Is Time.com Hurting Its Internet Traffic on Purpose?

TimeIn a recent interview with Beet.TV, Josh Tyrangiel, Time.com’s Managing Editor, was adamant that long-form journalism does not work online. “It’s just too long,” he said bluntly. As a result, 95% of Time.com stories are original to the web, according to the editor. For online writers, the challenge is being both “smart and stylish” and getting to the point, he said. Tyrangiel knows shorter stories work better because he has the data to prove it. But what if Time.com’s assuredness not only leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy, but is a convoluted attempt at selling more magazines?

If long-form stories are rarely read at Time.com, a publication that built its brand on investigative work, then the business implications are clear: the magazine must employ one staff of writers and editors, while the website employs another. And readers must check out both. Selling a hard copy of the rag — full of well researched, in-depth pieces — and scoring web traffic built on quick bursts and breaking news are disparate missions at Time, but keeping them exclusive might help the bottom line.

When it comes to long-form success online, the New York Times begs to differ. Editor of the New York Times Magazine Gerald Marzorati (formerly of long form giants The New Yorker and Harper’s) contends that “contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s our longest pieces that attract the most online traffic.” So, Time.com, maybe it’s just you? And from a business standpoint, it seems like you like it that way.

If New York Times Magazine is enjoying online success with pieces frequently over 10,000 words (and ten online pages), and readers’ attention spans don’t seem to be the problem, it could be the quality of the work. But more likely, condescending attitudes at Time.com about their audience’s willingness and ability to read — and the subsequent handling of lengthy online content — have resulted in the disappointing traffic metrics cited.

If a well reported long-form piece is good enough for publication in the magazine (whose ad revenue and pages over the first half of the year are both down around 20% from last year) then why wouldn’t online readers turn out, as they have for the New York Times? Perhaps a premature verdict is to blame, with Time deciding that a long story will doubtlessly fail online, therefore giving the piece less prominent placement on its website, paying less attention to spreading the story virally and providing a shorter internet shelf life. The Magazine, meanwhile, often gives Sunday’s cover story top-billing a few days early to catalyze online buzz.

The fastest way to making sure your readers don’t explore longer stories is to not give them the option. Blame readers’ attention-deficient habits all you want, but for struggling Time, not focusing on hard-fought magazine stories online seems like a last ditch attempt to sell paper copies of the magazine. All we are saying, Time.com, is give your readers a chance.

Check out the full interview with Tyrangiel below.

All the News That’s Fit to Wiki? NYT to Open Source C.I.A. Report Research

Picture 1Yesterday the Justice Department released a 2004 memo detailing abuses that took place inside the CIA’s overseas prisons “showing how interrogators choked a prisoner repeatedly and threatened to kill another detainee’s children.” Shortly thereafter the New York Times took the unusual step of posting the entire report in a document reader on its website and invited “readers to help us annotate and make sense of the new details revealed in the report and other supplementary materials we will also post as they are released.”

It’s an unusual move for the Times insofar as the paper still enjoys a certain voice of God position in the media landscape in its ability to determine the national tone of conversation via its reporting, though even that is diminishing. It’s not unusual in the sense that Talking Points Memo has been doing documents dumps for quite a while now, beginning in March 2007 when they combed through the DOJ documents during the whole U.S. Attorney firings debacle.

It’s a not only a smart, time-saving, idea — combing through hundreds of pages of documents in a timely fashion is no easy feat, marshaling the intelligence of Times readers would alleviate that significantly — but it’s a pretty significant nod on the Times‘ part to the power of citizen journalism, the Internet hive mind, and the increasing important role social media plays in how we get our news today. Also, something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. It’s interesting that at the same time Wikipedia is taking measures to operate more like a newspaper, the NYT gets one step closer to Wikipedia.

Obama Fakes Summer News Slump, Then Jumps To Reappoint Bernanke

obama_bernanke_meetingTurns out when President Obama sends out his spokesperson to inform the Air Force One press pool that he wants them to “relax and have a good time. Take walks on the beaches. Enjoy Matha’s Vineyard,” and furthermore assures them that “nobody’s looking to make any news,” what he actually means is that one day into his Martha’s Vineyard vacation he is going to hold a press conference to announce that he will be reappointing Republican Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman. How’s that for relaxing! From here on out the President has no one to blame but himself for all the wound-up reporters crawling around Martha’s Vineyard.

