Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Professor Levine's Marketing Class

From Paul...

I don't know much about geography...or marketing. But that doesn't keep me from lecturing. Today, class, a little quiz. Let's say you own a restaurant and you charge $20 for your grilled salmon. (Or, in the case of Jim Born's restaurant, a slab of baby-back ribs).
With the recession, business stinks. Therefore, class, do you:

(a) Reduce the size of the salmon?
(b) Raise the price from $20 to $30?
(c) Give away your prized orange souffle, even if the diner doesn't order an entree?
(d) Fire half your cooks and servers?
(e) All of the above?

I don't know the correct answer. But The New York Times has chosen (e). The latest move is to raise the newsstand price by a third, from $1.50 to $2.00, this in the face of lethal circulation and advertising losses, severe staff cuts, a reduced news hole and, of course, the newspaper industry's suicidal decision to give their orange souffle away on the Internet.

Why is the Times doing this? You don't see Chrysler raising car prices? My guess is this. The Times must have done a marketing study, which concluded that casual readers have already been weeded out. People still shelling out their shekels for the paper are the die-hards. They don't care if the paper costs $1.50 or $2.00. They've got to have the paper. I fall into that category and have been a Times reader since the days when my parents subscribed by mail. The paper would come two days late, but we still read it. Of course that was before television. Or radio. Or the telegraph.

How much would you pay for your local (or national) newspaper?


Question on my application for an umbrella insurance policy: "Do you maintain on the premises an exotic animal such as a tiger?"


Publishing bigwig Tina Brown, currently editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, had this to say at Book Expo, according the Jacket Copy blog of the Los Angeles Times:

“Magazine articles are the new books,” Tina Brown said, referring to the public’s shrinking appetite for long-form publishing and looking like Lady Di in her chic bob and magenta power suit.


If you're like me, you're doing research on the Internet and stumble across something more interesting. Soon, you forget what you were looking for, and you're hip-deep in the irrelevant, but fun material.

I can't remember what I was looking for over the weekend, but I stumbled across mini-profiles of every inmate on Florida's Death Row. There are a couple mathematical errors in the list, compiled by the Florida Sun-Sentinel, but according to my count, 23 inmates have been on Death Row for 30 years or more.

This friendly fellow is Gary Alvord, 62, convicted of first degree murder in 1974. One look at Alvord, and I'm glad Jim Born is out there protecting us...when he isn't writing.


California is broke. The City of Los Angeles just cut salaries by 10% across the board. Fifty-percent of public high school students drop out or are thrown out of school. So what does the School District do? Build a new high school for $87 million. Oh, wait. There were cost overruns. The actual price of the new school is $232 million! Yes, it's a showplace. It's Disney World. It's the World's Fair. It has a multi-million dollar decorative tower with no function, no rooms, nothing to teach our children. And yes, California is about to shitcan loads of teachers and Los Angeles just cancelled summer school due to budget shortfalls.

Apropos of nothing, the Los Angeles Times story about the school says it was originally to be built "on the sight of the district's old headquarters." Yes, the Times has fired many of its copy editors.



  1. I was going to say I would pay 50 cents extra for a newspaper because without one, what would I read with my morning coffee? A magazine article? I think not. But then I noticed for the first time that there is no "cents" key on my keyboard!!!! There's one on my vintage Olympia typewriter. When did we ax the cents key? Did it go in the last depression? Does anybody but me miss it?

  2. I was going to comment on Tina Brown's statement, but I got distracted halfway through....

  3. I think they'll turn that school into a skate park. It looks like one.

    You've got to love publishing. When the going gets tough, cut the content and the marketing. Odd.

  4. Neil,
    In addition to being a legend in the publishing industry...you are a sly and witty fellow.

  5. Skate park! Mark Terry nailed it.

    Beats what I was thinking:
    a discarded set from the current "Star Trek."

  6. from Jacqueline

    Paul, thanks for another of your take-no-prisoners posts that has me hitting my head on the desk and wondering what it takes to be a decision maker these days, especially when it comes to education. I remember, years ago when I was training to be a teacher and about to go out on my first teaching practice, the professor overseeing our foray into the real world of teaching pointed out that we must never judge the school by its buildings. He told us that modern does not mean the children are learning, engaged in their lessons or are being taught well, just as the old red brick school still bearing the stains left by Victorian smog might be the most vibrant learning community we ever saw - and he was so right. I taught in a school housed in almost decrepit post-WW2 prefabricated buildings - there were huge beams holding up the dodgy roof - but that was an amazing school filled with committed teachers. So this fancy new school in LA just about has me hopping.

    I can deal with the NYT at two bucks. But schools constructed at the whim of politicians eager to leave some sort of visual legacy fry me up. A school is a living thing, it's like a human being - and it's what goes on inside that counts.

  7. James O. Born6/02/2009 1:09 PM

    The Times and Ms. Brown are both wrong. Period.


  8. Didn't newspapers use to go in the other direction----- hawking free , or virtually free subscriptions. By increasing subsriptions they could justificfy increased ad rates [the real source of revenue].

    I think you did nail it on the head, Paul. Apparently only the die hard demands the paper AND will pay whatever premium for it.
    SAD....but not as sad as the new Compton Towers ....uhhh, I mean that fine puplic institute of learning and developement.