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Archives: September 2009

Mrs. Butterworth|AOL’s $4.2B Value|Andrew Ross Sorkin|Keller: Decision On Paid Content For NYT Will Come To “Gut Call”

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Moment of Zen – Going Rouge
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PRNewser: An interview with Mrs. Butterworth, whose been getting into the social media recently.

All Things Digital: Time Warner‘s sale of AOL has been valued at $4.2 billion — “marked down from the $5.5 billion Google assigned to the company when it wrote down its five percent stake earlier this year. Which was, of course, a markdown from the $20 billion value Google had given it in 2005.”

Vanity Fair: A Q&A with The New York Times‘s Andrew Ross Sorkin on the eve of the launch of his book, Too Big To Fail

New York Observer: The decision on charging for content will come down to a “gut call,” reveals New York Times executive editor Bill Keller.

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Musician Amy Farris Has Died

amystar.JPGNews spread today to shocked friends and fans that local musician Amy Farris had died over the weekend. As a member of Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, Farris played the fiddle, viola and sang harmony vocals. An Austin, Texas native, Farris moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to record a solo album produced by Dave Alvin. She also played backup for a number of musicians including Exene Cervenka, Stan Ridgway, Brian Wilson, Peter Case and Ray Price.

According to newspaper Austin 360, Farris was found dead in her Los Angeles home. Suicide is suspected, but the cause of death is still being investigated. Farris was 40 years old.

Photo by Loren Minnick

It’s Spin City for Moguls & Machers at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The flacks were certainly out in full force today at Michael’s. It seemed anyone who was (or represents) anyone was out and about with something to spin. Well, at least it’s a sign that life goes on in Manhattan no matter how bleak New York magazine says our financial future is. Although a pesky stomach bug kept me away last week, we hear things were really hopping with Michael Douglas holding court on Table One. (He’s in town filming the sequel to Wall Street, in case you haven’t heard.) Seems the Oscar-winning actor enjoyed several bottles of wine with a table full of ‘masters of the universe’ — no doubt asking these insiders how his character, Gordon Gekko, would handle the new world order in the financial district.

I was lunching today with a real media powerhouse, Debbie Phillips, who has turned her career as a work-life coach into a bonafide cottage industry. In 2003, Debbie founded “Women on Fire,” an organization whose mission she describes as “helping women achieve their dreams and desires.” (She hates the outdated term ‘networking’.) Having been a journalist, politico, and television producer for decades, Debbie brings plenty to the table. Among her many accomplishments: She was the first female press secretary in Ohio government, having worked for Governor Dick Celeste in the ’80s. When Debbie “stepped out of the swirl,” she somehow found herself coaching clients on life and career strategies before the now burgeoning industry even had a name. Although most of her clients by the mid-’90s were men, she saw her business take off in 2000 after deciding to focus on the needs of women. These days, the company’s multi-media platform encompasses books, CDs and DVDs as well as biannual seminars, which she calls “tea parties,”in New York. She also holds events in Ohio, Michigan, and Boston. These members-only gatherings, says Debbie, are designed to get women of different backgrounds talking about their accomplishments and goals in a “judgment-free zone” and serve as a much needed dose of empowerment to get things going. Sounds like a great idea to us.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. My pal Stu Zakim, who recently left his perch as Showtime’s spinmeister, presiding over a “boy’s lunch” with ABC News’ Jeffrey Schneider, Tony Fox of Comedy Central, Patrick Reilly of Sirius Radio, publicist Peter Himler, Jeff Bercovici who is writing for AOL verticals these days, flack Matthew Hiltzik, and Matt Frankel, formerly of AOL. Stu told me the guys had gathered to “celebrate” Arnie Huberman who passed away earlier this summer.

2. Steve Rubenstein

3. Publicity maven Maury Rogoff, Oprah.com writer Jill Brooke , and Fox 5′s Rosanna Scotto.

4. Richard Rubenstein

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Sports Illustrated Sr. Editor Joe Posnanski Talks About The Future Of Newspapers

posnanski.bmpToday, there is a Q&A on mediabistro.com with Joe Posnanski, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, columnist at The Kansas City Star, author and blogger. In addition to all his other jobs, Posnanski launched a blog called The Future of Newspapers, on which he obsesses about the future of the newspaper industry and where its all going.

