Archive for the ‘Wall Street Journal’ Category

From Mr Codd to codswallop

November 12, 2020


Look up codswallop in a dictionary and you’ll find it means nonsense, but there’s a nice bit of history to the word – and a prized Victorian invention.

Soda water and fizzy drinks were popular with the Victorians, but there was no reliable way of trapping that fizz once a bottle was opened. Until, that is, Hiram Codd came up with a bottle fitted with a ‘globe stopper’ in the 1870s. The glass stopper in the neck was pushed into the bottle when it was first opened. After that, the gas from the soda or lemonade in the bottle kept the stopper pushed against a rubber washer in the neck, creating a seal. When the bottle was turned upside down, the stopper was dislodged, allowing the drink to be poured.

By 1878, 450 soda water makers were using the invention in Great Britain and Ireland, according to Codd’s advertising in the first issue of The Caterer and Refreshment Contractors Gazette (April 6).

It’s unclear how the phrase ‘a load of codswallop’ came about, but ‘wallop’ is a word for beer, and the wallop in a Codd’s bottle – fizzy soda – would not have been much good as beer.

caterer-magazine-title-1878John Plummer was credited on the cover as editor of of The Caterer. Notice the voluminous description of the journal: ‘A monthly journal issued in the interests of the proprietors and managers of hotels, restaurants, dining rooms, cafes, refreshment bars, coffee houses, and confectionary establishments.’ Quite a mouthful, but it certainly defines the target readership.

Who is Woman cover illustrator Lovat?

November 21, 2014
Woman magazine from Odhams just three-and-a-half months before the outbreak of World War 2 with an illustration by 'Lovat'

Woman magazine from Odhams just three-and-a-half months before the outbreak of World War 2 with an illustration by ‘Lovat’

A classic cover here for a pre-war Woman magazine from Odhams – and, unusually for this title, the cover artists has signed the image, ‘Lovat’ (15 April 1939).

I immediately thought of Claud Lovat Fraser, who did illustrations for books and the theatre, but he died in 1921.

Woman had only launched in 1937, setting out to rival George Newnes’ Woman’s Own with its own colour gravure presses. At this time, Woman stuck to illustrated covers while Woman’s Own had used photography from its launch in 1932. The early Woman’s Own covers used a second or third spot colour but it ran photographic covers printed gravure that used spot colours in a very sophisticated way to given the impression of full-colour from as early was 1935. Ahead of the Woman launch, in early 1937 it started printing photographic colours in full colour.

Both magazines were printed in Watford, Herts, Odhams having built an Art Deco press hall there in 1937 after Sun Engraving had turned down a takeover. Sun was Britain’s biggest printer and Woman’s Own was one of its customers, along with Vogue and Picture Post to name but two. The Odhams plant is still there, though a big chunk of the site was sold off for an Asda store 25 years ago. Of the Sun plant, nothing is left but a clock!

So who was this Lovat? Any ideas?

Newspapers in a digital Khyber Pass

February 2, 2009

So, how goes it at your digital frontier? Newspapers have each poured tens of millions into their attempts to reach digital nirvanah, but most are still stuck in a bloody Khyber Pass.

Two illustrations make the point. First, take a look at this graph from Alexa (an Amazon-owned site that measures web traffic):

Web traffic for the BBC and newspapers

Web traffic for the BBC and newspapers

What it shows is that the BBC is looked at by about 1.5% of all web users each day; it’s ranked at 46 of all websites and has as much reach as the rest here put together. The ‘rest’ is made up of four newspapers: the New York Times (0.9%; 90); the Guardian (0.3%; 345); Wall Street Journal; (0.3%; 386); and the Financial Times (0.2%; 909). The Telegraph is ranked 406; the Times 504; the Independent 1,633; and the Mail 414.

The next figure to note is ‘x4’. That’s what the FT estimated in December that the NY Times would have to multiply its present ad income by to get to the point where it could break even  without any income from print (ie it would have to quadruple its present number of visitors or have the same number of visitors and quadruple its ad rates).

How long would it take to do that? Let’s assume that the downturn lasts until the end of 2010; that real prices stay constant; and that, after that, online ad revenues grow by 10% a year.  It would take 6 years to more or less double income – and 15 years to quadruple it.

That’s a very long Kyhber Pass – and ignores the potential for hassle from the natives (the BBC, Google and the rest of the non-print media world).

Now, 15 years is too long for a plc to contemplate, especially a newspaper-based one that is seeing its daily sales figure (and hence ad revenue) reducing each year.

