Kristol Clear: Weekly Standard Has Sold Off Editorial Integrity

During the past six months the hardworking staff has chronicled the pimping out of The Weekly Standard’s writers to Xanterra Parks and Resorts (“the largest National Parks concessionaire”) in a series of feature stories on national parks that erased the line between advertising and editorial.

We should mention here that Xanterra is owned by gazillionaire Philip Anschutz, who also happens to own The Weekly Standard.

Representative sample of the series, which included seven feature stories, six of them by Geoffrey Norman.

 

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Note the banner at the top: CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF THE NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE: A SPECIAL SECTION SPONSORED BY XANTERRA AND PRODUCED BY THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

At the end of each feature there was a Xanterra ad similar to this one.

 

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(To be sure graf goes here)

To be sure, this is hardly the most egregious breach of the advertising/editorial firewall (see Time, Inc. and Condé Nast for true horror stories), but it’s still marketing. And from the start the headscratching staff has wondered why the Standard would draft its own writers rather than set up a separate brand marketing shop along the lines of the New York Times’s T Brand Studio.

So we sent this letter to editor William Kristol:

Dear Mr. Kristol,

As a charter subscriber to The Weekly Standard, I have long admired many of the magazine’s writers (Joseph Epstein, Andrew Ferguson, Matt Labash, and Geoffrey Norman, among others) and much of its content (especially the arts and culture coverage).

Indeed, that’s why I find the Standard’s recent dalliance with Xanterra Parks & Resorts so troubling.

It’s not just the auctioning off of editorial pages to Xanterra’s branded content. It’s more the involvement of your writers – Joseph Bottum, Geoffrey Norman – in the enterprise.

The fact that industrial billionaire Philip Anschutz owns both The Weekly Standard and Xanterra Parks & Resorts only exacerbates the problem.

I am a media analyst in Boston and have written about this issue several times on my website Campaign Outsider (see here: http://goo.gl/gcK5rH)

Granted, branded content/native advertising is the wave of the present for publishers both online and off, but could you explain why you are using Weekly Standard writers to produce it when others are at least establishing separate divisions to create ads in sheep’s clothing?

Sincerely,
Campaign Outsider

Not surprising, never heard back from Kristol or any of his Kristolettes.

Now comes the latest issue of the Standard, which contains this essay by Mr. Norman.

In Praise of Park Rangers

It was delightful, as odysseys go, and I wouldn’t mind doing it again .  .  . and again.

The six national parks that I visited and wrote up for this 280x280-fd234afe193700ea429b939604bb4aa2magazine (hard job but someone has to do it) were all magnificent in their own unique ways. Two—the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake—were about holes in the ground. One—Death Valley—was about millions of acres of desert that seemed, on first look, to be essentially and primordially barren, but turned out to be alive and enchanting. The remaining three—Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Zion—were about high country, each unique.

But all of these parks had this in common: the excellence, professionalism, and good nature of the rangers who staffed them.

That’s sweet. And because Mr. Norman was tasked with doing sunny side-up stories about the National Parks, all his profiles had this in common: They ignored any real news that might have destroyed the mood.

Such as this, from yesterday’s New York Times:

Tensions Soar as Drifters Call National Parks Home

Large Homeless Population on Public Lands Is Causing Headaches for Forest Officers

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NEDERLAND, Colo. — Gerald Babbitt lives in these woods, in a pop-up trailer on cinder blocks that he bought for $250. His toilet is a bucket, and when he and his wife need to refill their water jugs, they drive their creaky green Jeep a mile down the mountain and into town. Most people are kind, but the other day someone called them “homeless vagrant beggars,” Mr. Babbitt said.

“Yes, we’re homeless,” he said, sitting in the shade of his camper here in the Arapaho National Forest. “No, we’re not vagrants. No, we’re not beggars. We just barely are making it. What you see is by the grace of God.”

To millions of adventurers and campers, America’s national forests are a boundless backyard for hiking trips, rafting, hunting and mountain biking. But for thousands of homeless people and hard-up wanderers, they have become a retreat of last resort.

Of course, since they’re not retreating to Xanterra resorts, they presumably don’t register with The Weekly Standard either.

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New York Times Goes Native with Russian Nesting Ads

From our State of the Cuisinart Marketing desk

As the hardtracking staff noted last year, the New York Times has taken to running print ads promoting the native advertising its T Brand Studio creates for marketers.

