Highwaymen / Edition 1

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A titanic struggle is taking place - not just among corporate titans, but among entire industries across the globe. At stake is control of the world's fastest-growing industry: communications. The contestants are the huge Hollywood studios, the television networks, and telephone, publishing, and computer companies. The prize is not only vast wealth, but a virtual lock on the dissemination of information worldwide. The Highwaymen is a riveting and compelling look behind the scenes at the vanities and visions of such chief players as Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, and Microsoft. An astounding tale of greed, enterprise, and corporate achievement, The Highwaymen is an account of the explosive landscape of telecommunications, and as such provides an indispensable guide to today's world.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Arguably the best observer of the communications evolution...Auletta has the knack of making CEOs seem brilliant, narrow, magnanimous, vain -- in other words, human.
LA Times Book Review
Auletta writes as if he were a fly on the wall of corporate boardrooms...with unparalled access to the high-powered world of billion-dollar deal-making.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Auletta does a terrific job of capturing the personalities -- and egos -- of the communications titans who are battling to redefine the information industry for power and profit.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his new book, Auletta (Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way) collects 16 of his New Yorker articles published since 1993, adding afterwards and updates where necessary and even restoring paragraphs pruned by the magazine editors. (Most of the piece on William Bennett's battle with Time Warner over rap music, for example, did not appear in the original version.) In general, the theme binding the pieces is the new booms in the electronic communications business, and in particular, the figuresusually colorfulwho have dominated, however fleetingly, its rapid growth. Included are Barry Diller, who dabbled profitably in a cable shopping network, Ted Tuner of CNN, John Malone of TCI, Rupert Murdoch (who came to regret taping "fifteen or so hours" of interviews with Auletta and giving him almost complete access for a weekmore exposure, Auletta notes, than Murdoch had ever allowed before), Herbert Allen, master arranger of mega-mergers and Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg together (briefly) at Disney. There's also a corporate history of Viacom, a look at the move into show business by the new generation at Seagram's, and a discussion of the "synergistic" superhighway's distrustand fearof traditional journalism, the craft Auletta practices so skillfully. For those who haven't kept abreast of what's been happening in the big-bucks communications world over the past half-decade, here's an ideal way to catch up. (May)
Library Journal
In his latest work, Auletta (Three Blind Mice, LJ 9/15/91) covers the people behind some of the changes in the communications industry from 1992 through 1996. Those profiled include Rupert Murdoch, John Malone, and Barry Diller. Auletta examines issues such as changing technology, FCC regulation, censorship, and the erosion of independent journalism, focusing on the traditional media of television, movies, and print; only the final article deals with the Internet. The author had extensive access to industry leaders through interviews and attending internal meetings. The book's 16 articles, which appeared previously in the New Yorker, are tied together by the introduction; each has a postscript updating events to early 1997. Auletta offers most perceptive insights into the communications industry, along with a clear and entertaining writing style. Recommended for all readers. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/97.]Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, Pa.
Ray Duncan

The Highwaymen

The title of this book is a neat conceit, melding mental images of rascally ruffians on horseback with coast-to-coast digital pipelines. The reality of the book is rather different. Princes of the traditional print and analog media wheel and deal and jockey for position, while the Internet as we know it today plays a bit part on the periphery, and a dimly understood but eagerly anticipated Information Highway waits in the wings.

The Highwaymen is based on Ken Auletta's "Annals of Communications" columns that appeared in The New Yorker over a period of several years. While writing his pieces, Auletta wangled an astonishing level of access to reclusive executives and globe-trotting tycoons such as John Malone, Sumner Redstone, Michael Eisner, Rupert Murdoch, Frank Biondi, Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Barry Diller -- in some cases, he interviewed and followed his subjects around for days to weeks, attending their meetings, looking over their memos, and even reading their electronic mail. The portraits he paints are intimate, evenhanded, and fascinating.

Only in the last chapter, which describes Michael Kinsley's odyssey to Microsoft does Auletta cross over into the territory that you and I can recognize. Kinsley, who cohosted CNN's Crossfire and considered himself something of literary lion, traded New York for Redmond in an attempt to stake out the high ground on the electronic publishing frontier. He found himself in a strange new world where "smartness" is a function of C++ coding expertise, and only billionaires and cronies of the chairman have any real clout. The fate of Slate is still unclear as this is written; it's only one of dozens of Microsoft attempts to penetrate the "content" market, and it is not yet paying its own way.

Due to its origins, The Highwaymen suffers from some lack of integration. Each chapter stands more or less alone, and there is occasional redundancy. However, the author did add back some interesting material that had been cut from The New Yorker because of space limitations, which makes the book worth buying even if you already read most of the original columns. He has also appended a postscript to each chapter that describes what became of the personalities, negotiations, and projects described in the original column.

I took away two lasting impressions from this book. The first was a deep appreciation of the incredible power of a very few, very rich, and mostly very obscure media barons, and the intricate shifting struggles and mesh of alliances between them. The second was the relative civility of the players; only Rupert Murdoch appears to be in the same league with Bill Gates and Microsoft when it comes to ruthlessness, arrogance, and a desperate compulsion to dominate or destroy all competitors.--Dr. Dobb's Electronic Review of Computer Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156005739
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/1/1998
  • Series: Harvest Book Series
  • Edition description: Updated, Expanded
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Auletta is the author of two national bestsellers, Three Blind Mice and Greed and Glory on Wall Street, as well as The Underclass, The Streets Were Paved with Gold, and The Art of Corporate Success. Since 1992 he has been the "Annals of Communications"  columnist for The New Yorker, for whom he has written since 1978. His pieces have also appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, New York, the Daily News, and The Village Voice.
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Table of Contents

1 Diller Peeks into the Future: Intimations of Interactivity 3
2 The Cowboy: John Malone's Cable Kingdom 25
3 The War for Paramount (and Software) 56
4 What Won't You Do? 68
5 Portrait of a Software Giant: Viacom 99
6 No Longer the Son Of: Seagram's Edgar Bronfman, Jr. 136
7 The Consigliere: Herbert Allen, Matchmaker 160
8 Synergy: The Mantra That's Bad for Journalism 180
9 The Referee: The FCC 189
10 Localism Confounds Ted Turner's Global Village 206
11 The Magic Box: Interactive TV? 218
12 The Human Factor: Troubles in Disneyland 230
13 The Beheadings: Successful Yet Unemployed 248
14 The Pirate: Rupert Murdoch 258
15 The Power of Shame: Bill Bennett Takes On Gangsta Rap 290
16 Jumping off a Bridge: Michael Kinsley Enters Cyberspace 303
17 The Microsoft Provocateur: Nathan Myhrvold, Bill Gates's Corporate Gadfly 333
Acknowledgments 357
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