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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Morning Reading

Scott Jagow Aug 4, 2009

Among this morning’s items: holding a summit when the answer is ridiculously obvious, photographer Annie Leibovitz’s financial trouble, and a newspaper writer goes off on a blog that excerpted his story. But let’s start with our good friend Allan Sloan.

In the Washington Post, Sloan breaks down where we are with TARP. Hint, hint — we’re not in a very good position:

It’s what economists call “adverse selection.” The strongest borrowers — the ones whose warrants are likely to produce serious profits for the Treasury — are bailing out of TARP as rapidly as possible to avoid pay restrictions and other rules that the Obama administration adopted after inheriting TARP from the Bush administration. These stronger firms would also like to capture as much of their stocks’ potential upside as possible, so they’re trying to buy back the warrants based on today’s share price rather than on what they assume will be a higher price in the future…

Finally, there’s my favorite: 17 borrowers that SNL Financial says have failed to pay the dividends due on their total of $500 million of TARP borrowings. I’m sure we can kiss a good part of that money goodbye.

Blogger Interrupted has some interesting thoughts on why blogs might be losing traffic these days:

The economy certainly has something to do with this – a dirty little secret of blog reading is that most people read blogs at work. Less people are at work in front of a computer, and those who do have jobs where they can read blogs are being very careful about giving their employer a reason to can them, and are working harder, with less time to fritter away on blog reading. So there’s that. But I also think peer review in blogging has a role here, too; there is less curiosity factor among the wider online readership, and more filtering, i.e., blog readers are more discriminating. They now know precisely what they want, and they look for it…

… there’s less talk of monetizing, and the blogs that do monetize tend to lose quality pretty fast. It’s ECON 101. To get enough traffic to make money, you have to shoot for a broader more homogenized audience, so your content becomes broader and more homogenized. Not a recipe for good content. See the PD. However, I see this changing longer term, because I still think the money in blogging will come from hyper local content in the long term.

Washington Post writer Ian Shapira takes certain bloggers to task for ripping off his stories:

Gawker was the second-biggest referrer of visitors to my story online… Though some readers got their fill of Loehr and never clicked the link to my story, others found their way to my piece only by way of Gawker.

Even if I owe Nolan for a significant uptick in traffic, are those extra eyeballs helping The Post’s bottom line?

More readers are better than fewer, of course. But those referring links — while essential to our current business model — aren’t doing much, ultimately, to stop our potential slide into layoffs and further contraction. Worse, some media experts believe that Gawker and its ilk, with their relatively low overhead, might be depressing online ad revenue across the board. That makes it harder for news-gathering operations to recoup their expenses.

NPR has a story about photographer Annie Leibovitz. A company that loaned her $24 million is suing Leibovitz for failing to pay the loan’s fees. If she defaults, she could lose the rights to all her work:

Salkin says it’s unclear how exactly Leibovitz ran up her expenses. “What we do know is that she was running a studio in New York City that it seemed like the expenses got out of control. She then sold that studio and she bought three townhouses in Greenwich Village,” he says.

Leibovitz started out with two townhouses, Salkin says, but when an expensive renovation caused a neighboring townhouse to become structurally unsound and she was sued, she bought that one, too.

“At the same time as all this was happening,” he notes, “she had a lot of tumult in her personal life. She added two children to her family; her longtime partner, Susan Sontag, who’s a writer, died; her mother and her father also died — all this in the last five years.”

From Streetsblog:

Ray LaHood will announce today that his Department of Transportation plans to convene a summit next month for safety officials, lawmakers, academics, and law enforcement representatives to examine the risks of texting while driving.

The summit comes on the heels of a new congressional proposal to prod states into bans on texting behind the wheel — a bill inspired by researchers’ recent finding that drivers are 23 times more likely to crash while using messaging devices.

Then, why do you need to have a summit to talk about this? What is there to examine?

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