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Elizabeth Spiers Departs The New York Observer (NY Observer)
The Observer Media Group announced Thursday that editor-in-chief and editorial director Elizabeth Spiers is leaving her post at the end of August to launch a new company. FishbowlNY Spiers, a former Mediabistro editor-in-chief, is leaving the Observer. According to the paper, Spiers -- who joined as editor in February of last year -- is stepping aside to launch a new company, and will remain a part-time consultant for the Observer Media Group. Capital New York Taking her place will be Aaron Gell, who has been at the Observer for some time as executive editor, and the primary runner of the Observer Media Group's Web properties, including Observer.com, BetaBeat and others. NYT / Media Decoder Spiers took over her post in February 2011, succeeding Kyle Pope and becoming the fourth top editor under Jared Kushner, the son of a real estate developer who bought the paper in 2006. Gell will become the fifth. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media Spiers was seen as a risky choice for the paper. She was the paper's fourth editor in as many years, and had a long track record of early departures. (At the time, one of her former colleagues described her career to me as going "pillar to post... flotsam and jetsam... not quite nailing anything.") Some predicted Spiers would not last more than a year; in fact, she lasted a year and a half. Her performance was met with mixed reviews, though she succeeded in expanding the paper's online verticals, increasing Web traffic, and overseeing a successful redesign of both the online and print editions. Ad Age / Media News The startup will focus on content and commerce in the health and wellness arena, Spiers told Ad Age. She declined to elaborate on her plans. TheWrap Christopher Barnes, the president of the paper, is also stepping down after three years. The timing of that departure was not immediately clear. Adweek Barnes, the co-founder and former publisher of AM New York, joined the Observer in March 2009. Although beloved by Kushner, Barnes was reportedly "reviled" by much of the Observer's editorial side for his efforts to shift the company's focus from journalism to advertising sales. WWD / Memo Pad A spokesman said Barnes' successor is still being determined, adding, "It's a process more than a search."
Rebekah Brooks Formally Charged in Phone Hacking Scandal (BBC News)
Former News International boss Rebekah Brooks has been formally charged over phone hacking, Scotland Yard has said. The Guardian Brooks, 44, answered bail at Lewisham police station and will appear at Westminster magistrates court on September 3. Six other journalists from the News of the World, including David Cameron's former spin doctor Andy Coulson, have been officially charged and will appear at the same court on August 16. HuffPost Brooks was formally charged Thursday with conspiring to hack into phones, including that of murdered teenager Milly Dowler. Most damningly, the charges also allege that Brooks was directly involved in the decision to hack into Dowler's voicemail in the days following her disappearance. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media Brooks also faces two other counts of conspiring "to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, without lawful authority." Washington Post / AP Brooks, who quit as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International when the phone hacking scandal exploded last year, has vowed to fight the charges.
GMA Earns Weekly Demo Win, Breaking Today's 879-Week Streak (B&C)
A week after the two morning programs turned in a virtual tie in the advertiser-coveted adults 25-54 demo, ABC's Good Morning America beat out NBC's Today the week of July 23, ending Today's 879-week streak. NYT / Media Decoder For the first time in 17 years, GMA was the undisputed champion of the morning last week, soundly defeating Today in the category of total viewers, by 542,000, and also edging the NBC program by 12,000 in the category of viewers between the ages of 25 and 54. TVNewser The win comes as the Today team anchored from London ahead of the Olympics, which is an instant ratings boon for NBC News programs. In fact, Today leads this week in both measurements by wide margins. THR / The Live Feed Though down from its showing in Beijing, Today posted considerable wins on Monday and Tuesday in both total viewers and the demo. It has bested the ABC broadcast by more than 1 million viewers each day.