The WSJ notes that the appointment is nearly five months early, and the Times says Obama “effectively decided four or five weeks ago that he wanted Mr. Bernanke to continue, and that he formally discussed the job with him last week at a meeting with the Fed chairman in the White House.” Why announce now? Perhaps the President is hoping to distract from some of the criticism he’s been getting for vacationing in the heat of the health care debate. As for the rationale behind Bernanke’s reappointment, we turn to more experienced hands than ours (also, we want try out Business Insider’s new “steal this post” feature).

CIA Director Creates Headlines with “Salty Language”

NA-AV736_RETIRE_G_20090204173946The release of an internal report on CIA torture practices in 2004, followed by a memo from the Agency’s director Leon Panetta to its employees, are sparking rumors and headlines about a hostile Panetta threatening to leave his position. The buzz, however, seems to be hovering over an alleged “profanity-laced screaming match” between Panetta and a senior White House staff member over a month ago. As scandalous (and secretly awesome) as a dirty-mouthed high government official is, is the month-old tiff relevant, or just a juicy headline?

Despite articles that highlight Panetta’s threats to quit and fragile temper, the real story here is the release of “another damning internal investigation” yesterday and Panetta’s response. In a letter to his employees, he attempted to defend the Agency, writing “My emphasis on the future comes with a clear recognition that our Agency takes seriously proper accountability for the past.” And as if he predicted the reports of his unhappiness at the Agency, he ends the memo with a touching, but questionably genuine “It is a privilege to serve with you.”

Huffington Post tells us a little more about the actual story by putting Panetta’s letter online, while the ABC News piece misleads us with its controversial first words: “A ‘profanity-laced screaming match’ at the White House”.

Their sources are also somewhat mysterious – among them are “current and former senior intelligence officials,” “other insiders,” and “a senior advisor.”

All the sources who actually have names though, are mentioned after the reporting of the “possible shake-up of top national security officials” discussed in the first half of the article. These are the people who are quoted as saying the reports of Panetta’s threats to quit are “inaccurate” and “absolutely untrue.” Despite CIA spokesperson George Little saying that the rumors are “wrong, inaccurate, bogus and false,” the headlines remain that Panetta is “planning on quitting pretty soon, apparently!”

As for the notorious screaming match, he allegedly “erupted in a tirade” when plans were revealed by the Attorney General to investigate interrogation techniques of the past. He may be a little hot-headed and prone to using “salty language,” but the ABC News’ anon sources don’t have us convinced of Leon’s departure. But it should be interesting to see if he can handle the pressure of the rumor mill and the tension of exaggerated controversy – he may just snap, or throw another fit, or maybe even actually quit…

Anna Wintour on Letterman: Turning the Publicity Tide? (Updated)

Picture 7Earlier this year it was 60 MinutesMorley Safer, but last night it was David Letterman who got to ask questions to Vogue editrix Anna Wintour.

Before we get to the interview, our most pressing question has to be: Why would Wintour, who seldom appears on television, agree to sit down with Letterman??

The September Issue — R. J. Cutler’s forthcoming documentary about the production of the September 2008 book — would be one plausible explanation. But Vogue has no financial stake in the film (Cutler has told the Times), so Wintour has no reason to care if anybody goes to see it.

Then again, buzz is buzz, and Vogue could certainly use some at the newsstand this month while Wintour’s business goes under McKinsey’s microscope. Then again, Late Show viewers never saw the September cover, and there was no mention of the latest issue. Not much of a sales pitch.

Maybe Wintour was on the show to promote Fashion’s Night Out — a retail stimulus event that she has helped organize to boost sales this September. But even that didn’t receive much mention beyond a brief plug.

Motivation aside, Wintour was a perfectly charming, engaged Late Show guest. After she removed her sunglasses and settled into the chair (legs crossed, hands resting quietly in her lap), she fielded questions with aplomb and gave as good as she got when it came to Letterman’s jokes: He asked “Have you ever put anybody in a head lock?,” and she replied ”Maybe you.” The pair also swapped anecdotes that they’d read in print about Wintour’s relationship with Vogue creative director Grace Coddington — a very polite way to talk about one’s friends and co-workers on late night television.

