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Post Mortem

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Meanwhile, every Post reporter is being trained in how to use Twitter to extend “the brand,” as Angelo calls it, and their tweets will be embedded in stories. “We have been training the editorial staff to create its own presence in social media so they have their own voice.” In this regard, Angelo is leading the way. His Twitter feed is the first thing he reads when he wakes up at six each morning.

Angelo’s business model is dependent on attracting national advertisers. Part of his strategy is to translate the newspaper’s sensibility onto the Internet—to create at last the national online paper the Daily was supposed to be. To do that, he is betting that “Page Six” can lead the way, breaking stories, driving traffic, and attracting those coveted car-company advertisers.

Transplanting the Post brand into this new terrain is by no means a sure thing. To start with, the Post has been historically, and gloriously, rooted in New York City. Even Post partisans concede it is not a brand with national reach. “There are probably only three national newspaper brands in America: the Times, The Journal, and USA Today,” says Barry Lucas, an analyst with Gabelli. “Everything else is kind of a local franchise.”
And the Post is getting a late start in a very crowded marketplace. In the days before the Internet, it could be argued that “Page Six” owned gossip—it was the most important outlet in the country. Now there’s TMZ and Gawker and Drudge Report and the Daily Mail and Huffington Post and even the Daily News, run by a former Allan protégé, and a thousand other sites, all chasing the same eyeballs. “Maybe five years ago you could say the Post was sensational,” says Ed Atorino, a newspaper analyst with Benchmark Company LLC.* “Now there’s so much sensational on the Internet that it’s hard to stand out.”

Tabloids, snappily toned and visually driven, may have an advantage in translating themselves to the Internet. And, as analysts point out, the Post may have as good a chance as any media outlet at succeeding on the web, though few newspapers have found the Internet truly transformative to their business. “Anyone betting on digital to save a newspaper franchise will likely find it tough going,” said Craig Huber, an independent media analyst with Huber Research.

But when I mention this kind of thinking, Angelo raises his eyebrows and launches into his argument for the Post’s future. “There are so many new sites that say, ‘Our voice is going to stand out.’ ” He answers his own charge. “We are known for being bold, irreverent, funny, for applying a certain wit and verve to our news coverage. Our voice stands out. It has stood out for 212 years.”

And so Angelo is moving swiftly ahead, doing the types of things that all media executives now do—offering its editorial talents to advertisers, along with its editorial real estate. He has launched a division that he calls Post Studios to work with advertisers to create content. “I would say, ‘You, dear advertiser, want to create content. Come to us; I can help you create better content than you can perhaps do on your own. We are the New York Post. We create content.’ ”

Allan returned from Australia last week to his position as editor, but no one doubts that, as one observer explains, “the Post belongs to Jesse.” And Angelo won’t admit to any doubts. “I think we can be a better, stronger business. And we will be,” he tells me. “It’s going to take time.”

Murdoch may be the last newspaper sentimentalist—he still talks of a mission to “inform and educate.” And he still has boundless pride and optimism for his paper. “The New York Post is one of the best media brands in the world,” he e-mailed me. “It’s got bite, spirit, a fun, big voice, and is loved by many for good reason.”

But in the current world, these aren’t the only requirements for a News Corp. newspaper. Robert Thomson, the former Journal editor who now is the CEO of the new News Corp., bills himself as a by-the-­numbers businessman. “Journalists,” he told shareholders, “must have a clear understanding of the value of the story to the reader and the client.” He emphasizes the “time value” of news. Reporters break a story. “For a minute, that story is worth tens of ­millions,” he said. Thomson insists that content must pay its way. The days of subsidizing money-losers may be drawing to a close, which isn’t exactly uplifting news for the Post. As Huber says, “One has to think that News Corp. senior management will think harder and harder about whether to continue to bankroll the Post’s annual losses, with no end in sight, unfortunately.”

I ask Angelo how much time he thinks the Post has to show results. He shrugs. “No one’s given me a time frame. We are here to stay. We’re not going anywhere, as much as our competitors wish we would go away.”

But at 82, even Murdoch recognizes that time is a factor. “My goal for the new News Corp.,” he told shareholders, “is to compress the success time line of the original News Corp. from 60 years to ten years.” At the Post, in typical Post fashion, that thought has been reduced to a snappy headline. “We’re fine until the day after Rupert dies.”


*The original version of this article incorrectly identified Ed Atorino of Benchmark Company LLC as Ed Antorino of Benchmark Capital.


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