Soundbite: New York Times’ John Burns Reminds Us At Least One Mission Was Accomplished In Iraq

2007-07-20JohnBurnsIn the fury of the debate over unconventional weapons, it has been largely forgotten that ending Saddam’s tyranny for the sake of ordinary Iraqis was one of the justifications offered by President George W. Bush for toppling the regime in Baghdad — one stated in a lower key, to be sure, and subordinate to the argument about the threat Saddam posed with his (as it turned out ) non-existent stockpile of unconventional weapons.

John F. Burns, The New York Times hirsute chief foreign correspondent and former head of their Baghdad bureau on what has been accomplished in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Burns is answering reader’s questions this week. And he’s really answering — no one-liners from this reporter! If you haven’t checked already make sure to do so at some point this week, it’s worth your time.

Soundbite: New York Times‘ John Burns Reminds Us At Least One Mission Was Accomplished In Iraq

2007-07-20JohnBurnsIn the fury of the debate over unconventional weapons, it has been largely forgotten that ending Saddam’s tyranny for the sake of ordinary Iraqis was one of the justifications offered by President George W. Bush for toppling the regime in Baghdad — one stated in a lower key, to be sure, and subordinate to the argument about the threat Saddam posed with his (as it turned out ) non-existent stockpile of unconventional weapons.

John F. Burns, The New York Times hirsute chief foreign correspondent and former head of their Baghdad bureau on what has been accomplished in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Burns is answering reader’s questions this week. And he’s really answering — no one liners from this reporter! If you haven’t checked already make sure to do so at some point this week, it’s worth your time.

Gay Talese: New York Times Was Drunker Than Mad Men

gay-taleseWe’ve noticed the parallels between Mad Men and journalism before, and took the opportunity to compare our favorite characters from the AMC drama to the personalities on Morning Joe. But according to Gay Talese — the “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold” writer and one of the founding fathers of New Journalism — when it came to “smoking, drinking, writing, womanizing, smoking, drinking…,” as the Times described Mad Men, the glory days Gray Lady had ‘em beat.

In a new video from Big Think, aptly titled “Getting Drunk at The New York Times,” Talese acknowledges that the old stereotype is true: many great writers were also very heavy drinkers. There was “a celebration of alcoholism almost within the creative arts, even in journalism,” he explains in the clip. The spirited old-timer goes on to describe his first time in the City Room at the Times, and watching a man “whose head fell on his typewriter” from a few too many midday trips to the cabinet.

He also remembers his time on assignment as a sportswriter, in which one reporter would file two stories after a baseball game — one for himself and another for his friend at a rival paper because the friend was too drunk to make it to the game. That show Mad Men, Talese says, was nothing: “The drinking that went on in journalism was beyond that.”

Check out the entire clip below:

(Cautiously) Upbeat Ad News of the Day: (Some) Display Ads Improving

tunnelHere’s your daily dose of goodish news about the Web ad business, courtesy (again) of Mark Mahaney, who says display ads are perking up. Or at least some of them are.

The Citigroup analyst spoke with PubMatic and the Rubicon Project, two “optimization” firms that help publishers manage inventory they hand over to ad networks. And both say they’re seeing continued upticks in sales and demand.

Pubmatic, for instance, says pricing has increased every month this year, and Rubicon says that they’re seeing demand from — believe it or not — travel and auto advertisers. Just as encouraging:  Buyers are actually making “longer-term” plans, which was unheard of in the darkest days of 2008 and 2009.

Both firms also reiterate the conventional wisdom that we’ve been hearing for the past 12 months — that the money that is being spent is increasingly going to “performance-based” ads, which only get paid for when someone interacts with them. That’s another data point in favor of Google (GOOG), whose core product is performance-based.

Again: Things were so lousy a year ago, and up through the spring of 2009, that it’s prudent to take this kind of data in stride.

And if you really want to be half-empty about it, you can note that the inventory Rubicon and Pubmatic sell are the cheapest real estate publishers have to offer. Which means it’s hard to say how various sites’ high-end real estate — the stuff they sell themselves — is doing.

We’ll get a better sense of that in about a month or so, during Q3 earnings season, when we get color from Web publishers like Time Warner’s AOL (TWX) and the New York Times (NYT).

But, like I said, this is supposed to be an optimistic post.

Tina Brown To Launch Daily Beast Book Imprint

custom_1239384871285_tdbWow, Tina Brown is very smart. The New York Times is reporting that Brown is set to launch a Daily Beast book imprint, Beast Books, in a joint effort with the Perseus Book Group. The imprint will publish both paperbacks and ebooks on a much faster schedule than traditional publishing keeps.

Also? The imprint “will select authors from within The Daily Beast’s cadre of writers, most of whom are paid freelancers, to write books with quick turnarounds.”

Also? Perseus is paying her “a five-figure management advance to cover the costs of editing and designing the books.” From the article:

Ms. Brown said she believed books often missed opportunities to attract readers because they took too long to come to market. “There is a real window of interest when people want to know something,” Ms. Brown said. “And that window slams shut pretty quickly in the media cycle.”

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Ms. Brown, a former editor of Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the ill-fated Talk Magazine, said that there was a gap between online writing and full-length books that was no longer being fully met by a dwindling market for magazines. She envisioned most of the Beast Books titles as being 40,000 words—or about 150 pages. They would cover touchstone political and cultural topics first addressed on the Web site, as well as more personal memoirs. Perseus is paying The Daily Beast a five-figure management advance to cover the costs of editing and designing the books, and Perseus will distribute the titles through its existing sales force. The writers will receive low five-figure advances from Perseus and then split profits from the sale of both the e-books and paperbacks with Perseus and The Daily Beast. Ms. Brown said writers are not required to give Beast Books a first right of refusal on any book ideas they might generate.

Why is this so smart? For a number of reasons, actually. One, with this deal Brown has harnessed the power of her (not-yet-profitable) brand and basically leased it out to a struggling industry in need of a lifeline. Two, the quality of writers Brown will be able to attract (which is already top-notch, particularly for a web-only publication) is bound to increase when the possibility of a book deal is dangled before them. Three, Brown is taking impressive steps toward cornering the still new-ish ebook market with her brand and her hand-picked writers. Plus, it’s a rather unique way to test the waters of the paid-content without actually charging for access to the Daily Beast itself.

This is not Brown’s first foray into the publishing world, of course. She launched Talk/Miramax books back in 2001 when she was editor of Talk, and earlier this year introduced the Book Beast page to The Daily Beast.