Jeff Bewkes Claims Time Inc. Is Not for Sale (And Why You Shouldn’t Listen)

timeThere are many unanswered questions circulating about the fate of Time Inc., the magazine division of Time Warner, home to titles like Time and People. But AOL blog DailyFinance is reporting that at The Atlantic Monthly’s “First Draft of History” conference, Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes had some definitive answers: “Time Inc. is not for sale,” he said. “People made these rumors because they want a lot of activity.”

“[T]he readership is solid, the readership is holding up, the readers are happy, the titles are thriving,” he continued, saying that he believes Time Warner will still own magazines five years down the line. He also took the opportunity to deny that Time Warner had any interest in buying NBC Universal. But is the company’s CEO really the most reliable source when it comes to potential business dealings? He’s trying to run a business after all.

It seems counterintuitive, but it’s important to recognize the context of Bewkes’ statements when it comes to Time Inc. gossip, considering he has the most to gain (or lose!) when it comes time for negotiations. Anything he says or does has the potential to affect a sale price. It’s also worth remembering the old adage that says everything is for sale — for the right price. The struggling magazine division of a huge conglomerate is no exception and if Time Warner were shopping it, they would want to do so in private and on their terms, not with the media as a middleman.

Then, there’s the source reporting the CEO’s quotes to consider. The article, entitled “Time Warner CEO: We’ll still own Time Inc. in five years” by Jeff Bercovici, was posted at the DailyFinance blog, part of the AOL network owned by none other than Time Warner. The writer discloses the connection briefly but comments that Time Warner will not own AOL “for much longer.” Still, when it comes to business journalism and the sensitive large-scale dealings being covered, readers would do best to keep a skeptical eye and writers should stay candid about their connections as they set the tone for the public conversation. You never know how it could affect the bottom line.

Letterman’s Sex/Extortion Revelation: Where Does It Go From Here?

lettermancbs_10-2News broke last night that David Letterman was the victim of a $2 million extortion attempt, while simultaneously revealing he had affairs with several Late Night staffers in the past. It was a huge, bizarre story that is still very much developing – and the perfect catnip for all media. From newspaper frontpages to countless morning show segments on cable and network news, to a bevy of tweets and blog posts, the story is everywhere.

But what’s next? Here’s a look at a few of the upcoming storylines:

Was it handled correctly on-air? The snap judgment storyline will be about Letterman’s decision to tell the whole 10-minute “little story” on air, with jokes laced throughout the entire segment. Some, like the Associated Pres headline, have dubbed it a “brilliant hour of TV.” Still, Slate’s headline makes very clear their position: “Letterman: Watch Me Make Light of Sexual Harassment.”

The audience reaction was raw and varied – at times they would applaud, sometimes there would be audible gasps. But there was also a lot of laughter. This is Letterman’s schtick – a self-deprecating, brutally honest form of comedy. But at times, the decision to make the story into a “bit” will be questioned. “Would it be embarrassing? Yes it would. Especially for the women,” he said to massive laughter. Letterman said he was going to be done talking about the story, but we’ll see.

How does CBS handle it from here? Every story now about this will involved lines like this one: “Robert J. Halderman, 51, a longtime Emmy-award winning producer for CBS News’ 48 Hours.” (Here’s what we know about Mr. Halderman.) At a very basic level, this is an in-house crime and CBS will have to take immediate action. But CBS will also have to deal with the revelation that the boss at the Late Show is sleeping with staffers. There will likely be a review, and CBS will have statements along the way. To brush it aside would be impossible, and as the story twists and turns, the rest of the media will pick up on how CBS is handling the case.

On a side note, there’s already this post up on CBSNews.com: “Experts: Letterman Was Right to Come Clean.” (Wouldn’t it be weird if Letterman’s company wrote a story from experts who thought it was the completely wrong choice?)

What does “extramarital” really mean? As sleazy as both the extortion and the staff affairs sounds, the timeline here does matter. Letterman had a longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko since 1986, who he married in March of this year. He had a son, Harry, in 2003. So, when did these affairs take place, and at what point were they during Letterman’s longterm relationship?

