Politics & Media
Jan 22, 2009, 11:23AM

How not to save the New York Times

The column that has the media hack world abuzz today.

Tough love:

If you're running a print newspaper, the single best way of maximizing your revenue is to maximize your readership. Most newspapers lose money on printing and distribution, and are happy to do so. Does Blodget have a clue how much the NYT would have to charge, per paper, in order to turn a profit on printing and distribution? His plan would cut the NYT's circulation even further -- probably to the point at which the NYT could no longer even come close to competing with the WSJ and USA Today outside the New York metropolitan area. The NYT's one great hope is to become a truly national newspaper: Blodget's plan would kill that hope dead.

And then Blodget completely loses it, saying that the NYT's first-rate website should be artificially crippled with the introduction of subscriber firewalls.

"Some people consider NYT content worth paying for," he writes, pointing to the paper's print subscribers. But he doesn't stop to realise that those people aren't paying for content, they're paying for their newspaper. You're welcome to try to print out the NYT's daily content from your web browser -- I can assure you that no matter how efficient your printer, it'll cost you much more than just buying the paper. Reading the physical paper in the morning is something millions of people love to do -- including myself. But the people who do that don't tend to kid themselves that they're paying for content. And a huge number of them are commuters who want something to read on their way in to work -- where a newspaper is a wonderful source of easily-accessed content, and the internet just isn't.

  • Felix Salmon is getting overheated, understandably, most likely for two reasons: one, he's appalled at the idea that the New York Times as he knows it is about to change drastically; two, as a writer for the troubled Conde Nast title Porfolio, he fails the Times' pain. And he's correct that Henry Blodget is full of shit. His slap at Michael Hirschorn, on the other hand, is myopic. Hirschorn, who's a dedicated Times reader, simply said in his Atlantic article that the Times as people are used to it may cease to exist. That's not "silly," it's realistic, as no doubt the Sulzberger family knows. Hirschorn writes that the Times may go under by May, but admits he may be a bit hyperbolic. Beyond that, however, who can argue that the Times, like every serious newspaper, is in real trouble?

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