Sunday, March 29, 2009

Adding It Up: We review the March 29, 2009 Sunday New York Times Book Review

The New York Times Book Review for March 29, 2009 is 24 pages, and sadly, the news about the book review's most crucial function - to bring in advertising revenue for the company - has reached its nadir.

We said the same thing five weeks ago, when we counted 3.95 pages of ads. But this week's issue is much, much worse.

One reason we stopped doing these "Adding It Up" looks at ad pages, in addition to our illness, was that we began feeling they smacked of snark and Schadenfreude, and we have no reason to be unkind to a publication that we've been reading since maybe 1963 - when Mrs. Sanjour, our ninth grade English teacher at Meyer Levin J.H.S. 285 in East Flatbush used to give us Monday quizzes on the Sunday Times.

The New York Times Book Review generously reviewed two of our books, and we've been lucky enough to be mentioned in NYTBR columns several times. So let's make it clear: we like NYTBR and we admire Sam Tanenhaus and the other people who work there.

None of the readers who came here via mentions in the blog of the terrific poet Ron Silliman or our own self-serving comments on Levi Asher's weekly astute content reviews at Literary Kicks took enough offense to write us, but the tone of the posts, on rereading, bothered us.

Anyway, this week we just wanted to note the critical situation in regards to advertising in the Book Review, which has been averaging about 4-5 pages of ads in recent weeks.

The cover, of course, has no ads.

Page 2: The Editors' "Up Front" is flanked on the left by a decent-sized ad from Grand Central Publishing, a Hachette imprint, for Susan Jane Gilman's Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven and on the right by a smaller ad book on prostate cancer from the Dattoli Cancer Foundation. Counts as 60% of a page.

Page 3: Table of contents page has side ad for The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by one of the Times' most stylish local-beat writers, Jennifer 8. Lee. (We loved the book, but an hour after finishing it we wanted to read it again.) Counts as 40% of a page in our estimation. And that means we've got one page of ads out of the first three. It's downhill from here.

Page 4: An ad for the New York Times Book Review on the letters page doesn't count as an ad, but maybe the subscriptions they will get can offset the lack of advertiser revenue. Counts as no ads.

Page 5: First book review of the issue, for the very funny Russell Brand's My Booky Wook, has a smaller version of the NYTBR ad on the opposite page. Counts as no ads.

Page 6: A left-hand ad for the New York Times Store. Counts as no ads.

Page 7: A graphic book review by the great Alison Bechdel, whose Fun Home we've taught at Fordham. We're glad it takes up the whole page, but that means no ads.

Page 8: Pic of a wonderful short story writer, Wells Tower, but no ads.

Page 9: No ads.

Page 10: No ads.

Page 11: No ads.

Page 12: Bupkis.

Page 13: Nada.

Page 14: Zilch.

Page 15: Nothing in the way of ads.

Page 16: Nope.

Page 17: No ads.

Page 18: No ads.

Page 19: This page has lately been where ads start to appear again after the middle-of-the-review drought, but there's nothing today.

Page 20: No ads.

Page 21: The right-hand ad is for The New York Times Almanac, which is published by Penguin, whose website address is given, but the order information is for The New York Times Store. Maybe this is a co-op arrangement, but until someone tells us otherwise, we will count this as no ads.

Page 22: Um, on the left 40% of the page is one classified ad, two New York Times ads, an ad for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, and another ad half that size for an Edgar Allan Poe event, Nevermore 2009, in Baltimore. Let's count this as .25 of a page.

Page 23: The essay page never has ads.

Page 24: Just as on February 22, the last time we surveyed, the back page, a primo space to put ads, has an ad for a New York Times book, Obama: The Historic Journey. It's distrubuted by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) but the website and phone number for ordering info are from The New York Times Store, so we cannot count this as an ad.

Adding it up: The ads on pages 2 and 3 total one full page. The only other page with ads (.25) is page 22.

There are just 1.25 pages of ads in today's New York Times Book Review. Sad.

Due to ongoing renovations at Dumbo Books HQ, we have been spending a few days at the splendid Best Western Brooklyn Bay on Emmons Avenue and enjoying the salt air of Sheepshead Bay, easy access by the B44 Limited bus to our weekend classes at Brooklyn College, cheap and delicious dinners at the Roll-n-Roaster across the street (we were going there back in Ford administration) and the pleasures of the UA Sheepshead Bay 14 multiplex on the spot where, when it was the Deauville Beach Club, we had our bar mitzvah reception 45 years ago.

But as soon as we return home to Williamsburg, we will walk down the block to Settepani and ordering some Panettone Mandorlato for the Times display advertising department so they won't have to stand in a Great Recession breadline.

Times are hard at the Times.

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