Representative sample:

 

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That full-page ad in the Sunday Times promoted this native ad for Citi called ”The Progress Makers.” (Ironic, no? Classic case of schlimbesserung – to make worse by trying to improve.)

Lately there’s been a flurry of Russian nesting ads in Times print editions: June 15 for UBS (“What It Takes to Be Human”), June 23 for Philips (“Loving Hearts”), and last Friday another one for Philips:

 

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That ad promotes this ad, “Realizing a Dream.”

Clearly business is booming at T Brand Studio. Here’s the welcome video atop the “brand marketing” unit’s YouTube channel, which features a total of 63 videos.

 

 

It’s a slick production, same as the native ads T Brand turns out for clients ranging from Amazon and Delta to Christie’s and MTV.

According to Times CEO Mark Thompson’s essay in the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital imagesNews Report, “newsrooms and commercial divisions of news organisations must become far closer strategic partners than is generally the case today . . . Editorial and commercial leaders need to work together on integrated strategies which combine editorial mission and standards, user experience, innovations in data, technology and creative design, and radically new approaches to monetization.”

And the kicker: “Not five different strategies, not even ‘aligned’ editorial and commercial strategies, but a single shared way forward.”

Thompson projects that T Brand Studio will deliver over $50 million in revenue this year (up from $34 million last year). That’s a lot of stealth marketing.

During her tenure as public editor, Margaret Sullivan alternately cautioned and spanked Times execs for playing footsie with native advertisers. From what Thompson says, things are about to get an awful lot cozier.

Originally posted in Sneak Adtack.

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Hillary Clinton Again Hitched to Death Penalty Opportunist

Yesterday’s New York Times featured this front-page piece about Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine.

On Death Penalty Cases, Tim Kaine Revealed Inner Conflict

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Kevin Green’s lawyers were pleading with the governor for mercy.

It was spring 2008, and Mr. Green, a 31-year-old who had shot and killed a grocery owner, was on Virginia’s death row. His woes, his lawyers said, dated to childhood; he was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, repeated three years of elementary school and never learned to tie his shoes.

His was precisely the kind of execution a young Tim Kaine, a Harvard-educated lawyer with a deeply felt revulsion for capital punishment, would have worked himself to the bone to stop.

But Tim Kaine, a Virginia governor with a deeply felt attachment to political survival and ambition, wouldn’t. And so . . .

[O]n the night of May 27, Mr. Green was led into the execution chamber at the Greensville Correctional Center, strapped to a gurney and hooked up to intravenous lines.

Shortly after 10 p.m., he became the fifth person put to death while Mr. Kaine was the governor of Virginia.

That calls to mind an episode two decades ago with Hillary Clinton’s real-life mate. In 1992, Bill Clinton faced a similar choice, with similar results. Here’s Christopher Hitchens’ recounting of the story in a 1999 UK Observer piece.

In January 1992 Clinton quit the thick of the New Hampshire primary to fly to Arkansas and give personal supervision to the execution of Rickey Ray Rector. Rector was a black lumpen failure, convicted of a double murder, who had shot himself in the head on arrest and achieved the same result as a frontal lobotomy would have done. He understood his charge and trial and sentence not at all. After a decade on Death Row his execution number came up in a week when Clinton, according to one report of the polls, had lost 12 points as a result of the Gennifer Flowers disclosures. These two ‘numbers’ were made to intersect. In 1988, Clinton had backed the ludicrous presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis, who had suffered from a sleazy ‘subliminal’ campaign about a dusky parole-breaking rapist named Willie Horton. In the week of the Flowers revelations, Time magazine helpfully inquired: ‘Suppose Clinton does sew up the nomination by mid-March and the Republicans discover a Willie Horton in his background?’ Rickey Ray Rector was the perfect rebuttal to such annoying speculations.

The coda: “Served his traditional last meal, Rector had left the pecan pie on the side of the tray, as he explained to his queasy guards, ‘for later’.”

So Tim Kaine is déjà veep. In the movie Gilda, Rita Hayworth in the title role says to her first husband, “You wouldn’t think one woman could marry two insane men in one lifetime, now would you?”

Fill in the rest yourself.

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Civilians Who Run Full-Page Ads in the New York Times (DumpTrumper Josh Tetrick Edition)

Latest in an endless series from our All Those Dollars and No Sense desk

When last we visited these precincts, a guy named Tom Blair ran a full-page four-color ad in the Times looking for the next Benjamin Franklin to run for president.

