Media Madness

Columbia Free Times | January 11, 2006
Struggling South Carolina alternative weekly the Columbia City Paper milked an alleged arson incident all the way into the national press last week, getting coverage in Editor & Publisher and on and, among other places. Editor Corey Hutchins reported to Columbia City Police on Dec. 31 that his apartment had been broken into while he was away on vacation. Hutchins told police that an intruder had placed a lamp under a comforter and put several coats and books on a stove and turned it on, causing approximately $320 in damage. Hutchins speculated that the incident was related to controversial articles he has written for the City Paper. Publisher Paul Blake was quick to capitalize on the incident, sending out a two-page press release calling it "tantamount to censorship." For his part, Hutchins announced his resignation. No word yet on whether the publicity will cause advertisers to spend their money with the paper.

Speaking of milking the press for all it’s worth, NBC's new religious-themed drama The Book of Daniel has drawn more free publicity than the network could possibly have garnered with an ad campaign. The show, which debuted Jan. 6, centers on an Episcopalian priest whose family issues include drugs, alcohol and homosexuality; the priest also has frequent talks with Jesus. Some evangelical Christian groups have called for boycotts, including the American Family Association, which says the show "mocks Christianity." No doubt some would think so, but most people just want to know whether it's worth watching. Critics give The Book of Daniel mixed reviews, with Metacritic's pool rating it at 61 out of 100. "A well-intentioned drama with a few comedic quirks but without depth or greater purpose," writes the Hollywood Reporter. Viewers are ho-hum on the show, too: Metacritic users give it a 4.5 out of 10, while Reuters reports that the show's debut finished behind its ABC and CBS competitors.

Can one man cause millions of listeners to dump their local radio stations in favor of satellite radio? That's the question media watchers have been asking ever since October, when long-time shock jock Howard Stern left the world of broadcast radio and signed on with Sirius Satellite Radio. Now it looks as if the answer is coming in: Bridge Ratings reported on Jan. 5 that the number of Sirius subscribers increased by 1.1 million in the last three months of 2005, with approximately 60 percent of new subscribers attributing their purchase directly to Howard Stern. Stern stands to make tons of money by attracting so many listeners; under the deal he signed with Sirius, he will get 34 million shares of stock (worth approximately $220 million), according to The Associated Press. Sirius now has 3.3 million subscribers; its main competitor, XM Radio, has 6 million.

Have the reports of the death of traditional print media been greatly exaggerated? It seems every week brings more doom-and-gloom headlines about how readers are abandoning print media in favor of online information sources, but BusinessWeek reports in its Jan. 9 issue that readers -- and ad dollars -- can go the other way, too. The article "Call It Gutenberg's Revenge" looks at how online publications such as WebMD and BabyCenter have started to launch print versions of their products. The article notes that customers pay more attention to ads in traditional print publications and that 68 percent of consumers still don't read any magazines online. Web companies looking to make some fast cash by launching magazines should beware, however: Both Yahoo and Expedia had to abandon magazines after failing to convince online fans to pick them up.

Columbia Free Times

Free Times serves South Carolina's capital city of Columbia as a fresh and independent voice covering news, politics, arts and entertainment. One of the two largest non-daily newspapers in South Carolina, Free Times enjoys a large and loyal following from...
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