Wednesday, January 07, 2009

NYT in the ICU - why?

Readers of Henry Blodget's (yes, that Blodget) articles for Silicon Valley Insider know that the NYT is on its deathbed.

What we don't get is an explanation of why the New York Times, and most other large papers, are so ill.

We know that many media owners carry a lot of debt unrelated to newspapers, but in that case healthy newspapers would face sale -- not extinction.

We know that the internet killed the classified business, but no-one's suggesting that was huge for the Times.

We know subscribers have left paid print for free online reading, but online circulation has vastly lowered the average cost of delivering product while also increasing the pool of readers. In theory subscription losses should be outweighed by advertising revenues.

Ahh, but there's the rub. If I'm reading this VentureBeat article correctly, the problem is that the advertising model isn't working, either because online ads in newspapers don't seem to work and thus aren't worth much, or because there are a huge number of equally useful (or useless) routes to reader eyeballs. No one route can reach readers ...
If the New York Times dies, does the news die? VentureBeat
The death of an institution isn’t far off, writes the Atlantic in an article titled End Times, and with it an entire industry may be preparing to slip underwater. Low on cash, high in debt, the legendary New York Times is reeling from the recession. There’s no guarantee that it, or many others of our best newspapers, will survive the next year.
The immediate effect of the Times ending its storied run (or degrading to a lesser entity) will no doubt be the journalistic equivalent of a nuclear explosion...
... The New York Times has done an excellent job of growing its web property. ComScore says the company’s pageviews are approaching 200 million a month; that’s a lot for any website... 
... Getting a New York Times-caliber feature article requires paying a Times-caliber writer for a week or more of research and writing. That will set you back between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on who is doing the work. That figure doesn’t include the editing and expenses, by the way.
For most sites, that means they need 100,000 to a million pageviews to break even, for a single article...
If the NYT does die, I think it will take decades to replace it. I keep returning to the death of BYTE in the 1990s -- we still don't have anything like it on the web.

I'm optimistic an escape route will appear. It is a rough spot though ...

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