We wound up, of course, with Donald Trump.

Then again, Trump epitomizes Franklin’s statement that “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” By that measure, Trump is just about the hardest-working man in politics.

Right on cue, a fellow named Josh Tetrick weighed in with this Times ad today.

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Body copy for the tsking impaired:

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Who is Josh Tetrick, you ask?

He’s the CEO of Hampton Creek, which makes vegan mayonnaise among other delicacies. According to a piece in Quartz, “Tetrick said he decided to write the letter and pay for the ad space because he felt it was his personal responsibility to speak up about an issue that has rubbed him the wrong way for months. He said he hoped it inspired others to speak up and start a dialogue with friends and colleagues.”

And how much did Tetrick pay for the ad space?

“A 2015 New York Times media kit (pdf) listed a Sunday nationwide full-pager at $193,171.”

That’s actually more than Trump himself has spent on advertising for the general election. But why get technical about it.

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Dead Blogging a Tour of Boston’s Public Garden

Well the Missus and I trundled downtown the other day to take a tour of the Public Garden and say, it was swell.

(The tours are conducted by members of the Friends of the Public Garden, who lead them every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 am and 4 pm. Meet at the Make Way for Ducklings statues.)

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Our excellent tour guides Shari and Leigh (I hope I got the spelling right) led us around the Garden’s “twenty-four acres of reclaimed land” – remember, it was once underwater before the Back Bay was filled in – and gave us any number of fun facts to know and tell.

• There’s another set of Make Way for Ducklings statues in Moscow (also sculpted by Nancy Schon), but Russian kids can’t sit on Mack and Quack and etc. So there.

• There are two redwood trees in the Public Garden, not to mention a rare Himalayan white birch.

• The Public Garden swans are not Romeo and Juliet – they’re Juliet and Julia. So all that sitting on the eggs in the fenced-off nesting area never produces any cygnets, since there’s no male to fertilize the eggs. But it seems sort of right in the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

• The “beautiful angel monument and fountain honoring George Robert White, one of Boston’s greatest benefactors” will soon be bubbling again.

• The Friends of the Public Garden raise over $1 million every year.

Here’s their 40th Anniversary video.

 

 

We highly recommend that you stroll through the Public Garden as often as possible.

But you should definitely take a tour as well.

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This Ad for Internet Domain Extensions Totally .Sucks

Who knew?

From the June 27 edition of Advertising Age:

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Right-hand page:

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Nowhere does it say who paid for this two-page spread, but presumably it’s Vox Populi, the outfit that manages the registry and charges $2500 a year for each domain. According to Bloomberg Technology, brand protection company NetNames.com “[has] filed a complaint with the European Commission, saying Vox Populi had created a ‘predatory pricing model’ in a ‘blatant attempt to extort revenues from brand owners.’”

From all appearances, however, the registry – and Vox Populi – are still going strong. How badly that sucks depends, we suppose, on whose Vox is being gored.

(Sorry – couldn’t resist.)

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Excellent! Boston Gets Wall Street Journal $eal of Approval!

Rejoice, Hubniks!

New York media machers think we’ve finally come to our senses. (Or is that census?)

Exhibit A: Amy Gamerman’s piece on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Mansion front page.

A BOOM IN BEANTOWN

With poolside cocktails and rooftop mixers, developers aim to lure a younger crowd to a new wave of glassy condos.

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A digital “Twitter wall” flashes trending neighborhood topics inside the lobby of a new high-rise in the theater district. A freshly built luxury building across town lures affluent young professionals with sunset yoga and hip-hop parties on the pool deck. Downtown, one of San Francisco’s best known restaurateurs, Michael Mina, will craft a new entree every month for residents of a sleek condo tower. And homeowners at a glass skyscraper set to open in 2018 will be able to sip cocktails in private “sky cabanas” overlooking a rooftop pool. They may need to look out the cabanas’ glass walls to remember what city they’re in—Boston.

Aye, there’s the Hub rub:

Boston—a city with a Puritan back story and an ingrained suspicion of glitz, where a well-preserved Back Bay townhouse has long been the gold standard of top-tier real estate—is embracing the designer high rise. Shiny residential towers are sprouting up across Beantown’s once drab and neglected precincts, emblems of Boston’s boom and its growth as a bigger, more international city.

