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.