Could You Run a Newspaper on $237 Million?

I’m pretty sure you could. Hell, I’m pretty sure Puck and Riot could. If they had thumbs.

Instead of being happy with their $237 million, which may or may not be the total across multiple newspapers but STILL, the Times wants to alienate its online readership with a stupid, counterproductive $5-per-month online subscription charge that is so small as to convey to those who pay it that said content is only worth $5 per month so why bother.

Which move would likely drive current page counts down through the basement all the way to at least the second circle of Hell, and as a consequence alienate the very online advertisers presently providing that $237 million in an effort to reach the Times’ readership.

I used to think the problem with our current newspaper conversation was that the people talking had no idea how the Internet worked. In the past six months I’ve come to understand that they don’t know how newspapers work. You use the size of your audience to sell people on reaching that audience. The bigger your audience, the more you can charge people for access to it. Publishers are pimps, that’s all. All the changes in technical whatsits have not altered this formula one bit.

In conclusion this is total DUMBASSERY:

New York Times Co. spokeswoman Catherine Mathis confirmed in a telephone interview that theTimes had sent the survey, but said no timetable has been set for a decision and no decisions have been made about online pricing.

The
survey reads: “The New York Times website, nytimes.com, is considering
charging a monthly fee of $5.00 to access its content, including all
its articles, blogs and multimedia. All of this content is currently
available for free.

“When answering the following questions,
please think about whether you would be willing to pay for continued
unlimited access to nytimes.com.

“How likely would you be to pay
a $2.50 monthly fee — which would be a 50% discount for home delivery
subscribers — for continued, unlimited access to nytimes.com?”

“The
one thing I advise people on this is that we’ve got a very large
[online] revenue stream,” Mathis said. “We looked at 30 different
companies — Weight Watchers, ESPN, Consumer Reports — to see how much
money is being generated from Web sites. What we saw is that we’re
doing a pretty good job monetizing content with advertising.”

Of $352 million in digital revenue reported by the Times Co. in 2008, about $237 million was generated by its newspaper sites.

So WHAT’S THE FUCKING PROBLEM you have to charge to SOLVE? I’m sorry to shout, but honest to God, if First Draft had $237 million per year we would have bureaus in every country that you could legally buy alcohol in and some where you couldn’t and we’d pay to smuggle in cases of Stoli. We’d be reporting from the top of Mount Everest and the International Space Station for no other reason than that we fucking COULD. Not only would we buy that blogger compound in New Orleans that Scout and I keep talking about setting up and run nine separate news sites out of there, we’d buy the Great Orange Satan and pay interns in solid goldducats to throw virtual spitballs at people who wank about their user IDs. And these people have the nerve to BITCH.

(And yes, I know the answer to this question is that $237 million may pay for a lot of reporters and journalism and presses and shit but it can’t pay for the Sulzbergers’ dinner drinks, but I want for once in this miserable life to hear somebody in one of these stories just come right out and SAY IT so we can have a conversation about real stuff instead of tying our shoelaces together, falling down, and proclaiming walking an impossibility.)

She noted that theTimes previously generated $10 million in annual revenues for Times Select.

And THAT was deemed such a miserable failure that it had to be discontinued and people had to moan in public about how nobody appreciates the genius that is David Brooks and whatever.

A.

11 thoughts on “Could You Run a Newspaper on $237 Million?

  1. Dan says:

    I’d pay $10 a month for an ironclad guarantee that while online I would never encounter a Ross Douthat column. Also:

    I used to think the problem with our current newspaper conversation was that the people talking had no idea how the Internet worked. In the past six months I’ve come to understand that they don’t know how newspapers work.

    Pure. Fucking. Genius.

  2. John Sundman says:

    Athenae,
    Right on, as usual.
    You may like Harold Feld’s recent contribution to this discussion on Wetmachine: http://www.wetmachine.com/item/1589

  3. Dan says:

    Also: I blameNico Pitney for this.

  4. Fleas correct the era says:

    Interesting that of the three companies that come to Catherine Mathis’s mind, one refuses to accept advertising. Consumer Reports, as far as I know, has never accepted dollar one from an advertiser.
    Unique product, no ads, no Judith Miller, no Bill Keller. Different model entirely.
    Now, if I know this, and I’m just some random person who knows nothing about either the news business or the magazine business, how can the New York Genius Times possibly manage not to know it?

  5. donna says:

    They already tried this and it didn’t work. Why do they think it would work now?
    What I WOULD pay for is someone to find things for me. The limitations of the Internet are I can’t do a simple search on what’s available in my own fucking town. I can find stuff all over the world, but not a mile from my house. THAT’S what local newspapers are supposed to be telling me, but aren’t. They just don’t get it.
    When I was in New York, I couldn’t even read the NYT and find out what was going on in New York. Ridiculous.

  6. RAM says:

    When I was in college (a brief and unrewarding experience; we agreed on a mutual dissolution of our relationship) one of the people I roomed with had a large pet snake, which was so stupid and lazy he almost had to pry its mouth open to jam food (mice he ‘obtained’ from the zoology department) in. I once asked him what he had learned, having a pet snake.
    “I believe I’ve proven snakes are too stupid to survive in the wild,” he answered.
    So with the management of newspapers today; they’re simply too stupid to survive. I will be sorry, but not at all surprised, to see them go because they seem totally unaware of what they’re supposed to be doing, much less how or why they’re supposed to be doing it.

  7. evil is evil says:

    Any person who works for a “newspaper” and does not resign to plant trees to expiate his/her sins can push shopping carts around Manhattan begging for food.
    Newspapers are solely a waste of good trees.

  8. pansypoo says:

    butbutbut i sorta like reading ‘a paper’. not the times tho.

  9. MapleStreet says:

    With the Times, its not just online. The price of delivery to places outside the local area has jumped so much, the library was forced to drop it about 1/2 a year ago.
    There was an uproar and several attempts to find some sort of deal, but the price for a yearly subscription became astronomical.
    I’m sure they are very happy with themselves.

  10. Interrobang says:

    Give me $237M and I’ll find a way to run theworld, baby, or at the very least, the parts of the world worth running…
    Which is to say that yeah, we need to stop talking about how newspapers are failing to monetize (because they aren’t), but where, exactly, all that money isgoing

  11. spocko says:

    Which is to say that yeah, we need to stop talking about how newspapers are failing to monetize (because they aren’t), but where, exactly, all that money is going…
    Posted by: Interrobang | July 10, 2009 at 17:30
    —————–
    Interrobang and Athenae, two of my favorite people!!
    Today I thought about where wingnut welfare money goes. I’ve concluded that right-wing think tanks are probably using the money illegally. I’ll bet that they are doing some shady dealing with their taxes. Think about it. They HATE any taxes and so do you think they will pay their own taxes?
    Of course the think tanks are designed to give the corporations a tax break (“I donated the money to that great charitable foundation The Heritage Foundation, the fact that I can deduct means nothing. I would still donate if I didn’t get a write off!”)
    Which brings me to the Washington Times. It is a regular multimillion dollar money loser. But because the Rev. Moon wants those views out they stay in business. What if THEY had to work on the same model that the other papers did?
    I say that in addition to helping good papers we look at how we can defund the people who prop up the right wing papers.
    If the Washington Times had to stand on it’s own two feet and show a profit could it? No.

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