Are there a different set of rules for when you’re in a longterm relationship as opposed to when you have a child with your longtime girlfriend, as opposed to being married? Well, it depends who you ask. Expect a lot of people to be asked in the days and weeks to come.

lettermanms_10-2Consensual or coerced? There’s nothing yet to indicate Letterman’s inter-office sex wasn’t consensual in the truest sense. But when you’re dealing with a boss-employee relationship, the line is that much more blurry. Donny Deutsch said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning, “If one of those women raises their hand and says in reality Mr. Letterman was predatory, that’s a different story.” And Gawker’s Andrew Belonsky writes, “The fact that he screwed staffers should raise serious ethical questions, like ‘Did he use his power and influence to take advantage of the women?’”

NEXT: Hypocrisy…and ratings.

Commoditizing Content: How An iTunes Model Would Affect Magazines

apple-tabletAll the talk about digital readers — especially the rumored  Apple tablet — comes from two places: tech nerds, who are thrilled at the possibility, and the print industry, who are chewing their nails in terrifying anticipation. Many in the industry are worried that an Apple reader will do to books and magazines what the iPod did to music: force the product to be sold for far less than it is worth, according to a new article in Ad Age

According to the story, “Apple Tablet: Magazine Industry Eyes iTunes For Print,” digital editions and online storefronts are an exciting prospect that may proliferate the lives of many struggling titles, so long as Apple doesn’t start strong-arming publishers into slashing prices. Nat Ives writes about the worries circulating in print spheres:

They saw how Apple dictated music prices on iTunes, where for a long time the world learned that every song was worth 99 cents, no less and no more. And they’ve watched Amazon exert total control over the magazine and newspaper subscriptions it sells on the Kindle, refusing to provide publishers any information about their own subscribers through the Kindle Store.

Publishers seek total control — including over pricing and customer data — in a sort of autonomy that is rare among partnerships with giants like Amazon and Apple. For the Ad Age story, executives asked to remain anonymous, speaking to the sensitivity of the issue when it comes to business deals down the line.

The possibility of an iTunes-like store for magazines would certainly be exciting for the consumer, but the print world remains wary of letting a device (and the company who creates it) control their livelihood, mostly when it comes to pricing. History has provided a valuable lesson: ”Once the iPod controlled the experience and was the element that was the most dramatic improvement, the content became a commodity on the device, and the device became the experience,” said one magazine executive. And he called for solidarity to prevent such a situation:

“If publishers were to get together and agree at least on what the format would look like,” he added, “then the device companies don’t dictate so much that they define pricing and distribution.”

Check out the entire Ad Age piece here.


Is WaPo’s Media Critic Criticizing WaPo’s Social Media Guidelines?

twitter-birdOver the weekend, the Washington Post became the largest name in news to issue an all-points memo about acceptable use of social networking platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook. And though the paper did not make their guidelines public, Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander made the announcement via an interpretation of the policy on his blog. Soon thereafter, paidContent ran the rules in their entirety, fueling an already raging firestorm against the policies on the web. Today, the Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz responds, but seems hesitant, giving a surprising amount of space to critics of the policy and providing little convincing support for his bosses.

Revealing a portion of the nominally confidential guidelines, Kurtz quotes:

“Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything — including photographs or video — that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.”

When the news first hit we called these guidelines “actually pretty reasonable,” but wondered aloud if it was a good idea to “remove all evidence of personality from the reporter’s product.” Many media critics, bloggers and editors had similar questions, raised throughout the week, many of whom Kurtz’s column cites substantially, including paidContent, Business Week’s Stephen Baker, David Carr of the New York Times and Time’s James Poniewozik. And though Kurtz gives paragraphs of his column to the criticisms they have, his counterpoints are deflated: “This is all much ado about nothing,” he all but writes — “There’s nothing to see here!” In his words:

“Not to put a damper on a great fuss, but I think this is entirely reasonable. I don’t see it as a corporate attempt to crush creativity and sap the soul. People follow journalists on Twitter and Facebook because they’re interested in what the person writes, blogs or says on television. We can’t pretend we’re random people who can just pop off at will.”

