Wednesday Noon Update 11/4/09


You won’t read about this in the funny papers, but Mayor Bloomberg’s narrow victory on Tuesday should be the final nail in the editorial-endorsement coffin — and maybe for newspaper-manipulated news and political advertising as well.

The only newspaper I saw this morning that even approached the subject was The Brooklyn Paper (the weekly I formerly published which, like virtually every other New York City newspaper, had been feasting on a steady stream of Bloomberg campaign ads). Its Website led today with this biting the hand that feeds you headline: “Bloomy bucks mean bupkis in Brooklyn.”

• • •

In an unprecedented show of unity, New York’s three daily newspapers first conspired with Bloomberg to facilitate the coup d’état which overthrew term limits (thus allowing him to run for a third term), then repeatedly endorsed his reelection and manipulated their news coverage to further his chances. It almost didn’t work.

Both the Times and Post were guilty of news manipulation — the Post more blatantly and deliciously. Daily News coverage — except from political blogger Elizabeth Benjamin — was, like its sanitized new print and Web packages, so consistently boring that I stopped paying attention (the Daily News’ attempt in the September primary election to destroy John Liu‘s City Comptroller bid failed miserably, and Liu is now Comptroller-elect.)

I’m not the first to point out the impotence of newspaper endorsements; with rare exceptions (usually involving low-interest races and highly-obedient readers), they don’t stimulate the vote. Glenn Beck yelps and thousands run to “tea parties”; if the NY Times told its readers to show up at a no-tea rally, who’d come?

• • •

Many mayoral endorsements (including a fact-filled and well-reasoned one in The Brooklyn Paper and its affiliated newspapers) made sound arguments for a Bloomberg vote; at the same time, rival candidate Bill Thompson was running the most inept mayoral campaign in decades. So I’m not arguing that a vote for Bloomberg — or an endorsement of Bloomberg — was wrong or irrational, simply that the role of newspapers in the process has been exposed as a marginal one. (Another notable endorsement failure this season came out of New Jersey, where that state’s largest newspaper attempted to exhibit the potency of its political muscle by endorsing a third-party candidate in a tight gubernatorial race; their candidate ended Tuesday with a lame 5.7 percent of the vote.)

If newspaper endorsements don’t mean much … and if news manipulation doesn’t mean much … what value is there in advertising a political campaign (or, gulp!, in advertising anything else) in newspapers?

Unlike most political campaigns whose spending is overwhelmingly in electronic media and direct mail, Bloomberg’s effort put millions into newspaper advertising. Knowing what we know now, who’ll show the green next time?


PLAY FOR PAY: The publisher of a small chain of Jewish weeklies in and around New York City says he didn’t get Bloomberg ads because his newspapers supported Thompson; 61 other newspapers backed Bloomberg.  [Daily News]


DID TIMES DOOM ‘MEMOIRS’? The Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” may have died prematurely because of a deal its producers made with the devil. [NY Post]

The Times had a hand in killing “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” And I don’t mean critic Ben Brantley’s mixed review (although that didn’t help).

The Times offered the producers of “Brighton Beach” several weeks worth of splashy ads in the paper and on its Web site at steep discounts, production sources say. In exchange for what one source calls the “fire sale” price, the Times demanded exclusivity.

“Brighton Beach” couldn’t advertise anywhere else until after opening night. No radio spots, no e-mail blasts, no direct-mail campaign — none of the things most shows do to generate advance sales.

But the Times ads didn’t work.

The Post’s Michael Riedel concludes: “Once upon a time, a full-page ad in the Times generated strong ticket sales. But that was when the paper, unchallenged by the Internet, had absolute power over Broadway. Those days have gone the way of the bulldog edition.”

“Times ads don’t even pay for themselves anymore,” one producer says.


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