CBS Corp. Second-Quarter Earnings Rise (THR)
CBS Corp., led by CEO Leslie Moonves, on Thursday reported improved second-quarter earnings despite slightly lower revenue. Deadline New York Net earnings came in at $427 million, up 8.1 percent versus last year's second quarter, on revenues of $3.48 billion, down 3.1 percent. TheWrap Advertising revenue decreased to $2.1 billion from $2.2 billion a year earlier. LA Times / Company Town The broadcaster serves as a bellwether for the U.S. advertising market because it is the nation's largest company that derives so much of its revenue from advertising. The company has the nation's most popular television network, CBS; a fleet of television and radio stations; cable channel Showtime; and the Simon & Schuster publishing house. WSJ CBS relies on advertising for roughly 60 percent of its revenue, making it more dependent on ads than many of its rivals. But the media company has found ways to supplement ad dollars, such as collecting fees from cable and satellite operators for the right to retransmit the CBS broadcast channel and selling digital content to Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Reuters An 8 percent gain in affiliate and subscription revenue helped lift the quarter that ended in June, along with cost-cutting that improved profit margins. NYT / Media Decoder CBS recorded the best totals in upfront ad sales for the coming season.
Revolving Door: Yahoo! Departures Begin, Even as Mayer's Team Still TBD (AllThingsD)
After former interim CEO Ross Levinsohn departed Yahoo! earlier this week, I noted that it was only a matter of time before more execs headed out the door with the changeover to new leader and former Googler Marissa Mayer. So it is written, so it shall be done, it seems, with two significant departures from the company this week -- with one tech exec going to Apple and another product exec headed to an interesting new online education initiative.
LinkedIn Sees Profit Slide, but Revenue Jumps (WSJ / MarketBeat)
LinkedIn reported second-quarter earnings slid even as revenue rose sharply, as the company invests heavily in its technology and products. Still, in a season of disappointment, especially among the social media cohort, the numbers look pretty good. CNET It's the flip side of the Facebook story: A (relatively) newly-public Internet company with a story that Wall Street actually likes. AllThingsD The professional networking company had revenue of $228.2 million. Revenue was up 89 percent since last year. Forbes / The Tech Trade The company said it now has more than 175 million members. TechCrunch ComScore puts the unique visitors for the quarter at 106 million, meaning it has a pretty strong rate for active users. Page views were down slightly to 9.3 billion from 9.4 billion the quarter before. SocialTimes Premium subscriptions rose 82 percent in the second quarter of 2012 to $43.5 million. At 19 percent of the total revenue, the percentage was fairly consistent with revenues in 2011. This time last year, premium subscriptions accounted for 20 percent of the revenue stream.
Jonah Lehrer's Publisher Runs Ads Telling Bookstores to Send Back Imagine for a Refund (paidContent)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is running digital ads telling booksellers to send back copies of Jonah Lehrer's Imagine for a full refund. FishbowlNY "HMH is asking retail and wholesale accounts to stop selling copies of Imagine and to return unsold inventory to the publisher for full credit," reads the ad. GalleyCat Here's how readers can get a refund for the book.
Aereo Celebrates a Court Victory with Clever Marketing: Free Web TV for an Hour, or a Dollar for a Day (AllThingsD)
Fresh off the heels of a court victory, Barry Diller's Aereo is ramping up its marketing push with a clever new pricing scheme: The TV-on-the-Web service is rolling out new plans that will let users sample the service for free, buy it for a single day, or lock in for a year. GigaOM Aereo is using a unique structure to get around some older legal rulings, but essentially what it is doing is broadening the way people access broadcast TV -- and in the process taking some of the control over distribution from the broadcasters. THR The service is now being offered at different $8 and $12 monthly plans, or an $80 annual plan, or a $1 daily pass. In addition, the company is allowing consumers the ability to try out Aereo free each day for one hour continuously. Multichannel News Aereo membership is currently only available to residents of New York City, and its "Try For Free" feature is only available to people physically present in New York. Executives have said they intend to launch Aereo in other markets in 2013.
Huffington Makes Her Tablet Magazine Free, After Five Issues (Capital New York)
When The Huffington Post launched its weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, a month and a half ago, executive editor Tim O'Brien explained why they had decided to make it a paid product: "We feel it's a premium product and it deserves to carry a price with it in order to access all the value we're giving people," he told a small group of reporters the week it launched in June. But Arianna Huffington and her lieutenants may have overestimated readers' willingness to pay for content: The magazine, O'Brien announced during a companywide meeting Wednesday afternoon, has switched to an unpaid model. FishbowlNY Huffington used to be priced at 99 cents per issue, $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. Folio: When Folio: first reported on the app's coming launch, O'Brien said the business model had yet to be determined -- and this was only weeks out from its debut. The Atlantic Wire With an enormous website full of free content every day, it seems that asking readers to pay 99 cents per issue for a tablet magazine from Huffington Post always did seem like an incongruity, which is why AOL is offering the publication for free.
