Publisher Jesse Angelo: Idea that ‘Post’ is fighting for its life is a ‘bullshit premise’

Jesse Angelo. ()
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In a rare interview with New York magazine's Steve Fishman, New York Post publisher and C.E.O. Jesse Angelo says the paper is in great shape, despite what Fishman's piece calls a "sink or swim" moment for Rupert Murdoch's last remaining American tabloid.

Speaking to Fishman, Angelo called speculation that the Post is fighting for its life a "bullshit premise."

“Many people have wanted to write our obituary in the past, and it is wishful thinking. We’re not going anywhere,” the loyal Post soldier, who now runs the business side of the paper as well as overseeing its web operation, told Fishman for a feature story in this week's issue of New York. “We have one of the best brands in the business.”

As we've often reported, the Post, after hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars for decades, is under pressure from shareholders to improve. The paper's parent company, News Corp., was recently separated from various film and television brands in a separate publicly traded company, and those lucrative assets, which now fall under the corporate umbrella of the newly-minted 21st Century Fox, are no longer there to mitigate the Post's losses. (Murdoch remains the chairman of both companies.)

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Long insulated from belt-tightening, the Post was recently forced to implement a surprising round of cuts, which has fueled chatter that the centuries-old institution may be in peril.

Angelo, for his part, is seen as the industrious change agent of a sclerotic and graying enterprise, as well as the driving force behind the Post's belated digital reboot, which launched on Sept. 5. His main deputy on that front is former Gawker editor Remy Stern, who holds the dual titles of online managing editor and head of digital strategy and product.

Speaking of which, Angelo added: “To unleash the full power of the Post on the web is going to be phenomenal.”

As you read here in an extensive feature published back in August, Angelo has been consolidating power within the hierarchies of the Post and News Corp., where the 40-year-old has risen from coffee-fetching cub reporter to a meteoric macher whose orbit crosses those of the company's top executives.

There was even a moment when Post journalists were convinced Angelo had all but replaced the paper's digitally-averse editor-in-chief of the past 12 years, Col Allan, who'd been temporarily shipped down to Oz to shake-up News Corp's struggling Australian papers in advance of a heated national election. While Allan was away, Angelo swooped in to lead the newsroom in addition to his duties as publisher, church and state be damned.

But Allan returned to the Post last week, as we reported upon catching wind of the newsroom's first sightings of him.

With the famously fearsome editor back on board, Angelo's power-base in the Post newsroom is a bit unclear. And Fishman's feature suggests that all may not be rosy between mentor and protege.

“You’re not my boss,” Allan once told Angelo, according to Fishman's sources, though he notes that "Allan denies making this remark."

Fishman also writes: "No one doubts that, as one observer explains, 'the Post belongs to Jesse.'”

In an email to Capital, a spokeswoman for the Post pushed back on suggestions of tension between the two men. She said that both Murdoch and News Corp. C.E.O. Robert Thomson had commented for Fishman's article (with prepared statements, it seems) to contradict that notion. But their quotes about Allan and Angelo's rapport were not included in the final version that was first published online at 9 p.m. Sunday night.

Asked to clarify the chain of command, the spokeswoman said: "Jesse and Col are partners with a shared vision for the Post. Col leads the editorial of the paper, and Jesse leads the business."

The New York piece lands as the Post is adjusting to its online makeover, in which the archaic nypost.com got a photo-heavy, socially-wired overhaul from one of Manhattan's top digital design firms. The goal now is to bring in national online ad dollars.

According to internal metrics cited by New York, "traffic jumped more than 12 percent" after the relaunch.

But figures from the digital measurement firm comScore tell a different story, one in which the number of unique U.S. visitors to nypost.com in September plummeted 24 percent year-over-year, from around 6.7 million to 5.1 million. On the other hand, U.S. visitors to the website of the Daily News increased 15 percent, from roughly 12.9 million to 14.9 million.

Fishman also gives us the latest estimate of the Post's staggering annual losses—more than $50 million a year, according to the "insiders" he spoke to.