Published on: February 29, 2008
Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, is getting a lot of attention for a recent blog in which he vented his frustration with the New York Times
and instituted something he calls the “New York Times
The reason for his frustration isn’t the way the Times
treated Senator John McCain recently, but rather the company’s diminishing financial returns, which reflect weakness in the overall newspaper business. Andreessen also points out that the Times
board of directors features not a single person with strong experience in an Internet company…and here is his very funny take on this subject:
“Well, given that the Internet is the central force dismantling the company's business, I'm sure that by now they've stocked their board with noted Internet experts. Let's see:
• Brenda C. Barnes -- CEO of Sara Lee; noted snack cake expert;
• Raul E. Cesan -- former CEO of Schering-Plough; noted Levitra expert;
• Daniel H. Cohen -- president of DeepSee LLC, "an oceanic exploration and submarine leasing company"; noted Jacques Cousteau expert;
Lynn G. Dolnick -- former head of exhibits for the National Zoologic Park in Washington DC; noted marsupial expert;
Michael Golden -- current publisher of the International Herald Tribune; former head of the company's Women's Publishing Division; noted sundress expert;
William E. Kennard -- former head of the FCC; noted "seven dirty words" expert;
James M. Kilts -- former CEO of Gillette; noted smooth, smooth shave expert; prior to that, unindicted coconspirator at Philip Morris; noted expert on your grandfather's hacking cough;
David E. Liddle -- here I have to take a pause as I actually know this one; based on what's happening at the company, it could be reasonably asked whether he's actually attending the board meetings;
Ellen R. Marram -- former CEO of Nabisco; noted Oreo expert. Oh, wait, she actually ran an Internet company: "From 1999 until 2000, Ms. Marram was president and chief executive officer of efdex Inc. (the Electronic Food & Drink Exchange), an Internet-based commodities exchange for the food and beverage industry." Ooh. I wonder if that ended well…
Thomas Middelhoff -- former CEO of Bertelsmann; noted expert on complicated family politics -- well, that's probably coming in handy...
Janet L. Robinson -- current CEO of the New York Times Company; noted expert on horrific business implosions;
Doreen A. Toben -- CFO of Verizon; noted 30-year debenture expert;
And finally, Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. -- the Big Kahuna -- the Man -- the Guy In Charge -- the chairman and scion -- the dude with the cojones to actually defend Judy Miller. Not noted Internet expert.
“So, if you want to issue bonds to pay for FCC-approved snack cake manufacturing in a submarine on display at a national park by a sundress-wearing cigarette-puffing Levitra-popping Judy Miller, you're pretty much set.”
Boy, does Andreessen have this right.
Let me be clear. I love newspapers. I started out as a newspaper reporter, and until MorningNewsBeat, that was the single best job I ever had.
And I love the New York Times
, even when it makes boneheaded decisions like to run the McCain story in a sensationalistic context.
But Andreessen makes a great point when he says that in view of the falling sales and revenues, what the Times
ought to do is kill the print version of the paper immediately and become a news source that is completely online…implementing whatever changes are necessary to make this work.
"Take acute pain now in order to avoid years of chronic pain," Andreessen says. "Basic rule of thumb: Be on offense, not on defense."
This may seem radical…and it actually hurts for me to think that maybe he’s right.
But at the very least, newspapers like the Times
have to consider the possibility that Andreessen is seeing the future more clearly than they are…
(On his radio show, Tony Kornheiser is fond of saying that the newspaper business is dying, and that a decade from now, there won’t be a newspaper business in the way we traditionally think of it.)
Newspaper executives have to remember MNB
’s favorite natural law: Fart’s Law, which says that “the likelihood of an innovation succeeding increases exponentially with the number of old farts who refuse to endorse it.”
It’s happening in retail, and there is no bloody reason in the world that it won’t happen to newspapers, magazines and other traditional media sources.
There is almost no worse sin for a corporation than to be tone-deaf. (Okay, there probably are a lot worse sins…but work with me here.)
In Chicago, the raging debate is about the future of Wrigley Field, the longtime home of the Chicago Cubs and, in baseball terms, a structure that could fairly be referred to as a shrine to the greatest game and a temple of fan frustration.
The Tribune Co., which has just been bought by real estate magnate Sam Zell, is selling the team and the naming rights to the ballpark. And fans in the city seem generally up in arms, since this could result in Wrigley Field being called something else, which will sound like the perpetual scratching of corporate fingernails on a metropolitan chalkboard. (Apparently, the Wrigley Co. isn’t interested in paying the $50 million that would be required to keep its name on the building.)
