Good article in BusinessWeek about the future of the New York Times. (Requires registration.) The Times is facing a crisis.
...NYT Co.'s stock is trading at about 40, down 25% from its high of 53.80 in mid-2002 and has trailed the shares of many other newspaper companies for a good year and a half. "Their numbers in this recovery are bordering on the abysmal," says Douglas Arthur, Morgan Stanley's (MWD ) senior publishing analyst.
There are those who contend that the paper has been permanently diminished, along with the rest of what now is dismissively known in some circles as "MSM," mainstream media.
Advertising accounts for almost all of the digital operation's revenues, but disagreement rages within the company over whether NYTimes.com should emulate The Wall Street Journal and begin charging a subscription fee. Undoubtedly, many of the site's 18 million unique monthly visitors would flee if hit with a $39.95 or even a $9.95 monthly charge. One camp within the NYT Co. argues that such a massive loss of Web traffic would cost the Times dearly in the long run, both by shrinking the audience for its journalism and by depriving it of untold millions in ad revenue. The counterargument is that the Times would more than make up for lost ad dollars by boosting circulation revenue -- both from online fees and new print subscriptions paid for by people who now read for free on the Web.
Sulzberger declines to take a side in this debate, but sounds as if he is leaning toward a pay site. "It gets to the issue of how comfortable are we training a generation of readers to get quality information for free," he says. "That is troubling."
What's a platform agnostic to do? The New York Times, like all print publications, faces a quandary. A majority of the paper's readership now views the paper online, but the company still derives 90% of its revenues from newspapering. "The business model that seems to justify the expense of producing quality journalism is the one that isn't growing, and the one that is growing -- the Internet -- isn't producing enough revenue to produce journalism of the same quality," says John Battelle, a co-founder of Wired and other magazines and Web sites.
Interesting perspectives. Would people pay for the New York Times online? Some. I wouldn't. They have some great stuff and I read the paper version of the IHT and the NYT when I'm offline, like on an airplane, but there are so many free sources of information and ways to get to information online that the incremental value added by the New York Times on my news consumption habits wouldn't be worth the hassle and the price. I really believe there is great value in the brand and the organization that is the New York Times, but I'm not sure what the business model is. I'm sure the world is better off with The New York Times, but how do they survive? People can make fun of bloggers, but blogs are growing and the metrics show that The New York Times is not. Is the New York Times the only "MSM" doing poorly or is everyone in trouble?
I've said this before, but I believe there is a role for MSM and that blogging is not a replacement, but rather something that can support MSM by adding more voices, view points and feedback. On the other hand, from a business model perspective, I'm not sure how blogging can help MSM. It's really an amateur revolution and it's probably going to have to look like the sometimes awkward but sometimes successful dance that Open Source does with businesses in order to be successful.
via Susan Crawford (and NOT via browsing BusinessWeek)