So the news is out that I’ve been in New York spending time getting closer than I’d like to be with people in the newspaper business, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Of course the status-obsessed New Yorkers are commenting on the fact that I ordered off the menu, as if this is some big deal when in fact it happens all the time and really it was just that I just wanted a mango lassi, and the chef, who is a totally Buddhist kind of guy (though not actually Buddhist, if you know what I mean), was happy to oblige.
But New York. In February. How the fuck do people do it? It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s loud. The streets smell like dead people. Why live here? I was sitting at dinner with the guy who runs the New York Times and I was like, You should just move your operation to the West Coast. I mean why not? Who says you have to be the New York Times? Why not just be the Times, and become a global brand? Look at what the Guardian in England is doing. They understood from the start that the power of the Internet for media was that you could take a local brand and transform it into a worldwide brand, without incurring much cost. So now they’re basically a global left-wing publication. No reason you can’t do the same. But you gotta drop this objectivity thing and just let your writers say what they really think. This whole objectivity thing is ridiculous. Everyone knows it’s bullshit, and the more you stick to it and try to pretend it’s true, the more stupid and dishonest you look. Let me give you an example. I’ll say a name, and you say the first thing that pops into your head. Okay?
He says that’s okay, so I go: Sarah Palin.
Idiot, he says.
I’m like, Right on, so why don’t you just say that? Every time you write her name, put “idiot” after it? Like it’s a title? Like “Sarah Palin, Idiot.” Or, put it in front of her name, like, “Idiot Sarah Palin said today …” Or just use it as a subordinate clause. “Sarah Palin, who is an idiot, today called for …”
He goes, Look, I’m impressed that you know what a subordinate clause is, but we can’t do something like that. Because think where it leads us. Every time we write about you we have to say, “Steve Jobs, who is a total insufferable dick.” You see?
I tell him I wouldn’t mind one bit if people wrote that about me, and he says he realizes that, which is why he knows that I truly am a total insufferable dick. The point, I tell him, is that the Times needs to just be open about its liberal bias, and revel in that. It’s what makes the Times the Times. You need a point of view. Without it you’re just the AP on sheets of paper.
He’s like, Huh, yeah, how’s that mango lassi? And what do you think about the paywall idea? I mean how can we charge people to subscribe to the New York Times — I mean, sorry, The Times — on the iPad if we’re giving it away free on the Web site? People will just use the browser and read the Times there, for free. So I said, Alan, look — and he goes, My name is Arthur. So I go, Okay, but look, Adam, let me ask you something. When someone buys a song on iTunes, what are they paying for? Are they paying for the song? No. They’re paying for convenience. They’re paying for the fact that it’s easy, and reliable, and for the software on their computer that lets them manage their collection. You see what I’m saying? People said we would fail at selling music because you could already get music at no cost from a zillion different pirate sites. But those people were wrong. We’ve sold 600 billion songs in the last three months alone. Why is that? Because it’s easy. Because it works. They’re paying for convenience. Do you get it?
But he’s not even looking at me. He’s staring across the table at Bill Keller’s plate. He says, Say, Bill, how are those lobster sliders? Because they look incredible. Would you mind? You’re a sweetheart, Bill. I mean it.