I don't want to piss on somebody 's appointment just because it surprises me. But the elevation of the BBC's departing Director General to head honcho at the New York Times made me spill my cornflakes.
The New York Times is probably the world's best-regarded newspaper and deservedly so. It has a staff (still) of 1000 journalists, probably more than it needs.
Mark Thompson knows all about cutting staff - but he has never, ever worked for a newspaper.
Listen to the benighted Arthur Sulzberger explaining the logic of the move in the later editions of the New York Times itself :
“We have people who understand print very well, the best in the business. We have people who understand advertising well, the best in the business. But our future is on to video, to social, to mobile. It doesn’t mirror what we’ve done. It broadens what we are going to do.”
He's right: it doesn't mirror what they've done. Selling cornflakes doesn't either, but as far as I know the CEO of Kellogg's wasn't in the managerial frame at the NYT.
This is the same NYT management that has put the Boston Globe up for sale, taken it off the market , and say some reports , may again be putting it up for sale.
There's a wonderful saying in American football: the Hail Mary Pass.
This is how Wikipedia explains it: "A Hail Mary pass l refers to any very long forward pass made in desperation with only a small chance of success, especially at or near the end of a half. "
It sounds like the New York Times is going for the Hail Mary pass.
Not long ago old-school US retailer JC Penney faced with declining sales brought in as chief executive Ron Johnson ,the genius who created the Apple stores concept worldwide.
He launched a bold new pricing plan: no more of these never-ending pesky 70% off sales : just everyday lower prices. Last week Penney reported a bigger-than-expected loss and plummeting sale.
It was the second straight quarter of steep sales declines .Customers it seems are confused by the new pricing strategy.
You see, JC Penney isn't Apple. Customers actually like tracking down bargains .
And the New York Times isn't the BBC.
One of the early comments on the story on the NYT website was from an individual J who gave as his/her address as BBC HQ, London.
J wrote of the Mark Thompson appointment:
"This reeks of a headline-grabbing appointment that makes no business sense. Mr Thompson has been a disaster for the BBC and you would struggle to find a staff member at any level with a positive thing to say about his tenure. Under him, the corporation has undergone brutal and poorly organised cuts, lost all its editorial confidence, mishandled countless humiliating crises (which were curiously never, ever the Director General's responsibility), caved in to government demands and massively dumbed-down across all its output (which is also what he did at Channel 4 before coming to the Beeb). Morale during his reign declined to zero. It is hard to imagine how he could have done a much worse job. The BBC's digital innovations in recent years are thanks to super-talented people in production areas, who achieve great things despite Mr Thompson, not because of him. Staff and fans of the NY Times should be very, very worried by his arrival."
Thompson who arrived in New York on Tuesday afternoon from London, said he had been “a reader of The New York Times for decades” and said he was honoured to take the new position.
“It’s a privilege,” he said. “What we’ve got in The New York Times is an outstanding newsroom,” calling it “the envy of the world.”
Don't get me wrong . I want Thompson to succeed. The New York Times is too important . Perhaps he will indeed unveil the Holy Grail of a digitally-led newspaper that makes money, while maintaining the strength of the printed product .
I just don't see anything in his resumé that makes me think that will happen .
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