Hence the panic. In every issue, the Press Gazette and Guardian’s Media pages tell another tale of a paper cutting staff or selling assets:

  • ‘The parent company of the NYT and Boston Globe is looking to sell its share in [a] baseball team’;
  • ‘Redundancy fears at Standard’;
  • ‘Like most newspapers the FT faces cuts, but its union is determined to resist’;
  • ‘Sun freelance rates “lowest on Fleet Street”‘.

In fact, the reaction of all the papers has been to have another redesign (they’re more or less yearly now and an easy cop out because at least the shareholders can see you’ve done something) and attack costs. And in the process mess things up:

  • ‘Complaints have come in to the Times’ offices in their hundreds about the paper’s revamped Saturday edition’ (don’t believe the hype, the revamp was about cutting costs);
  • David Leigh [Guardian’s investigations editor]: Investigations becoming ‘impossible luxury’;
  • and did you notice how one minute the FT had a TV listings pages, then it didn’t and now it’s got one again?

The end result is poorer quality of news and worse value for money:

  • fewer news stories per page;
  • shorter stories (allows more space for ‘eye-catching’ graphics and designer ‘white space’);
  • boring pages – newspapers have never looked so alike;
  • fewer late editions;
  • more colour means pages have to go off to print earlier;
  • stories are less well edited and crafted.

Newspaper executives seem to think readers don’t notice such things. But it’s death by a thousand cuts in newsrooms across Britain. And readers are noticing. As a recent survey found:

‘Less than a fifth of British people say they trust newspapers, down from about 30 per cent last year and well below the global average.’

The way British newspapers are being run, none of them is going to last long enough to see the digital new world. They may be talking about quality but readers reckon they’re talking out of their Khyber Pass.

Newspaper profiles at

Thompson to run Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

December 7, 2007

Times editor Robert Thomson is to become publisher of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones after the takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s News International is finalised next week.

Business editor James Harding will replace Thomson at the Times and Les Hinton, executive chairman of News International, will become chief executive at Dow Jones.

James Murdoch, is to take on an expanded role as chairman and chief executive of News Corp Europe and Asia, based in London – making him favourite to succeed Peter Chernin running News Corp. FT video comment.

Times set for whopping change

December 6, 2007

The Guardian reports that a new Times editor could be appointed next week, freeing Robert Thomson to move over to the Wall Street Journal.

Murdoch outlines plans for WSJ

October 19, 2007

Rupert Murdoch has told the Times (a paper he also owns) that he wants to bolster the international coverage of his new acquisition the Wall Street Journal and broaden it out from finance into the arts, culture, and fashion.

Such a strategy would see it come up against the New York Times, but would probably be a relief for the Financial Times. The FT came in for a criticism two years ago that it was moving away from its business base, most prominently from Andrew Neil, a former editor of Murdoch’s Sunday Times.

The present Times editor, Robert Thomson, would appear to be an ideal candidate for such a broadening of the Journal, however. He left the FT for Murdoch’s paper after missing out on the pink paper’s editorship.

At the FT, he led a relaunch of the weekend paper, turning How to Spend It magazine into a money-spinning monthly and the Saturday edition into the best-selling of the week – a model  other papers followed.

Dow Jones and Murdoch: be afraid, be very afraid

July 9, 2007

The Business has reported that Murdoch has got his Dow Jones deal to take over the Wall Street Journal with only some loose ends to tie up. Note this part of the story:

‘The arrangement [to protect editorial independence] is a tougher version of the one put in place by the British government when Murdoch bought The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981. Murdoch will have less control over the independent directors at the Journal than he does at Times Newspapers, where they are regarded as weak and ineffectual. But one source, acting for the Bancrofts, admitted privately that the Dow independent panel was only a “fig leaf” to facilitate the sale and that over time Murdoch would get round it.

‘John Biffen, the Tory cabinet minister who signed off on 1981 deal to establish independent directors for Times Newspapers in London, has since conceded that the arrangement was also a “fig leaf” designed to allow the sale to proceed.’

The report was written by Andrew Neil and James Forsyth. Neil should know about such things – he was editor of the Sunday Times under Murdoch.

Murdoch forced out Harry Evans, editor of the Times, even though he had appointed him from the Sunday Times. According to Murdoch, Evans went from being a great editor on the Sunday to a bad one on the daily. Does the same fate await Robert Thomson, who lost out in the race for editorship of the Financial Times, but was taken on by Murdoch as Times editor and is now tipped for the top job at the Wall St Journal?