor, a network of virtual tunnels originally developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory to protect online government communications. “In our world,” the handbook concludes, “a good defense is the best offense.”

Despite the detailed profiling by the A-Team and other hacker groups including Team Poison and Web Ninjas, no professed Lulz Security member has admitted to being dox’d, and some have merrily denied it. But the campaign seems to have had some effect.

The A-Team’s supposed outing of seven of Lulz Security’s members coincided with the group’s announcement that it was disbanding. And a spokesman for the group, using the alias Topiary, bid a public farewell in typically impish language: “Sailing off — watch your backs and follow the north wind, brazen sailors of the ’verse.”

The A-Team posting about LulzSec included mundane personal details. The sister of one purported LulzSec member, it said, was a bartender in a bowling alley in a small British town. Another member was described as “very ugly.” A third, the group railed, cannot hack at all: “He doesn’t actually do anything except give interviews.”

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