While we were interested in Posnanski’s juggling of his many different roles, we were more intrigued by what he had to say about the future of the industry where he’s worked for years:

“I love newspapers, and even as I’ve gone on to work at Sports Illustrated, I still write for the Star because of the great people there and because I would like to be part of the fight. I don’t like when people get all pompous about journalism and when they start talking about how without [newspapers] there’s no democracy or anything like that. That sort of thing really bugs me. But, that said, I think newspapers have been such a part of communities for so long, and I don’t really see anything else that can do that or is willing to do that. I was hoping that we could create a conversation of what the newspaper can look like in the future.

‘Newspaper’ as a word could very well become as outdated as ‘album’ is when we talk about music. It doesn’t have to be paper to be a newspaper in my mind. When I think of newspaper, I think of something that gives you local news, local sports, the weather, all of these things that matter to us in our daily lives. It’s something that can give it to you in a one-stop shopping sort of way. I believe that people want that. I don’t think that the demand for that has gone down at all. I know that newspaper people in general like to beat themselves up about not keeping up with the times, and there’s no doubt some of that is true, but the big problem has been on the advertising side and on the circulation side of newspapers. The technology has changed, and because of that, the business model of newspapers is broken.

Just from the sports perspective, people in Kansas City don’t want to read any less about the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs, their local high schools, and Kansas-Missouri or Kansas State. They want to read more. They want more now than ever before. The demand is so high, why can’t we make this work? I think that we can, and I think we will. It’s just going to take a few breakthroughs in technology to figure out how to do it.”

Read more of Posnanski’s interview here

Breaking: Layoffs At Reader’s Digest?

RD October, 2009, newsstand only.JPGWe’ve heard that they have been doing some restructuring over at Reader’s Digest‘s Web site, RD.com, resulting in layoffs. It looks like Gawker has been hearing from the same people.

We tried to reach out to Beth Turner, the executive editor of ReadersDigest.com as recently as July, but an operator at the company told us her name is no longer in the system. Not a good sign.

We have put in a call to the company, and will keep you posted as news develops. Know anything? Send us your tips via email or the anonymous tip box at right.

And in possibly related news, The New York Post reported today that the company — which recently filed for Chapter 11 — may be searching for a less expensive place to house its headquarters.

Update: A Reader’s Digest spokesman told us there were some layoffs from the digital team, two or three weeks ago, which may explain why one anonymous tipster told us Turner had been among those let go. “Sad to say, because the entire team loved her and it was a huge surprise,” our tipster said.

But we’ve been assured the layoffs were part of a realignment at the company that we have been covering for the past few weeks, which is intended to build up the Web teams at the company’s various businesses and refocusing a smaller corporate team. A dozen or so people from the corporate staff have been brought over to the other businesses, including ReadersDigest.com, we’ve been told. So, in the end, the digital team at ReadersDigest.com has actually grown in size, and will now be overseen by general manager Jonathan Hills.

Earlier: Reader’s Digest Reorganizes, Shuffles Execs

Exit Interview: Mediabistro Founder Laurel Touby

IMG_0196.jpgAnyone who comes to mediabistro.com for media news, job postings or classes has Laurel Touby to thank. She started the company in 1994 as a series of media mixers, which led to the founding of a Web site in 1996 — before the dotcom bubble burst. Over the years, Touby navigated uncharted territory as a digital entrepreneur and Internet pioneer, obtaining funding from venture capitalists and eventually selling the company just over two years ago.

When she sold her baby to Jupitermedia (now WebMediaBrands) for $23 million in July 2007, Touby signed a two-year contract. When that ran out a couple of months ago, she became a contractor for the company. Although she stayed involved in the day to day of mediabistro.com, she also started planning her getaway with her husband, BusinessWeek media columnist Jon Fine.

Earlier this month, the couple announced something big: a six-month sabbatical that they plan to spend traveling the globe, visiting foreign countries, blogging and — not surprisingly if you know these two — doing a little work here and there. But not too much. That’s not the point after all.

“I just feel like I’ve really gone balls to the wall for so many years and I just wanted a break, a real serious break, so I could come back fresh and renewed with new ideas and a new vision from this travel around the world,” Touby said. “Who knows what that vision will be.”

