So, You Bought the New York Observer
Unsolicited advice for new owner Jared Kushner.
Write more about sex and the city. Catchy, eh? Why didn't the Observer parlay Candace Bushnell's commercial triumph into something lasting? If you want to be New York's power book but don't cover sex in all its permutations, you're not in the game. And shouldn't that mysterious Guy in the Fedora in your logo have a column of his own?
Back to business and circulation: I don't know how much revenue the paper takes in from subscriptions and newsstand, but it can't be enough. Take the paper free, and double the circ to an honest 100,000 in the most demographically desirable neighborhoods. Install an experienced publishing side executive who wants to win, not survive.
Do a better job of defining what the Observer is and is not. If it's a power book, don't let anybody beat you on the essential coverage of the media, real estate, local politics, and society. The paper has allowed the New York Times, the New York Post, and New York to encroach on its real estate beat. (The Times has a Sunday real estate magazine coming.) Fight back. Wrestle the restaurant franchise away from New York. Hire New York, the Village Voice, and Time Out's best ad reps and steal their best clients. Compete, compete, compete.
About the Web: If you were starting the Observer today, you'd start it on the Web, not in print. But you're not starting the Observer today, so don't feel compelled to ax the print edition right this minute for migration to the Internet. I believe that newspapers are dying a slow and profitable death and most will eventually segue to the Web. But as a local publication in America's most densely populated and wealthy city—as a free local publication in America's most densely populated and wealthy city—these rules don't necessarily apply to you. As a newspaper publisher, you're in the manufacturing and distribution business, but as a Manhattan newspaper publisher you're the beneficiary of compact and reachable readership. Milk the print product for all you can, and create a Web adjunct to drive traffic back to it.
As long as I'm spending your money, think of ways to make the Observer more beautiful. I don't have any good ideas off the top of my head, so go ahead and throw cash at your design director.
Finally, everybody admires Arthur Carter for never interfering in Observer editorial matters. He laughed whenever Observer editors and writers executed sacred cows. Do him one better by encouraging Kaplan to complete the roughhouse coverage the Observer has already devoted to your confessed-felon father by assigning a soup-to-nuts profile. I know you told the Times that you love your father, but you won't be a man until you kill him.
What would Charles Foster Kane have done?
You don't have to become Charles Foster Kane, so avoid over-eating, don't leave your wife for a bad singer, don't start a foreign war, and don't run for president. But feel free to build your own Xanadu. Send additional advice for Charles Foster Kushner to firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)
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