Desktop, Laptop Use of New York Times' Website Drops over Two Years (Poynter / MediaWire)
People using computers at home and work spent less time on nytimes.com in April and May of 2012 than they did during the same months in 2010, according to Nielsen figures released to Poynter.
Facebook Has No Friends: Stock Slides Below $20 (CNNMoney)
Facebook is not very popular among investors these days. Shares of the social media giant hit a new low of just $19.82 Thursday, nearly 50 percent below their initial offering price. LA Times / Tech Now The company's shares at one point dipped to $19.95, before coming back up slightly. AllFacebook As of 3:45 p.m. ET Thursday, the cost had fallen all the way to $19.88. The Sacramento Bee California may never see "hundreds of millions" in Facebook-related tax dollars necessary to balance the state budget as investors spurn the social media giant, the state's top fiscal analyst warned Wednesday. AllFacebook In May, the California Legislative Analyst's Office predicted that if Facebook shares hit $45 apiece six months after the IPO, and kept rising, the combination of capital-gains taxes from investors and taxes on stock awards and options for employees of the Menlo Park-based social network would bring in $2.1 billion in taxes over the next 13 months. WSJ It wasn't supposed to end like this. Fidelity Investments was an early buyer of Facebook Inc. shares. In the spring of 2011, two dozen of its funds bought more than $200 million worth of the company's private stock. Then, when Facebook went public in May, many of those funds and other Fidelity funds loaded up on publicly traded shares. Now, many of the giant Boston-based company's fund managers are shrinking their stakes.
Americans Dropping Pay-TV (Reuters)
Stubbornly high U.S. unemployment, a weak housing market combined with a mature business prone to regular programming blackouts has seen more than 400,000 American homes drop their pay-TV service since the start of the year. AllThingsD Reuters says more than 400,000 Americans have dropped pay TV this year. So maybe cord-cutting is real, after all. But if it is, the numbers don't show it.
Arijit Guha, Cancer Patient, Wins Twitter War Against Aetna Insurance (HuffPost)
Arijit Guha's battle against Stage 4 colon cancer is far from over but the Arizona State University graduate student can at least savor winning a Twitter war that shamed the insurance company that dropped his coverage into paying for his care. AllTwitter Arijit is a self-described "31 year-old sustainability Ph.D. student fighting Stage IV colon cancer. Dropped by health insurance coverage, I'm waging war on potential medical bankruptcy." When he reached his "lifetime limit" for covered care through his insurance provider Aetna, he was dropped. He created a site to raise funds and awareness, poopstrong.org and also took his fight to Twitter, eventually attracting the attention of Aetna's CEO, Mark T. Bertolini.
The AP's North Korea Bureau: Yep, They've Had One, Based in the Country's Capital, for Seven Months (CJR / Behind the News)
North Korea was just two weeks out of a national period of mourning the death of Kim Jong-il in January when two Associated Press journalists, Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee and chief Asia photographer David Guttenfelder, opened the AP's Pyongyang bureau.
Jimmy Fallon in Talks to Host 2013 Oscars, but ABC Said to Object (LA Times / Movies Now)
Comedian Jimmy Fallon is in talks to host the Oscars in February, with Saturday Night Live veteran Lorne Michaels producing, three people with knowledge of the discussions said. LA Times / Company Town There is both a Facebook page and a Twitter page dedicated to promoting the idea of NBC late-night star Jimmy Fallon as an Oscar host. But it's hard to imagine ABC letting this happen without a fight. FishbowlLA LA Times reporter Nicole Sperling posted an update referencing a conversation with outgoing AMPAS president Tom Sherak, but he simply confirmed that he had stopped all of his in-progress talks as part of his exit. Deadline Hollywood Sherak now will go down in Oscars history as giving new definition to the word chutzpah. The outgoing president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences tried to pull a fast one on incoming president Hawk Koch who was just voted in Tuesday night.