One revealing item in the New York Times’s 10Q: print trends are even worse than they look. The company’s print advertising revenue declined 9% year-over-year in Q2. Print advertising inches, however–a proxy for unit volume–declined a more severe 12%. The difference? Price increases.
In other words, the only way the NYT can slow the decline of an ad medium that is less effective, less targeted, less convenient, less measured, and less informative than the one that is replacing it is by jacking up prices. We assume that the paper is able to do this, in part, because the folks who buy print advertising are used to having prices continually jacked up. But how long will it be before a high-level advertising strategist says, “Hey, wait a minute. Why are we paying more and more for this? When are we going to start paying less?” Because once one does, they all will.
On a positive note, the NYT made a smart decision to import the Freakonomics blog. This is an effective way to expand habitual readership beyond those who want to read “the New York Times,” as well as to leverage the power of the nytimes.com as a portal instead of just a news provider. The company made a similarly excellent decision a few years back to buy Andrew Sorkin’s “DealBook” and have him produce it for the paper instead of himself.