Though his contract is not up until December, early 2011 has seen its share of speculation about the fate of Glenn Beck and his hugely successful Fox News show. Both Beck’s camp, namely his company Mercury Radio Arts, and the Fox News side have flexed in the press to prove that neither really needed the other. Beck, who started on radio, has a huge following online, in print and throughout the country’s gun stores, and could branch out successfully any which way, his side said. He’s a loose cannon nutjob and his numbers are falling fast anyway, said Fox News. The public semi-battle, fought mostly by anonymous sources on both sides, was doubtlessly a negotiation tactic. Today, news comes that the sides have come together and the show will end, but their relationship will not. More info inside Press Clips, our daily media column, plus embarrassing quotes from the boss at the New York Times and ASME reactions.
Beck’s Big Exit: In a statement today, Fox and Mercury Radio Arts said that the show Glenn Beck, which has aired at 5 p.m. since 2009, will be phased out, though no end date was given, but that the two sides will “work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the Fox News Channel as well as content for other platforms including Fox News’ digital properties,” according to the statement via the New York Times.
The question of Beck’s departure came up first in a David Carr column early last month, but on the air, Beck was careful to praise his network, saying, “Two years ago, I was on a cable channel that no one was watching at the time, doing a show that no one was watching, and I was about to leave television. And then I had the opportunity to come and work here. …If you’re going to do news or commentary, the only place, I think in the world, the only place that really makes an impact is Fox.”
In the end both sides would make their money, we assured anyone who was worried, and this is the ultimate win-win for both sides, as awful as they can be. Beck gets to stay close to Roger Ailes, who works his own sort of dark magic, possibly on larger projects, while Beck can also cater more directly to his mindless masses through his website The Blaze and whatever else he might have cooking (another kids’ book hopefully!) while not being tethered to a daily broadcast. May Olbermann help us all.
Hearts and Minds: It will take a while before anyone can really assess the success of the New York Times new digital paywall, in which users who refuse to learn one of the simple hacks have to pay for online content, but that hasn’t stopped everyone in the media realm, including us, from yapping on and on about it. That becomes easier when the Times‘ own publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. talks publicly about his experiment.
Recently, he told everyone that “mostly high school kids and people who are out of work,” will bother to get around the paywall, totally discounting the Information Wants to Be Free nerds that rule this side of the internet. A few people giggled at him. On Tuesday, he talked at Columbia Journalism School and said a few more questionable things. Yahoo’s The Cutline has a particularly uncomfortable moment:
“How will low-income people access New York Times digital content?,” one person in the crowd asked on a question card read aloud by the j-school’s academic dean, Bill Grueskin. (As of March 28, the cheapest of several packages offering unlimited digital access to Times content runs $15 a month, under the new online pay system.)
A five-second pause ensued.
“I’m sorry?” Sulzberger said–either because he hadn’t followed the wording of the question, or (as cynics on hand seemed to think), because the notion that “low-income people” are a segment of the paper’s readership was news to him.
As Grueskin repeated the query, the audience chuckled, and Sulzberger launched into a response.
“Just translate that question to print,” he said. “How will low-income people get access to The New York Times in print? Imagine we were 20 years ago. The answer is: it’s harder. The New York Times supports a newsroom of enormous size and scope, and it needs the financial resources to do that. And the advertisers pay a vast part of that, but not all of it, and that’s been true for decades.”
No one needs any reminding that the Times demographic skews elite, sometimes embarrassingly so, but why make it easier? If it makes poor people feel any better, the paywall didn’t cost $40 million to build, as some have estimated, Sulzberger insisted.
Daily Digits: Nieman Journalism Lab has more number-crunching today, like we talked about yesterday, from within the first-ever iPad newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily. The stats compiled, for instance, reveal that a huge majority of Daily-related tweets come from the news section and with barely any coming from other sections like business, sports and gossip. All of this quantitative analysis is interesting to a few nerds (hello there) but Murdoch should really be paying for work and analysis like this. Consulting, they call it.