AT LAST, THE INTERNET’S TO BLAME: News Corp. posted a loss of $203 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with a profit of $1.1 billion the prior year, and revenues fell 10 percent to $7.6 billion. Hefty impairment charges from Fox Interactive Media — home to struggling social media site MySpace — were largely to blame for the drop in earnings, along with lower ad revenue.
In the company’s newspapers and information segment, which includes The New York Post and Dow Jones & Co., operating income dropped $167 million to $96 million in the fourth quarter. At Dow Jones, fourth-quarter operating income declined from lower ad revenue at The Wall Street Journal and lower information services revenue, although News Corp. did not break out details. In the magazines and inserts division, operating income rose $7 million to $102 million, thanks to higher revenue from freestanding inserts and custom insert publishing.
For the full year, News Corp. reported a net loss of $3.4 billion compared with net income of $5.4 billion due to lower operating results and an $8.9 billion impairment charge. Revenues were $30.4 billion for 2009 versus $32.9 billion. For the newspaper segment, adjusted operating income fell $320 million to $466 million, from lower ad revenues and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the Australian dollar.
— Amy Wicks
FULLY EXPOSED: Ruth Reichl famously costumed herself. The few outdated, blurred photos of Frank Bruni were photocopied and circulated, and Bruni himself carefully, at times coyly, maintained his obscurity. But hours after New York Times culture editor Sam Sifton was named the new restaurant critic, his official head shot was ubiquitous. Gawker even challenged its readers to Photoshop Sifton into unrecognizability (they rendered him as Anna Wintour and Graydon Carter, among others).
Intended to preserve the integrity of the restaurant reviews, anonymity may well be a relic of the pre-Internet, pre-social networking age. But that doesn’t mean the Times isn’t trying. By Wednesday afternoon, Sifton appeared to have deleted his Facebook profile, and while he declined to go into detail on strategy, he did recognize the issue in an e-mail to WWD.
“There’s absolutely no upside to talking about how exactly we’re going to go about reporting and reviewing restaurants now, in this era of Facebook and Google image search. Those are trade secrets!” he said. “Anyway, I look different now. [Dining editor] Pete Wells sent me to the country for a week, and now none of my clothes fit and I’m using a comb for the first time since the 1990s.”
In other words, restaurateurs are encouraged to ignore the lean, buzz-cut Sifton head shot circulating and think chubby and hirsute — though that could just be misdirection.
— Irin Carmon
FROM TV TO THE WEB: Red-carpet TV fashion journalist Katrina Szish has joined the little-known PinkMemo.com as editor in chief. She is expected to raise the profile of the luxury lifestyle and fashion Web site, based in Dallas, where it has 12,000 subscribers. A New York edition launched in October and counts 2,000 followers, said founder and owner Maxine Trowbridge.
“Having Katrina on board allows me to pass the editorial to her so I work on running my business — sales and marketing,” Trowbridge said. Advertisers include Net-a-porter.com, Yoox.com and Lucky Brand.
“Max has done a great job of establishing [PinkMemo] as sophisticated, inspiring and aspirational, so what I hope to bring is a much stronger editorial voice,” Szish said. “I want to get established writers involved, people who are known on the fashion and New York scene, to make sure it is an impressive community of people.…We want to be the antidote for people who are fatigued by fashion fluff.”
Szish’s first efforts will show up in the voice and content of the September issue, but the full-blown effect won’t be obvious until January, she estimated. Szish will continue to do TV commentary for various networks and plans to develop video specifically for PinkMemo.
— Holly Haber