Guardian column: The British invasion

My latest Guardian column looks at the British invasion of American news media — The Times print edition in New York; the BBC’s news channel on cable; the Guardian hiring Michael Kinsley and plotting assaults via Comment is Free and online and print — from this side of the Atlantic. (Nonregistration view here.) Snippet:

I’ve been picking up the Times of London on New York newsstands and I like to think that carrying it makes me the classiest guy on the E train (we still believe anything said in a British accent is smarter than the same thing said in our own). It also makes me wish that our Times here would learn a lesson from the former British broadsheets – and their readers – and convert to subway-friendly tabloid format. I’m enjoying reading the Times’ good writing. But it also feels out of sync in a few critical ways: first, of course, the news is five time zones staler than our local brands’. But what is more striking is that the ads inside your Times are for couches and computers and flights to New York – all in pounds sterling.

News Corp isn’t trying to sell print advertising here. So even at $1 a copy, there’s surely no profit in this. But that’s probably not the goal. Putting the Times on newsstands gives the brand presence here and exploits Rupert Murdoch’s advantage over his fellow colonisers – he owns the New York Post and its presses. So the print product is, I suspect, merely a vehicle to market the online product, where the real money will be. I think this is a harbinger of things to come for many media companies; old media will live to drive people to new media and print becomes what we like to call “value added” (read: “worth less”). And the strategy is working on me: I’m going to Timesonline.co.uk more often. Rupert has my mindshare.

  • Rich Banner

    Jeff,

    I enjoy your perspective and find myself paying attention to your viewpoint often but I think your worship of the Brit rags is a bit over the top.

    I believe opinion is a potent weapon for UK media because for decades, American newspapers and networks have deluded themselves (and their audiences) into believing that they are objective and opinion-free, while British broadsheets have skillfully created great journalism with perspective.

    I’m not sure if they have deluded everyone. I would say about half of the population doesn’t share that illusion. But I do think that the entire population would like to see the ‘journalism with perspective” you are talking about. I would love to see a more honest, in your face lefty reporting from CBS, NBC….New York Times etc. As much as I dislike Dan Rather, it would have been great to see him go down with a partisan fight rather than as a mealy mouthed, deceitful pussy that he is. But the left in the US has the upper hand when it comes to framing the issues in media and I can’t see them giving up that advantage even though it would help them in the long run.

    The Brit’s “American invasion” is probably going to be more like a third party presidential run by a green party candidate. They are just going to damage the New York Times and Washington post. They are not going to make much of an inroad into the heartland (see Guardian vs. Ohio rednecks). It will in some ways strengthen the liberal argument in the US because the public schools boys at the Guardian can write but it will be a strictly lefty affair. No dogs or republicans allowed.

    But you know who will eventually benefit more if the left of center Brits gain a slight foothold here? Not counting some correspondents prancing along a subway train with a crisp new copy of the Guardian. The right will gain.

    It would be like an English premier soccer team came here to practice day in and day out and only one team (the right) gets to hone their skills against this competition. An opposition that is articulate, sometimes funny but most importantly, they have completely different tactics and strategies that must be countered.

    As much as I can understand your love of the British papers there is one component that you don’t dwell on and that is their incessant anti-Americanism. Of course they will have to mute it and edit it but you know, when someone doesn’t like you its pretty clear no matter how cleverly it is written. Yes, you can blame it on BDS, Iraq, perishing and cruise missiles, gm food, fat people from Liverpool NY, but that fact is they truly hate the US.

    Even Bill Clinton could do nothing right. Six years on it does almost seem that there is hardly a Brit alive who wouldn’t have joined Monica under the desk. But it’s really not true (maybe not the desk thing) that they liked Bill that much more.

    But if you are right and there is a British invasion coming, it should be interesting.

  • Ed Rusch

    “but I think your worship of the Brit rags is a bit over the top”

    Of course. But the british rags are the only media outlets showing any interest in Jeffy these days, so he worships them. Lord knows the 4,600 page views he generates here won’t be enough to fund a career.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Eddie,
    I’m getting pretty sick of the stick up your ass. You take every opportunity to insult me. OK, you don’t like me. That is well-established. Now do you have something of substance to day? Or do you fancy yourself the insult dog? It’s quite tiresome.

  • Rich Banner

    Yes, I don’t understand that attack at all. But it’s 9:30 pm in China and it’s time to got out and celebrate. Have a good 4th (even you too Ed).

  • http://zmannzilla.com Z. Mann Zilla

    I dunno, I can’t really get too angry about people trying to make a profit off of popular news sources. People who want the real story have to search newsfeeds from at least 4 different countries just to come close to what the “truth” about any given situation is. However, thanks to the fine folks spending lots of time and money to compete for my “dollar/mindshare/soul”, I can do a multinational search for any current news I want in mere moments, for the cost of a DSL connection. And since I haven’t spent dime one on anything offered on the internet, I feel like I won this particular battle with “the Man”.

  • http://www.diaryfromengland.blogspot.com NAOMI

    Hi Jeff

    I enjoyed looking at your website. It’s very interesting reading. You’re quite right anything said in a British accent always sounds smart! Only joking! I think it’s nice to have the option of being able to purchase foreign newspapers and get a different perspective on certain aspects of the news. I visit the New York Times website quite a lot and always find some of their stories interesting. I have an English news blog myself – http://www.diaryfromengland.blogspot.com

    NAOMI