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How Not to Save The New York Times

By Matthew Yglesias on January 22, 2009 at 1:31 pm

"How Not to Save The New York Times"

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Felix Salmon’s post on how not to save The New York Times is excellent. From where I sit, The New York Times Company really seems, unlike General Motors or Citigroup, to be an example of a company whose underlying situation is reasonably sound but where short-term credit issues are preventing them from riding out a temporary economic downturn that’s bad for everyone’s business.

The way I think about it is that the Internet is forcing a structural transformation in the news business. There will almost certainly be less overall profit in that field than there has been in the past. And rather than hundreds and hundreds of for-profit medium-sized English-language news sources we’ll probably consolidate to a handful of really big ones plus millions of really small ones, most of which will be hobbyist or non-profit ventures. And the New York Times seems well-positioned to take advantage of that situation. It has an unparalleled capacity to do actual news-gathering and it also has one of the strongest brands—if not the strongest brand—in the business. The same forces that are bad for “newspapers” are quite possibly good for the best newspaper since it’s now trivially easy for people to read the Times in Bakersfield or Belfast or Bombay or Brisbane at the same time that more and more people in Bruges and Bergen and even Beijing are getting used to reading things in English.

But for that to work, the company has to stay in business long enough for competitors to fold so it can take advantage of the vacuum. And it needs to not lose its core assets—its brand and its reporting capabilities—while riding the problems out.

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