Sunday, January 25, 2009

The rich and powerful still want to own newspapers

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson writes:

Anyone making it past the coverage of the new first family, whose appearance on a cover can do more for sales than anyone since Princess Diana, would have found plenty of evidence to support the theory that newsprint will be finished in a generation. The cash-strapped Boston Globe (inauguration headline: “The time has come”) succumbed on Wednesday to the indignity of carrying front page advertising, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (“Hope over Fear”) edged closer to the closure its owner has threatened unless a buyer emerges. Attempted coups rattled boardrooms from the Chicago Sun-Times (“So help me God”) to Mecom, David Montgomery’s indebted European print empire. As the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times slogged through the bankruptcy courts, even Google gave up a two-year attempt to make money from newspaper advertising, which one analyst estimated would shrink by another $10bn by 2012.

Yet news from both sides of the Atlantic told a different story. Alexander Lebedev, the KGB spy-turned-tycoon, bought control of London’s Evening Standard a day after Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms magnate, had thrown a $250m lifeline to the New York Times. Alexander Pugachev, the son of a Russian oligarch, stepped in with a bid for France-Soir, a struggling French evening title.

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