Sunday, April 24, 2005

At NBC's Today Program, They Act When The Number Of Those Tuning In Drops

When I've chastised the Tribune Co., and the publisher of the L.A. Times for not acting to keep circulation up, often I've heard the old saw about quality subscriptions leading to more advertising, so, it is said, it doesn't matter all that much if circulation drops. Bushwa!

I rmember, when many years I worked at the old Life magazine, they said the same thing. Let the circulation drop, the directors of Time, Inc. said. We'll have higher quality subscriptions and the advertisers will come. But they didn't, and the magazine died.

It's the same thing, I'm convinced with The Times. If we ignore the circulation decreases, it will be used to justify cost savings, and cost savings mean a lesser quality paper. It's a downward spiral that doesn't stop.

They don't exhibit that attitude at NBC's Today program. When viewership slipped 10%, and ABC's morning show began creeping up, to within 350,000 watchers of NBC's Today, the heads of NBC got a new executive producer of the program. And not only that, they talked loudly and publicly about their problems and their action to correct them.

None of that at the L.A. Times. When there are problems at the paper, the publ;isher and the editor, and their bosses in Chicago, seem to say as little as possible. They bury their heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches.

When NBC named Jim Bell as the new executive producer of the Today program, the president of NBC News, Neal Shapiro, said Today had become too predictable and "didn't sparkle enough."

And Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television, was explicit as to why a change was being made. "Because of the ratings," he said. "I'm being honest about that."

"We've been too reactive, and not sufficiently proactive," he added. "We thought the show needed a jolt." Another executive was even more blunt. "The show has become boring and stale," he said.

All these quotes come from the New York Times story about the new executive producer, by Bill Carter.

The Los Angeles Times story, by Matea Gold, didn't use such negative quotes at all.

That's one trouble with the L.A. Times these days: It is not as blunt and pointed with its coverage quite often as the New York Times.

But the main point is that NBC acts on its problems. The Los Angeles Times has had a much larger drop off. But it doesn't. The Tribune owners are as sleepy as Rip Van Winkle.


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