We couldn’t resist asking Touby a few parting questions as she headed out the door after 15 years at Mediabistro. In this exit interview of sorts — conducted via phone as Touby and Fine explored the Piedmont region in Italy one week after leaving New York — Touby opened up about her proudest moments, her regrets and her plans for the future.

“I have some ideas,” she said of her future plans. “But nothing has gelled yet.”

FishbowlNY: Why did you decide to take this sabbatical?

Laurel Touby: I’ve been looking forward to taking an extended break because I haven’t taken a real vacation since I started the company in 1994. I really have been going full speed ahead, always worried, always kind of logged in at home. Even if I was away from the office or “on vacation,” I was always doing work constantly just like anyone who is tethered electronically to their job. Only this was my responsibility and I felt very much like it was a child in many ways. You feel this maternal feeling towards this company that you’ve started, especially as a woman. And especially as a woman with no other children.

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When Will The Layoffs Start At Condé Nast?

4 times square.jpgLike many media watchers, The New York Observer‘s John Koblin, who has been diligently tracking the goings on at Condé Nast since McKinsey & Co. was hired a few months ago, is eagerly anticipating news of layoffs from 4 Times Square. It’s unclear how the company will implement its much-needed cost cutting, but layoffs are pretty much a given. But the question on everyone’s lips is: when will they start?

According to Koblin, reduced budgets — which executives have reportedly been asking publishers and editors to trim by about 25 percent — will be finalized in the next few weeks. Then, it’s bombs away:

“Technically, any editor and publisher can wait until the end of the fiscal year — the end of January — to break the news to staffers getting cut. The 25-ish percent reduced budget doesn’t kick in until Feb. 1.

This means layoffs could start in October at 4 Times Square and stretch out for several weeks.”

So, mark your calendars. Looks like D-Day at Condé could be in October, while others will have to wait in agony to find out their fate.

Got any news? Keep us posted about any breaking layoffs news.

Layoffs Will Come To Condé Nast, but When?The Observer

Earlier: Layoffs On The Horizon For Condé Nast?

Mediabistro Blog-Family Roundup

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  • Swiss diplomats visit hikers detained in Iran – BayNewser

  • Leaked e-mail describes Smithsonian’s buyout offer to employees – UnBeige
  • Breaking: Layoffs at Reader’s Digest? – FishbowlNY
  • Interview with Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s Press – GalleyCat
  • CTO shuffle at MySpace – WebNewser
  • Free the Hikers Vigil

    Vigils for the three hikers detained in Iran are being held around the country tonight. The events mark the second-month anniversary of the American’s detention. The Los Angeles vigil will be held at the federal building from 6 to 8 p.m.

    More info at FreeTheHikers.org and the L.A. vigil Facebook Page.


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    Talking Digital Publishing On The Menu

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    Today’s media-bistro.com Morning Media Menu podcast started off strong with some serious talk about digital publishing, Amazon.com’s Kindle and e-book publishing strategies.

    Hosts Jason Boog of GalleyCat and AgencySpy‘s Matt Van Hoven kicked off the show with a discussion about the Kindle’s upcoming debut in the U.K.

    “If they can get this global footprint…I think it’s going to be a really big moment for Kindle and Amazon,” Jason said. “It’s just going to exist all over the world and it’s going to be hard to replace that.”

    Next was a discussion about the news that the release of Sarah Palin‘s e-book will be delayed until December 26, even as the pub date of her memoir, Going Rogue was pushed up earlier this week. According to Jason, the publisher’s hope is that Conservative Christians who backed Palin during the election will buy the book for Christmas and then the electronic version — which is usually priced lower than the hard copy version at around $9.99 — will debut after the holidays. “By withholding this digital version, [publisher HarperCollins] is just ducking this whole issue of how much should it cost,” Jason said. Jason also compared this technique to the releasing of a DVD after a movie has a run in movie theaters.

    However, Matt pointed out that environmentalists will probably not be very happy with this decision. But, were environmentalists going to buy Palin’s book either way?

    Also discussed: Dan Rather‘s suit against CBS was dismissed yesterday and “Jon & Kate Plus 8″ will now become “Kate Plus 8″ and focus on Kate Gosselin‘s struggles as a single mom.

    You can listen to all the past podcasts at BlogTalkRadio.com/mediabistro and call in at 646-929-0321.

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