It’s not the Times that should fear the Wall Street Journal’s Arts section
Via Gawker, I read the following about how the Wall Street Journal is going to staff up a weekly arts and culture section focused on New York:
Several Journal sources have confirmed to Off the Record that a weekly New York–only arts-and-culture section is in the planning stages up at The Journal’s new Sixth Avenue headquarters. It’s early yet, but in the very near future, a budget will be drafted for the product, an indication that the effort is a serious one. The new section could be introduced into the newspaper early next year, according to our sources.
“It’ll be arts-and-culture–oriented,” said one staffer, describing the new plan. “The ad side thought they could sell ads on a local New York basis, given the Broadway scene and the arts scene overall.”
According to two staffers, the project is still very much in the conceptual stage, but the paper plans to hire two editors for it, one from outside the paper and one from inside. Journal editors will be drafted to start the section out much sooner on the Web, and that hire will happen in the very near future, according to one Journal source.
It’s interesting that the Observer casts this development as targeted toward displacing the Times’s arts coverage (and advertisers). I don’t think that’s really the Journal’s goal.
I think the suggestion in John Koblin’s story that the Times’s arts coverage tends to be a bit anemic is true – and I am biased because I ran the website of the New York Sun, which had the best Arts coverage in the city. But the Times won’t live and die by its Arts coverage. Other New York papers might.
The Observer, ironically, is one of them. True it’s making a big push on its Real Estate section. But on the other hand, after firing a lot of people, Jared Kushner acquired Very Short List from IAC, clearly with the goal of enhancing the paper’s taste-making skills in matters of arts and culture.
And then there’s Manhattan Media’s City Arts NYC, a monthly that entered the fray earlier this year filled with a number of bylines I knew from the Sun’s Arts section, and which was conceived almost entirely by ex-Sun staff (see this blog post at Jewssip for the weird background on that story).
These guys are getting a good chunk of advertising in those areas. And, essentially, if you’re a major arts and cultural advertiser, whose audience would you prefer to spend your ad budget on? The rarefied crowd that actually subscribe to the Observer, City Arts, and few even smaller outlets? Or the deeper and much more numerous pockets of the Wall Street Journal’s readers?
I wish the good editors and reporters at the Observer luck – hopefully they’ll be able to distinguish their content in such a way that they can hold onto their audience as well as their ad pages. Otherwise, as they say on Star Trek: The Next Generation, prepare to be assimilated.
As an after thought: This probably puts the nails in the coffin on the idea that a weekly New York Sun could emerge all phoenix-like. There was background talk that my former boss Seth Lipsky had contemplated getting the gang back together, incluing a meeting last fall that a number of former colleagues participated in. And when the rump NYSun.com re-emerged in April with the Out and About column and episodic almost blog-like editorializing, I wondered if that was moving closer to reality. But with Rupert Murdoch on the scene, I think a future New York Sun would struggle to find talent, let alone advertisers, that would make an arts and culture-focused weekly New York Sun a possibility.