Sunday, January 09, 2005

BusinessWeek Raises Questions About Future of New York Times

In an intensive look at "The Future Of The New York Times," BusinessWeek reports the paper is struggling with its hometown circulation and is considering charging a subscription fee to those who go online to read the paper.

Since 1998, when the NYT expanded its National Edition, its circulation outside New York has increased daily about 150,000, despite hefty subscription price increases, the article reports. But at the same time, circulation in New York has dropped by 96,000, so net circulation has gone up by only 54,000.

The overall 5.1% circulation increase, to about 1.1 million, compares with an average circulation decline during the same period for American newspapers of about 3.5%. Meanwhile, L.A. Times circulation under the dilatory control of the Tribune Co., has dived more than 20%.

The article has an early quote from a Morgan Stanley publishing analyst describing New York Times numbers and resulting stock price as "bordering on the abysmal," and it notes that NYT stock prices are down about 25% and lag many other newspaper companies.

But, of course, this is the usual Wall Street line. Wall Street cares not a jot for quality in business, preferring layoffs, cost-cutting and little investment in the future. Naturally, in short, Wall Street seems to prefer corporate managers like the Tribune Co., even though Tribune Co. stock prices are also well off their recent highs.

In fairness, the BusinessWeek article does acknowledge that the NYT fails to match the profit margins of such lesser-quality newspaper companies as Gannett and Knight-Ridder "mainly because of the Times' outsize editorial spending." Under the Sulzberger family, the NYT would rather take a profits hit in the short run so it can improve the paper and better things in the long run.

The article also refers to ousted NYT Executive Editor Howell Raines as "tyrannical," and never raises any question about publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. being weak-kneed in getting rid of him under news staff pressure. Without Raines, the newspaper does not seem as exciting, although some staffers say that is good.

The article is worth reading, just as long as we are careful not to listen too intently to Big Business's advice as to what should be the longrange future of quality newspapers. If this advice were followed, they would no longer be high quality.

Unmentioned in the lengthy article is the fact that the New York Times has been a leading critic of corporate ethics. Maybe, that was viewed by BusinessWeek as irrelevant.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

.................NYT expanded its National Edition, its circulation has increased daily about 150,000..............
That would mean their circulation has grown 383,250,000 since 1998, who says newspapers are dieing.

Did you mean "their daily circulation has grown 150.000".

1/09/2005 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NY Times does face far bigger competition in its home market from the NY Daily News and NY Post. Lousy though they are, those 2 tabloids do make quite an effort to attract readers. If the LA Times faced a similar situation here (and, as far as I'm concerned, the Daily News remains a pretty limp local throwaway), I hate to think of how much more downward pressure would be evident in its circulation figures.

1/11/2005 1:07 PM  
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