The Decline Of A Great Tabloid

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The decline of a great tabloid


The New York Post is a gutsy tabloid that seems part of the identity of the City it covers.

The angry part, the bit that has its fists perpetually up. At least since Rupert Murdoch bought it in 1976 (he later sold it, then bought it back).

Its most famous headline Headless Body in Topless Bar comes from 1983, and spoke to some of the paper’s obsessions: sleaze, crime and a certain dark sort of humour.

It likes cops, firemen and celebrities going nutso. It dislikes teachers, Hillary Clinton and any sign of liberal hand-wringing.

In the early 2000s it came up with a brilliant sales plan. It cut the cover price to just 25 cents, which was less than rival The Daily News and impossible to compete with.

Everyone in New York had a quarter on them, why wouldn’t they buy the tabloid that was the talk of the town?

Moreover, at that point the cost of a cup of coffee at the local deli was 75 cents. (I don’t mean your skinny caramel macchiato, I mean a cup of Joe. Like honest people drink.)

That meant that for a simple buck you had a brew and a feisty read.

The headlines kept coming. When Governor Eliot Spitzer was linked to a prostitution ring the front page had two words: Ho No.

When Germany and France declined to join the Iraq war against President Bush’s mooted Axis of Evil, the Post went with Axis of Weasel.

Moreover, it covered business properly too. If you were a Wall Street PR person, what the Post might do to your overpaid chief executive was the stuff of nightmares.

Last week I discovered that the Post has almost disappeared from the streets of Manhattan. I asked a hack who lives there, how do I get hold of a copy?

He admitted he had no idea. When I found one, he said I’d be getting a call from the marketing department.

The news vending carts that are on every street don’t sell newspapers very much anymore.

Circulation is around 200,000, down from 800,000 when Governor Spitzer was being outed.

It was barely any easier to get a physical copy of the New York Times, the antidote to the Post for those with gentler sensibilities.

The good news is that the Post made a profit last year, a victory “for all media, for the freedom of the press” said News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, following a spat with Twitter that it won.

But there is no doubt it is a much smaller part of New York’s daily conversation. Before, you could hate it, but not ignore it. Now it could pass you by.

This seems a shame. It is now possible for the embattled flak to tell his CEO or his Congressman that hardly anyone saw the gratuitous and hilarious hit job in that days Post.

Everyone has lost something from this. The internet just isn’t that skilful.

Press release of the day

Expert comment on the Musk deal for Twitter here from Dr Gordon Fletcher at Salford Business School.

He says: “Science fiction does a good job of predicting the future and sometimes science fiction inspires the future. Elon Musk buying Twitter could be torn from the pages of one of these stories.”


Stories that will keep rolling

1) SoftBank to slow investments following crash in tech holdings. FT

2) Oil prices drop as Biden considers releasing reserves. BBC

3) The US sanctions an oligarch – but exempts his companies. WSJ


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