The New York Times rolls out a new promo for its excellent web site–“All the News That’s Fit to Click.” This is good news, but unfortunately still not good enough to save the company. Below, links to recent analysis on the ghastly economic trends at the Times, as well as an excerpt of an interview with Mark Glaser of MediaShift, in which I respond to a critic of our newspaper analysis.
Except from MediaShift Q&A
Glaser: According to Steve Yelvington, you make your “newspapers are screwed” argument based on the New York Times, which is more of an international paper with inflated web visitors. He believes there are less valuable regular readers so revenue per reader should be higher. How do you respond to that?
Blodget: The difference between the value of a print reader and a web reader is so large that you can use almost any web-reader numbers and come to the same conclusion. Steve says the NY Times claims 13 million uniques for NYTimes.com, so let’s start with that. Are there international and “drive-by” readers in that 13 million? Of course. But it barely matters… (Continue...)
For example, to take Steve’s theory to an extreme, let’s assume that NYTimes.com has only 1.2 million “real” web readers — the same as the print publication (a ludicrous assumption). Once you subtract About.com, the NYT’s web properties — all of them, including Boston.com et al — generate revenue of about $20 million a month. So even in this extreme case, each web reader generates revenue of $17 a month — versus $125 per print sub. Is Steve really arguing that if those 1.2 million print subs all went from generating $125 of revenue per month to $17 the paper would be fine?
And it’s not just big national papers like the New York Times. Lee Enterprises, which owns mostly local papers, generates web-reader revenue of about $0.50 a month. It’s just a vastly different economic proposition.
Personally how do you feel about the future of print publications and newspapers? Do you read print publications regularly or not?
Blodget: I feel great about the future of professional journalism delivered electronically. There will always be a need for top-notch reporting and analysis, no matter how many amateur bloggers there are. What I don’t feel great about is the future of newspaper companies.
The problem for these companies, by the way, isn’t just that their economics are cratering. It’s that the product itself is obsolete. By the time the newspaper arrives in the morning, much of what’s in it is old news. Compared to other alternatives today, newspapers are even a lousy advertising vehicle: A single eBay listing can contain a hundred times more information than a newspaper classified and be searchable and readable from anywhere in the world. And then there is the horrific environmental waste: paper, gas, ink, pollution — the product of which often gets thrown out, unread, on the back stoop.
We 40-somethings may read and advertise in papers occasionally, out of habit and nostalgia. But if we’re still doing that in another 20 years, the next generation is going to regard us as wasteful and insane.
Running the Numbers: Why Newspapers are Screwed
Death-By-Month: Tracking the Newspaper Industry’s Decline
Tribune Collapse Reveals Yet Another Problem for Newspapers: Profit Margin Collapse
No, Online Video Will Not Save Newspapers
Newspapers Blogging Like Crazy–And It’s Barely Helping
The Great Ad Share Shift: Google Sucks the Life Out of Old Media
New York Times:
Merrill Cuts NYT, LEE, MNI to SELL
NYT: The Picture Worth a Thousands Words
New York Times Launches “MyTimes”: Cool, But 10 Years Too Late
NYT: August Ads Drop -3%
NYT: July Ads Down -3.5%
New York Times Conference Call: Don’t Mind Elephant in Room