If there was any doubt about the depth and breadth of the economic crisis in general and the daily newspaper crisis in particular, this afternoon's announcement from the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival abolishes it.
The New York Times, which has provided sponsorship support for the 12-year-old festival since 2001, has withdrawn its commitment, the festival announced today, less than three weeks away from the start of this year's event, which is scheduled for April 2-5 in Durham.
The Times was one of two "presenting sponsors" for the festival. Duke University is the other. The threshold for being a presenting sponsor is $100,000, says Peg Palmer, the festival's executive director, in a phone interview earlier this evening.
"We're disappointed. We've had a good long relationship with the Times," Palmer says. "All the newspapers are reassessing [their priorities]. They're slashing budgets and revisiting priorities. We're one of the many that fell by the wayside."
Palmer says the festival renewed its relationship with the Times last November. Last Friday, however, "A person we hadn't dealt with before called us," Palmer says. The Times had moved its Full Frame support from marketing to advertising, whereupon it received fresh scrutiny. "We didn't make the cut."
Palmer says that the Times' support has been media trade. She characterizes the value as equivalent to a single full-page ad in the Times, but notes that the advertising support has taken different forms from year to year. In the past, the Times' support has taken the form of advertising inserts in its newspapers promoting the festival. In return, the Times received branding visibility all over the festival and its materials, and the festival also included the paper's Web Op-Eds on its own Web site, Palmer says.
Palmer says it was important to alert the festival's other sponsors of the Times' decision, because the opportunity to associate with the Times brand is often a motivation for them. "We didn't want anyone to feel misled," she says.
Palmer says that thus far, the festival has not lost additional sponsors as a result of the Times' withdrawal. "I think we've talked with 90 percent of the sponsors, and they're not wavering in any way. Their concern is for the Times as much as the festival."
"We're going to put on a great festival. Our job is to make them want to come back."
Full press release below.
NY Times Succumbs to Economic Pressures;
Withdraws from Full Frame Festival
Durham, N.C., - March 13, 2009 - With less than a month before the 12th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, The New York Times has stepped down as a presenting sponsor, citing financial reasons. The New York Times has been a presenting sponsor through a media trade agreement since 2001.
"This is extremely disappointing news" said Peg Palmer, Executive Director of the Festival. "However, I certainly understand how newspapers are faring in the current economic climate. We are grateful to the Times for their past support of the Festival and will look forward to working with them, perhaps in a different way, in the future. We are very thankful for the continued support this year of our many sponsors including Duke University, The City of Durham, A&E IndieFilms, HBO Documentary Films, Quince Imaging, American Tobacco Campus and Capitol Broadcasting, among others."