Media

John Gapper

Tina Brown isn’t quite the power she once was in the New York media world but the famed editor is always worth watching for what she comes up with next. Her departure from The Daily Beast to run a live events company is no exception.

Barry Diller, founder of IAC, clearly lost patience with the ongoing losses at the Beast. It is reported by AdWeek to be on track to lose $12m this year, even after ditching Newsweek, which Ms Brown tried and failed to turn round.

But, never daunted, Ms Brown, a former editor of Tatler, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines, is setting up Tina Brown Live Media. A sort of newfangled conference business it will, according her press release, produce “sponsor-supported summits, salons and flash debates”.

The first question is: what on earth is a “flash debate”? The best explanation so far was provided to Erik Wemple of the Washington Post. A “source close to Brown’s negotiations” told him: “’It’s bringing a group of people together in a quick time period doing topics of the day.’” Read more

Andrew Hill

 

It’s time to scotch the idea that because Twitter is a new medium, it requires companies to adopt entirely novel rules of behaviour for employees. The departure of Business Insider chief technology officer Pax Dickinson and the embarrassment of Ian Katz, BBC Newsnight editor, both as a result of inappropriate tweets, illustrate the point.

These men may have been using new-fangled tools, but they made old-fashioned errors of taste, judgment and behaviour, to which old-fashioned corporate codes of conduct should apply. Read more

So the revelation in FT Weekend’s interview with David Cornwell, better known as John Le Carré, that Mr Murdoch once lunched with the master espionage novelist is a delicious one. Mr Le Carré is no fan of the media mogul, telling one interviewer in 2010 (even before the phone hacking scandal engulfed News Corp) that his empire was guilty of “pretty horrendous manipulation of the media” and “enormous intrusions into our domestic affairs”.

But some years ago, he relates in the FT interview, he met the proprietor of The Times, after taking offence at one of the newspaper’s stories about him. Read more

Last month technicians from GCHQ, the UK electronic surveillance agency, stood over journalists from The Guardian newspaper to make sure that they destroyed a computer containing files leaked to them by Edward Snowden, the former contractor to the US National Security Agency. This week the British police abused anti-terror legislation to detain David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian journalist, and seize his files. Coming up next: officials from the NSA and GCHQ bang their heads against a brick wall in frustration at having allowed Mr Snowden to abscond with their secrets. It would be as effective, and legal.

Emma Jacobs

Tim Armstrong, chief executive of AOL, has apologised for firing Abel Lenz, creative director at the company’s Patch, in front of 1,000 co-workers.

It comes on the heels of a leaked recording that was published by Business Insider, in which Mr Armstrong is heard dismissing Mr Lenz in strong terms followed by an awkward silence. The recording went viral. Read more

Ravi Mattu

I had an interesting reader email to my column today on why the improved relevance of the recommendations sent to me by social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn is not a good thing for managers. If you are only fed information based your likes and previous behaviour, you aren’t going to stumble on to ideas that challenge your assumptions, and that is surely bad for innovation and creative thinking.

So, the reader asked, does this mean he should also “stop reading the FT obsessively?”

Quite the opposite – but I suppose I would say that.

But this does highlight another risk for how you access news and information. Where in the past, readers relied on editors and trusted brands to do the curating for them, increasingly readers are doing this for themselves. Read more

John Gapper

Alfred Marshall, the economist, wrote in 1890 that changes in technology and trade meant that “the operations in which a man exceptionally favoured by genius and good luck can take part are so extensive as to enable him to amass a large fortune with a rapidity hitherto unknown”.

Andrew Hill

Seen from outside France, the country’s “cultural exception” – which protects its art, music and movie industries in trade negotiations – is like a long-running film franchise.

In the new sequel – Exception Culturelle 3D, if you will – Pierre Lescure, author of a government-commissioned report, has given the story a great new twist by suggesting a tax on smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and e-readers to fund French cultural output. Read more

Andrew Hill

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know by now that Warren Buffett is – to quote his first and (at time of writing) his only tweet – “in the house“.

His appearance on the social media service is apparently linked to a Fortune forum in which the Sage of Omaha is due to participate. It has already garnered him (again, at time of writing) 40,000 followers and prompted some Twitter wit from his bridge partner, Bill Gates. Read more

Andrew Hill

The digerati are having fun with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling that US companies can use social media to distribute market-sensitive information such as earnings reports. “Facebook Flap Forces SEC Into 21st Century,” says Forbes.

Not so fast. The US regulator’s decision to drop its inquiry into Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, who boasted about new viewing figures on his personal Facebook page, is only an incremental advance into the new millennium. It makes sense for the SEC to acknowledge the growing use of social media (I’m guessing more people saw Mr Hastings’ Facebook post than have viewed any regulatory announcement in corporate history), but I don’t think the decision will prompt fearful CEOs to tweet their earnings much more than they do already – and, even if it does, it won’t make much difference to investors. Read more

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s new chief executive, has just laid out a new strategy to “focus, accelerate and transform” the pharmaceutical company. Mark Thompson, newly arrived at the helm of The New York Times Company, has promised to “concentrate [the group’s] strategic focus” on the core business, putting The Boston Globe up for sale and rebranding the venerable International Herald Tribune.

Infuriated by Fleet Street’s tabloids, the House of Lords this week nodded through a law to curb the British press. It authorised a Royal Charter that defines how self-regulation will work after the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking.

John Gapper

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine won Oscar for best documentary short. Getty Images

This Oscars had many surprises, including the winner of the best actress award tripping over her dress on the way to collect it. But one interesting innovation was that for the first time, an Oscar went to a crowd-funded film.

Inocente, winner of the best short documentary award, was funded through Kickstarter, the crowd-funding platform on which creative projects solicit donations. The film raised $52,527 in this way.

Inocente was one of three Kickstarter-funded films nominated for Oscars this year, all in the low-cost short film categories. Read more

Greetings from Davos, the annual shindig of world leaders and chief executives in a valley by a Swiss mountain. Or perhaps the site of a global conspiracy of the power elite. Or perhaps the place where a Swiss professor imposes his quaint euro-views on “stakeholder capitalism” on US corporations. Or perhaps one giant cocktail party.

John Gapper

Sony sells its New York HQ. Getty Images

Sony’s sale of its New York headquarters, 550 Madison Avenue, is one of those moments that have deep symbolism, whatever the substance. It is a neat reversal of Mitsubishi Estate’s purchase of the Rockefeller Center in 1989, which led to an outbreak of concern that the US had lost its edge.

The second event that promoted the idea that the surging Japanese economy was enabling a US takeover was Sony’s purchase of Columbia Pictures in the same year, for $3.4bn. Sony still owns the Hollywood studio, although its problems with its electronics operations have weighed the whole down. Read more