Monday, August 3, 2009


If Tina Brown is the barometer of the media landscape over the past ten years, then I am the Queen of Sheba. Today's NYT piece by David Carr reminds us how media reporters--including Carr--got it wrong way back when, as many of us did.

This is not an anti-Tina diatribe, as no individual could have singlehandedly created the media mess we're in. Yet, she is a symbol of the media excess of the 1990's that had no conceivable purpose other than the enrichment and glorification of self and other bold faced names inside and outside our industry. There are star editors out there who have created great media brands and made money doing it, but she's not one of them. She's never made a dime for any publisher, and yet media companies and rich media magnates keep shoveling dollars into her ventures. I suspect I know why, but not even BobOnARoll will permit himself to vent utter cynicism.

Most of us knew that the business model for glitzy $50 million launches was broken long before the media reporters caught on. Carr, in an amazing self-revealing aside in today's piece, admits to not having been invited to Tina's launch party and watching the festivities from across the river, his nose figuratively pressed against the glass. 90% of the media gushed. I puked.

Now that many media reporters didn't get it right the first time, they're falling all over themselves in uniform denunciation of old media models that are being swept away by the current ad recession. Perhaps. Yep, it sure is tough out there---my media consulting biz, for example, will probably earn its lowest revenues ever this year. No one projects a return to the good old days. Yet, I'm tired of reading media reporting that sources the execs at places like Conde Nast and Time Inc., whose leaders put these companies on a path to failure years ago and still don't have a clue how to run a 21st century media company. There are hundreds and hundreds of successful mid-size magazines published here and west of the Hudson whose leaders know how to make great publications on thin budgets.

Carr refers to today's media model as one where 'brutal' cost control is the key to success, and I'm not sure what that means exactly. If the end of $5 per word fees to writers and $500 expense account dinners is brutal, so be it. My colleagues and I could have launched 3-5 successful national magazines on the funds that Tina blew through on just one.

I guess this turned into an anti-Tina diatribe after all. Nothing personal.

Have a nice day.

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