Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Fail Marketing 101

The New York Times Corporation is having some tough sledding these days. A tiny line in agate at the bottom of David Brooks' baffling op-ed piece in the Friday, December 12 paper indicates one reason why.

The note read simply that regular Friday columnist "Paul Krugman is off today." A symphony, nay, a Ring Cycle of failure in one name and three words.

The Times is and always has been a product for an elite. It sells itself by telling its audience they are among the best-informed people on earth, the peer of presidents, tycoons, and assorted geniuses, because they read the world's best newspaper (which it is, warts and all). Elites, like other people, like to be reminded of their status. The need to feel one is a member of the club is a universal human sentiment.

That's marketing. In simple newspapering, one of the worst possible sins is burying the lede, taking the most important part of the story and putting it in the middle instead of at the beginning. That sentence in the Times didn't just bury its lede, it omitted it.

Unwarranted diffidence is just a passive-aggressive form of extreme arrogance. Salesmanship, sound reporting, and the simple desire for economic self-preservation should have led the Times to edit their explanation of Krugman's absence from the paper as follows below.

"OUR columnist, Paul Krugman, who you can't read anywhere else, is off today. He's over in Stockholm, picking up his NOBEL PRIZE!"

"PS: Top that Murdoch!!!"


At 10:15 AM, Blogger Karen said...

Loved the commentary! The Times definitely missed the boat on that one


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