"Hi, I'm Art Buchwald, and I just died!"
With a hook like that, how could folks not turn to the New York Times'
Buchwald's award-winning columns originated on rival Washington Post's
It's the right approach, even if popular pundits can't help taking their shots.
The daily blow
Jon Stewart poked fun at the Times earlier this week on The Daily Show. Stringing together the editorial introduction to Buchwald's video with clips of a freshly engaged couple detailing how they met for the site's Vows section, it's certainly funny stuff taken out of context. Does New York Times really want you to die? Are these two lovebirds really that superficial?
The answer is "no" on both counts. Buchwald's video, in its entirety, should inspire most aging celebrities to follow suit. Who wouldn't want to dictate their own final requests and have a say in the final impression that they leave behind? In fact, several celebrities have already been interviewed for the segment, including a former president and a notable scientist. The company's got a golden ticket here. Now it just has to let nature run its course to draw the masses back again.
And when it comes to the giddy fiancees, Stewart's crew culled some pretty outlandish clips, but the video itself is several minutes long. The two appear to be far more centered when the video is watched in its entirety. In fact, give it a chance, and you will wonder whether this is the Times or new-economy darling The Knot
Stewart called Times an "old saggy lady," but there's still some bite in those gums. The irony that Stewart was sitting on the very catalyst for growth as he talked down the paper is rich.
Old media version 2.0
We know that things have been rocky in the print world. Times hasn't helped its case with layoffs and lumpy financials. More recently, it had ownership issues along with the general malaise of sluggish circulation and moribund ad rates that have plagued its peers.
Can the Internet save the day? Times expects to grow its online ad revenues by 30% this year to $270 million. Yes, that makes up just an 8% slice of the $3.3 billion in revenues, but it's potent, high-margin soil if the company grows right.
The new media initiative at NYTimes.com is right. I'm a fan of the company's About.com too, but even I will concede that the allure of guide-driven content has diminished in a world of consumer-driven blogs and Wikipedia.
It's not that original video content, in of itself, is a gold mine. CNET Networks
Times has shown up to the party. That's nice. Now it needs to know how to raise the bar. This shouldn't stop with obituary and engagement videos. In other words, this is bigger than ends and new beginnings. Some of the other media clips are compelling on-site perspectives, but it still needs to work on building up its exclusive video content to the point where it is compelling, branded, and dependably sticky.
Who here would like to argue that Times won't get it right? Just as companies like Yahoo!
There is a pulse here, my friend. Long live Art Buchwald!
New York Times is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. To find out all the reasons why, take a free 30-day trial today.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't believe that he has accomplished enough in 39 years to warrant an online obituary, but he'll keep a camera handy just in case. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.
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