This is just dumb.
Amazingly, I am about to write words that I rarely use: the New York Yankees did it right.
Now in the process of building a new stadium in the Bronx, the Yankees have announced that it, like the old one it replaces, will be called Yankee Stadium. Because, let’s face it, calling it anything else would have been absurd, no matter what the revenue possibilities might be.
For some stadiums, it doesn’t matter. Across town, the New York Mets’ new stadium will be called Citi Field…because let’s face it, Shea Stadium was a hole and nobody really knew who Bill Shea was, anyway. (Besides, maybe they used the revenue to help fund Johann Santana’s new contract.)
But some stadiums transcend mere baseball. Like Yankee Stadium. Fenway Park. Busch Stadium in St. Louis. And Wrigley Field.
To change such names would be to so totally tone deaf that it almost defies imagination.
Robert B. Parker has published the latest in his Jesse Stone series of novels, ‘Stranger In Paradise,” and it generally lives up to expectations. For those of you not familiar with the Jesse Stone books, they exist in the same universe as his Spenser series, but focus on the alcoholic chief of police of Paradise, Massachusetts, a small coastal town near Boston; Parker’s goal was to explore a character “less complete” than Spenser, and he writes these books in the third person, rather than using Spenser’s first person narrative. (A lot of supporting characters from the Spenser books show up in this series, though Spenser and Hawk have yet to make appearances.)
“Stranger In Paradise” is nominally about how Chief Stone works to protect a young woman from her criminal father, and how he finds himself in an uneasy alliance with Wilson Cromartie, a charismatic bad guy from an earlier Stone book. As with all of the Parker novels, “Stranger In Paradise” is a quick, easy and entertaining read – not one of is best, but pleasant enough nonetheless.
One other quick note. The Stone books have been turned into an excellent series of television movies starring Tom Selleck, and the last of them, “Jess Stone: Sea Change” is just out on DVD and worth renting. (This may be heresy, but I actually like some of them better because Stone is portrayed as older and more world weary than the book version, and they never show Stone’s ex-wife, who can become an annoying distraction – think Susan Silverman at her worst – in the books.) A new one, “Jesse Stone: Thin Ice,” which is not based on one of the novels, has been completed and is waiting to get an air date from CBS.
We saw “Vantage Point” last weekend, and would rate it a fun thriller – it doesn’t stand up to much thought or scrutiny, but is cleverly written and directed – the movie concerns the attempted assassination of a US president (William Hurt) who is attending an anti-terrorism summit in Spain, and it basically retells the same story a half-dozen times from a variety of points of view. We see events through the eyes of a television producer (Sigourney Weaver), a Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid), a tourist (Forrest Whitaker), the President, etc… It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, with more of the picture becoming clear – albeit with plenty of red herrings – with each retelling.
Again, it isn’t like the great political/paranoia-fueled thrillers of the seventies. (Think “The Parallax View” and the original “Day of the Jackal” as best of breed.) But it is fun.
While watching, I had to wonder how many people in the audience remember that when they were in their primes (1981), Hurt and Weaver co-starred in a really neat thriller called “Eyewitness,” directed by Peter Yates, which was about a janitor (Hurt) with inside information about a murder and a romantic obsession with a TV news reporter (Weaver). If was offbeat and fun…and had great supporting turns by Steven Hill (“Mission: Impossible,” “Law & Order”) and a young Morgan Freeman (do I need to list his credits?) as detectives on the case. It says something that I remember it so vividly…though I haven't seen it in a quarter-century. However, I just checked with Netflix, and it is available on DVD…and I’ve added it to my list. You should do the same.
While in Boston earlier this week to give the keynote address (with Michael Sansolo) at the always great Boston Seafood Show, I had the opportunity to stop at a place that instantly became a favorite – the LTK (for “Legal Test Kitchen”) Bar & Kitchen, where I enjoyed the single best tuna burger that I’ve ever had in my life. It was thick and juicy, and was served with chili sambal and roasted pepper aioli – just wonderful. LTK also serves a terrific spread made up of white beans, garlic, olive oil and pesto that is terrific with chunks of crusty bread.
And, LTK has a great wine list…and it is from this list that I offer my wine of the week: the 2003 Spellbound Petite Sirah from California, which stood up nicely t the spices of my tuna burger.
Great place. Great meal. Can't wait to go back.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.