Instead of elaborating on his defense of the guidelines — which include not talking about the paper’s business moves or newsroom — Kurtz spends his first handful of paragraphs joking around about inane tweets, and halfheartedly assuring that the Post is not squashing any employee’s personal brand: “No one is saying we can’t engage on these sites, or that some Post editor has to provide tweet-by-tweet approval.”

Astutely, Carr writes on his Times, “Mainstream outlets who gag social media efforts are unilaterally disarming in the ongoing war for reader attention.” Kurtz calls Carr’s a “salient point” but continues to say that he doesn’t believe the rules “reflect a lack of trust. There’s no czar in charge. Management is just asking folks to think twice before sharing something with the world,” Kurtz writes. You can practically picture him shrugging.

>>>NEXT: Does Kurtz kind of agree with critics of the Post?

Sorry Howard Stern, Right Now Glenn Beck Is The King Of All Media

05_Flatbed_2 - SEPTEMBERFox News host Glenn Beck doesn’t just have a hugely popular television show, a top radio show and a just-completed comedy tour. (Also – he has more keys.)

But he also writes books. And his most recent book will debut as the #1 book on the New York Times bestsellers list. But that’s not all.

Because not only is “Arguing With Idiots” the #1 book on the Times‘ hardcover non-fiction bestseller list, his other book, “Common Sense,” is currently #1 on the paperback non-fiction list.

The release notes “only a handful of authors to have reached #1 on both the fiction and non-fiction New York Times lists” – we’re still working to see how many times its happened where an author has the #1 book in non-fiction paperback and hardcover. Suffice to say, it’s very rare. (Meanwhile online, Sarah Palin has cornered the market right now.)

It’s another notch in the belt of brand “Glenn Beck” – and it has to be some sweet revenge because of the New York Times connection.

Here’s the release from the book’s publisher:

Glenn Beck’s latest book, ARGUING WITH IDIOTS: HOW TO STOP SMALL MINDS AND BIG GOVERNMENT will debut at #1 on the October 11th New York Times hardcover non-fiction bestseller list, giving Glenn two current NYT #1 bestselling books. GLENN BECK’S COMMON SENSE is #1 on the NYT paperback non-fiction list and has sold over 1 million copies since its release on June 16th. It is the book’s 16th straight week on the list.

ARGUING WITH IDIOTS is Beck’s fourth consecutive NYT #1 bestseller and Beck is one of only a handful of authors to have reached #1 on both the fiction and non-fiction New York Times lists.

ARGUING WITH IDIOTS is the first hardcover title released under Beck’s groundbreaking partnership with Simon and Schuster to publish a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books for all age groups.

Using his trademark straightforward approach, Glenn Beck shows readers how to influence everyone within earshot using actual facts and common sense. Packed with humor, illustrations, and informative sidebars loaded with well-researched facts, ARGUING WITH IDIOTS arms readers with the knowledge and know-how for handling any argument.


Mediaite Office Hours: Featuring Ali Velshi, Dan Abrams And More

mediaitelogoAfter a week off (my fault, long story), it’s time for another edition of Mediaite Office Hours. We’ll be live from Livestream.com’s studio at 3pmET, with guests including CNN correspondent Ali Velshi and NBC News legal analyst Dan Abrams (how’d we land that one?). And of course…you!

Do you have a question, comment or complaint about anything concerning Mediaite? Well if you do, today is a real chance to make your voice heard. We will be holding our Mediaite Office Hours at 4pmET.

We’ll talk to Velshi about health care, the economy and other news – and also his upcoming wedding. You can follow Velshi on Twitter here. We’ll get into some legal talk with Abrams, about Roman Polanski and Dan Rather. Follow Abrams here.

Glynnis MacNicol, Steve Krakauer and Rachel Sklar host the live-streamed call-in show, and others in the Mediaite team, like, Colby Hall and our fantastic interns, will appear periodically, as well as special guests.

Our call-in number is (347) 632-8956. Also, we’re using Skype now, so you can video chat in to our username – Mediaite. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Watch us live here on this page at 3pmET, or check it out at www.livestream.com/mediaite.

As for the schedule, you’ll see Abrams first, followed by Velshi at the bottom of the hour.

See you at 3pm!