Towse: views from the hill

April 10, 2009

Bronstein takes the fall : Newspaper disaster? It’s all my fault. I’m the one.

Filed under: financeconomics,news,San Francisco — Towse @ 11:05 pm

Bronstein at Large : Newspaper disaster? It's all my fault. I'm the one.

This column is from last month, but I hadn’t noticed it until I saw Bronstein link to it from today’s piece.

He has some interesting ideas, including this one:

In the meantime, we should look at the problem in simpler terms:

I get two newspapers delivered at home: The Chronicle and the New York Times. The Times hits the step somewhere between 4 and 5 a.m. The Chronicle gets there before 6. Both papers are in existential trouble despite good work and 300 years of accumulated history between them.

So even in the face of the threats to our survival, there are still at least two different people and two entirely different delivery systems in place to get two newspapers to the same address in the same couple of hours. Really? In what rational world does that make sense? Why is that a good idea for businesses on the brink?

He goes on to talk about sharing resources beyond the delivery staff and the printing presses. Pooled news?

We already have pooled news. Take a look at the Chronicle some time and check out how much of the news is fed in from AP or the NYT. (How often do I read an article and think, I read that a day or two ago. Yup, another article from NYT.) We also have the end-of-the-week roundup column telling us what was in the Economist and the half page that covers what the top stories were in a handful of top international papers. We have blocks of print nipped from people commenting on We have the columnists, writers and editorial and … but for how much longer? (No more Morford except on, alas.)

Who knows what’s to come. The dominant paradigm is failing. We are watching it failing, and blaming the failure on Craig Newmark or Google is not saving the bacon. What needs to change? What will change? What will take the place of the bagged up newspaper delivered to the doorstep?

Bronstein makes mention of both San Francisco Appeal and The Public Press, recently added online news sources for those who don’t insist that they get ink smudges on their fingers.

Is that what the future will be? Smaller, more focused local papers? Online “papers”? Behemoth news providers feeding news to newspapers that don’t have much staff anymore?

Maybe some brill soul will work out a nice arrangement with Google, which will monetize their news aggregator up the wazoo and then employ their brilliant data mining to figure out how to share the ad $$ equitably with the papers that people are clicking through to.

Will the papers then put their staff on a revised salary plan and “share” their clickthrough income with the staffers who write the articles that people want to read? If I click through to Carl Nolte or Mark Morford (both of whom I enjoy) but not Willie Brown, will Carl and Mark get bigger slices of the pie?


But enough of that, here are my dull and unimaginative suggestions to the Chronicle for generating revenue.

(1) Take the crossword answers and the Sudoku answers out of the same-day newspaper. If someone wants hints and clues and answers THAT DAY, they can log on and pay ($1 — the cost of a Lotto ticket — would be a good price point) for the info.

(2) Sudoku? Monetize that. Someone inks in that day’s Sudoku, ships their answers to the Chronicle with a ($1 again) fee. All the fees go into a pot. One person’s name is drawn. If that person’s answers are all correctomundo, that person gets 25% of the pot. There’ll be a bit of expense over at the Chronicle for handling the entries, but how much could that be? The rest would be found money. Note: you’ll have to buy (or otherwise arrange to read) a physical paper to find out how to contact the paper to send in that day’s entry.

(3) Be more upfront about what ads cost. Make the information more available. Anniversary, Birthday, Graduation coming up? Maybe the Chronicle could put messages on Page One or above the fold for the Sports section or next to the comics for a suitable price.

(4) Someone had suggested a poet’s corner where someone’s poetry would be published, for a price. (And then the year’s worth of poet’s corners could be gathered into a book and offered for sale to those interested.) Why not?

(5) Have a photographer’s corner too.

Oh, and while I have you on the horn, could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE move Paul Madonna’s work out of The Pink? Paul Madonna needs to be on a white background, and last Sunday? The print job was so uneven, I couldn’t even read the print that accompanied his work. Don’t let that happen again.

