Times Book Review Editor Reviews Wall Street Journal Business Plan

On Paper Cuts, The New York Times‘ book blog, Barry Gewen writes about Mark Bowden’s recent Atlantic article about Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of The Wall Street Journal and his desire to kneecap the paper of record.

Mr. Gewen, you may recall, revealed the inner-workings of The Times Book Review at Harvard last year. Among his revelations: the names and roles of several NYTBR editors, how they choose what books to review, and some intramural gripes like "the magazine pays the salaries of all the rest of us. It makes money hand over fist. And you can see it in the physical plan. We are down the corridor, we don’t have windows, I haven’t seen the sun in 18 years."

Anyway, on Paper Cuts, Mr. Gewen poo-poos any risk posed to his paper by Mr. Murdoch’s Journal, comparing it to the threat posed against Pepsi by New Coke:

[T]hink of what happened when Coca-Cola tried to move into Pepsi’s niche with a sweeter concoction called New Coke: it faced a consumer revolt and was forced to retreat just to hold on to what it already had.

Mr. Gewen notes "pessimist" colleagues (who?) worry that Mr. Murdoch will "try to win the competition by turning it into a race to the bottom—attempting to attract readers by lowering The Journal‘s standards to those of a mass-market tabloid, and forcing The Times to go the same way," but rejects this out of hand, calling such a ploy, "journalistic suicide." Writes Mr. Gewen, "Murdoch’s instinctive populism won’t help him win readers either of The Times or The Journal. Indeed, it works against him."

So, Journal readers won’t swill the New Coke. Then again, neither will The Times‘, since, according to Mr. Gewen’s 2007 Harvard speech (here summarized by Gawker), when he imagines the paper’s audience, he see "’a dentist from Scarsdale’ who has two primary concerns: ‘her family and teeth.’"

  Times Book Review Editor Reviews Wall Street Journal Business Plan