Audit Notes: Gore gorges, 60 Minutes in New Orleans, Wired

The former vice president twists arms and cashes in on Current TV

Read Brian Stelter’s excellent coverage in The New York Times of Al Gore’s role in building and selling Current TV:

In a (2005) meeting in New York, Mr. Gore leaned on Mr. Murdoch for an extended contract with a lucrative per-subscriber fee.

The resulting contract guaranteed Current roughly 10 cents per subscriber per month and helped Mr. Gore secure the financing he needed to acquire Newsworld. It also laid the groundwork for similar extensions with smaller distributors.

That’s why Current, despite having one of the puniest audiences of any widely distributed cable channel, was able to post annual revenue of about $100 million.

Gore now has sold it to the “deep-pocketed Qatari royal family backing Al Jazeera (who) handily outbid any other bidder’s rational bid,” according to one analyst the Times quotes.

In other countries, when the rulers get obscenely rich doing things like this, it’s called corruption.

Forbes’s Jeff Bercovici has more on this. Also read this old Matt Stoller post on how the lure of post-electoral riches influence politicians.

60 Minutes finally aired Morley Safer’s report on New Orleans and the Times-Picayune last night:

Here’s Safer getting an evasive answer from editor Jim Amoss:

Morley Safer: Did you agree with the decision to start publishing only three days a week?

Jim Amoss: Well, we’d been grappling, as all metro newspapers in this country have with what’s happening to our industry. And that is a steady decline in circulation, a steady decline in print ad revenue. And the solutions there aren’t many. One is to act as though nothing were happening and continue business as usual. And to me, that’s presiding over a gradual irrelevancy and a gradual death.

Ad Age’s Nat Ives has some good digital news: Wired is now getting most of its revenue online:

Digital contributed half of all ad revenue at Wired magazine in the final three months of 2012, a first for the title and an encouraging sign for an industry where most big brands still rely overwhelmingly on the difficult business of print. Across the year as a whole, digital ads comprised 45% of total ad sales at Wired, according to the magazine.

The Atlantic has ratcheted digital ad revenue to an even higher share of the total, saying today that digital delivered 59% of its ad revenue in 2012. But Wired has a larger print business, guaranteeing advertisers a paid and verified circulation of 800,000 last year and running 885 ad pages, according to the Media Industry Newsletter, compared with The Atlantic’s rate base of 450,000 and 463 ad pages.

The magazine is called “Wired,” after all.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,