Update: An edited (to meet the 200 wd cutoff) version of my suggestion list was published in the Chronicle’s LtoE column on April 16. (See 4th letter in. …)

March 27, 2009

Brooksley Born – Cassandra?

Filed under: financeconomics,history,people — Towse @ 4:12 pm

Brooksley Born – Prophet and Loss, an article in STANFORD Magazine, March/April 2009.

An article on his nibs’ cousin is the cover feature in the current STANFORD Magazine. Interesting writeup of the happenings at the CFTC in the late nineties.

If they’d listened to Born and implemented her proposals, could it have prevented the meltdown?

Update: She’s also getting one of the Kennedy Library Foundation’s 2009 Profile in Courage Awards for the days back then.

February 27, 2009

Let us now gaze down on the Port of San Francisco

Specifically, Piers 23, 19, and 17. (Click on the photo to get an enlarged version.)


Posted by Picasa

Note the pilings on the north apron of Pier 23.

Note the shabby temporary patches on the roof of the Port building facing the Embarcadero where Pier 21 would be, if there were a Pier 21.

Check out the pilings on the north apron of Pier 19. You can barely see the pair of orange cones keeping you from accidentally walking where the worst of the damage to the apron is. (The apron has crumpled and is no longer horizontal.) What you can’t see in the picture very well is that the bulk of the apron to the west of the orange cones has disintegrated and fallen into the drink as well.

Check out the pilings at Pier 17 (the last pier you can see in the picture). They don’t look in very great shape either, do they?

To quote from a SPUR document, published in The Urbanist in August, 2007:

The Port’s 10-year Capital Plan is based on a comprehensive survey of the physical condition of all Port properties under its ownership. The Plan identifies the cost of bringing the Port into basic compliance with health, safety, seismic and Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, as well as fulfilling waterfront open-space needs, at nearly $1.5 billion. Almost one-third of the costs identified in this Capital Plan are for substructure repair and seismic strengthening of the Port’s pile-supported structures.

Something must be done.

What will it be? What to do, what to do, what to do. …

February 25, 2009

You know times are bad …

Filed under: financeconomics,news,San Francisco — Towse @ 7:33 pm

You know times are bad when lays off 11% of their staff.

[ref: Leah Garchik’s column this ayem]

November 24, 2008

Providing stability. Securing the future.

Filed under: financeconomics,news,politics — Towse @ 7:43 am

This year, our financial markets have been tested in unprecedented ways. And though the global landscape has become increasingly complex, one thing has remained consistent: Citi’s commitment to helping our clients and customers find solutions that will drive their financial success.

and the full-page ad in today’s San Francisco Chronicle (Page A16) goes on.

hahaha hohoho.

c2008 Citigroup Inc. Member FDIC. Citibank and Citibank with Arc Design are registered service marks of Citigroup Inc. Citi never sleeps is a service mark of Citigroup Inc.

Citigroup’s latest news

Citi dodges bullet
Government will guarantee losses on more than $300 billion in troubled assets and make a fresh $20 billion injection.

By David Ellis, staff writer
Last Updated: November 24, 2008: 2:03 AM ET

Citigroup secured a massive government aid package over the weekend following a painful selloff last week in company stock.

NEW YORK ( — The U.S. federal government on Sunday announced a massive rescue package for Citigroup – the latest move to steady the banking giant, whose shares have plunged in the past week.


So how much does a full-page ad in the Chron cost?

September 22, 2008

Andrew Tobias – Money and Other Subjects

Filed under: blog,election2008,financeconomics — Towse @ 10:16 pm

I’d forgotten how much I enjoy Tobias’ writing. He’s the guy who, writing about being financially conservative and saving $$$ years back, suggested buying toilet paper and tuna on sale and stashing them for later use.

Bright guy.

His Web site and blog: Andrew Tobias – Money and Other Subjects

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