Call the roll of the shiny new objects, compliments of this helpful WSJ graphic.

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Our personal favorite is Waterside Place, where “residents can grow vegetables in a garden on the third floor sun deck, which also has a bocce court and a summer kitchen. A pop-up grocery stand sells produce in the lobby every Wednesday.”

Pop-up Wednesday! Does life get any better than that?

You have to read the whole piece to appreciate how Boston real estate has, well, appreciated. (Fun fact to know and tell: “The starting sales price for high-rise condominiums in the top tier of Boston’s luxury real estate market is now $2.3 million—a 74% increase over 2012 prices.”)

Regardless, we’re totally reassessing our grocery-stand produce situation.

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Hey, People: It’s ‘Do Not Go GENTLE Into That Good Night’!

Everybody – especially the hardworking staff – has a breaking point on certain issues, and this one was ours.

From Saturday’s Boston Globe front page:

Managing the next moves in Sanders’ insurgency

Vt. senator faces a daunting task in keeping the fervor he’s inspired after campaign

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders is not taking his revolution Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 12.36.04 AMgently into that good night.

The Vermont senator is executing an intricate endgame to the Democratic primary that he hopes will continue to inspire the 12 million voters who flocked to him, while drawing lines in the political sand that Hillary Clinton and other establishment leaders won’t dare to cross.

Here’s the line in the sand we are daring to cross:

Free the Dylan Thomas One!

Thomas’s actual 1952 poem about his father’s passing (one year before his own death):

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Despite his writing five times, do not go gentle into that good night, the vast majority of allusions to Thomas’s poem use gently.

So we say:

Rage, rage against the dying of the right (word).

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Gordie Howe Only Scored a ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’ Twice

Hockey lost one of its Mt. Rushmore figures when Gordie Howe died this week at the age of 88.

Howe, a longtime Detroit Red Wing and short time New England Whaler, had the never-to-be-duplicated distinction of playing professional hockey in five decades.

Very nice Sports Illustrated videobit:

 

 

Howe’s career stats, if you’re keeping score at home:

 

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Part of Howe’s legacy – he was remarkably nice off the ice, but accumulated almost 1700 penalty minutes during his career – was the Gordie Howe Hat Trick: one goal, one assist, one fight.

Witness this ESPN valedictory piece:

Toughness, Gordie Howe hat trick among No. 9’s lasting influences

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Gordie Howe last played in the NHL in 1980, when he posted 41 points in 80 games with the Hartford Whalers at the age of 51. But his impact is still felt throughout the league.

When he walked into an NHL dressing room, as he did in March when he celebrated his 88th birthday in Detroit, a hush often came over the room. All attention turned to him as today’s players shook his hand and exchanged hellos.

He didn’t command respect, but it was given to him freely by players of all generations who appreciated his place in the sporting landscape.

They understood his impact, an impact still felt today in these five areas . . .

Among them:

2. The Gordie Howe hat trick: If Howe’s legacy was only the Gordie Howe hat trick, that would still be pretty darn cool. To register a Gordie Howe hat trick, a player has to score a goal, have an assist and get in a fight.

Howe had his first one on Oct. 11, 1953, and it’s still considered an honor for a player to pull off this feat.

This @NHL tweet helpfully provides the scorecard.

 

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Funny thing, though: Howe only registered one more Gordie Howe Hat Trick his entire career.

From the Washington Post:

Howe scored 975 goals between his NHL and WHL career. His 801 goals in the NHL are second only to Wayne Gretzky, who scored 894. Howe assisted on 1,383 others, but only dropped the gloves 22 times during his career. Yet, despite scoring a goal, registering an assist and fighting an opponent in the same game just twice over 32 years, the feat is forever memorialized as a Gordie Howe hat trick.

No matter. Gordie Howe forever scored this hat trick: toughness, durability, finesse.

No argument there.

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Quote o’ the Day (Ben Carson Headscratcher Edition)

Former presidential hopeful/book salesman Ben Carson has long been the gaffe that keeps on giving, and now we can add this beauty to the collection.

From a Politico piece today with the headline “Carson says Trump knows judge attack was wrong”:

“He was probably talking out loud rather than thinking. That’s not a good thing to do when everything you say is going to be analyzed.”

Not to get technical about it, but there’s no probably about it – Trump was definitely talking out loud. But if Carson’s main message that talking out loud is not a good thing for Trump to do, well that’s the most sensible thing Carson has said yet.

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