There were also thoughtful moments in the interview, for example when Letterman said, “You are bigger than what you do for a living … Is that a fair assessment?”

Wintour: “I read in the New York Times this week that I’m an ice queen, I’m a sun king, I’m an alien fleeing from District 9, and I’m a dominatrix. So I reckon that makes me a lukewarm royalty with a whip from outer space — what do you think?”

Wintour was referring to comments written by Maureen Dowd, “among others.”

Cutler’s documentary has given anybody and everybody a chance to write about Wintour. And If nothing else, Wintour’s appearance on Letterman was a chance for her to speak for herself. That must have been nice.

Anna Wintour with David Letterman last night (updated with full clip):

September Issue director R. J. Cutler and Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley on CBS Early Show last Thursday:

Morley Safer and Anna Wintour on 60 Minutes in May:


Dowd On Wintour: What A Difference Three Years Makes

Wintour DowdThree years ago Maureen Dowd wrote a much talked about, much passed around column defending Anna Wintour and Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her in the just-released Devil Wears Prada. The column was sharp, incisive, full of wit, and relevant. In short: Dowd at her best. In short, everything this past Sunday’s column about Wintour’s portrayal in the upcoming documentary was not. A side-by-side reading provides a great snapshot of the slow disintegration of Dowd’s relevance. Anna Wintour may still be a “sacred monster” in Dowd’s eyes, but as is wont to be the case more often than not these last few years, Dowd has nothing more to add to the conversation.

Maureen Dowd on Anna Wintour June 28, 2006:

So, given my relatively angelic self-image, I was surprised, at a screening of “The Devil Wears Prada,” to find myself sympathizing with the devil — Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly, the Anna Wintoury editrix of a top fashion magazine who is described as “a notorious sadist, and not in the good way.”

Is it so wrong of Miranda to expect her assistant, Andy Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway), to know how to spell Gabbana, reach Donatella and ban freesia? Is it so bad to want help getting a warm rhubarb compote for Michael Kors? Or to have an assistant who knows what an eyelash curler is?

*

Whether Anna and Miranda are sacred monsters, at least they are themselves. It’s more admirable to be the beast to which the parasite attaches itself than to be the parasite.

Maureen Down on Anna Wintour August 23, 2009:

So the question invariably arises: Behind those bangs and dark glasses, is Anna human? Or did she tie Hermès scarves together and make a daring escape from District 9 in a getaway car driven by Oscar de la Renta?

On CBS’s “Early Show” on Thursday, Talley said it was a misconception that “she’s an ice floe or an iceberg and that she has no human flesh or bones.” Tom Florio, the publisher of Vogue, concedes in the documentary that “she’s not warm and friendly.”

*

David Letterman will probe Monday night to find out if Wintour is as frigid as we think. But there’s no need for her to drop the Cruella de Vil guise. Moviegoers want to see a brittle Anna belittle, Simon Cowell-style. We enjoy the editrix as dominatrix.

She’s a sacred monster, an embodiment of the highest standard of style, and we don’t expect our monsters to be nice.

Straight To The Source! Anti-Sarah Palin Ad Debuts On Facebook

Picture 5Better late than never. Someone is finally taking the death panel debate back to its source: Facebook. It was a mere two weeks ago Sarah Palin launched the dog days of death panels via a post on her facebook page that asserted President Obama’s health care bill contained a provision for ‘death panels’:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Two weeks and a number of raucous town halls later, it is fairly clear that in the interim Obama has mostly lost control of the debate. Who needs an actual Governorship when you have Facebook?

However! According to The Plum Line, Americans United For Change, a liberal advocacy group, is attempting to change all that. The group has launched its own Facebook ad – something the Obama admin should probably have considered a while back — targeting Palin’s supporters. The ad says: “Send Sarah Palin a message; tell her to stop lying about “death panels.” The ads link through to the AUC’s website. Perhaps not quite as catchy as DEATH PANELS but worth a shot. Facebook is the new townhall!