The New York Times is Dying

Article by Gary North. Abbie Hoffman used to refer to the New York Times as the “voice of the ruling class.”
What’s black and white and red all over?
Answer: the balance sheet of the New York Times.

That was a two-liner that appeared in The Daily Show’s torpedoing of the New York Times. You can see it here.

That segment was run two years ago. I found it interesting that Newsweek, which subsequently went bankrupt, jumped on it like a dog on red meat.

Both the segment and the Times’ responding Q+A are pretty darn funny – but, given the paper’s $74.5 million loss last quarter, laughing makes us feel more than a little guilty. Isn’t this like shooting a fish in a barrel?

I don’t know how guilty the writer felt. I don’t even know if he is still working for Newsweek. The hapless magazine’s owner, the once highly profitable Washington Post, sold it for $1 (plus its debts) to a 91-year-old multi-millionaire in August 2010. He died on April 11, 2011. (WaPo’s money comes mainly from the Kaplan educational training program. The money from publishing news is marginal.)

And so it goes, newspaper by newspaper. Young people no longer read them. With Craigslist free or cheap, people wanting to buy or sell through classified ads no longer pay newspapers. Local advertisers pay less in ad rates because paid subscriptions are declining so fast. Once-fat newspapers are emaciated shells of their 1990s-era selves.

No metropolitan newspaper has made the complete transition to digital format. They are still dependent on paid subscribers to printed, day-old news. This means that they are dependent on older people. These are the demographics of Social Security. The local papers are also online, but their total revenues are falling steadily. The on-line component of their revenue is low, compared to print-based. But print-based net revenues are falling much faster than on-line net revenues are increasing. Meanwhile, the papers must fund staffs to keep alive their print-based operations.

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