The New York Times’s (NYT) excellent media columnist David Carr argues that newspapers are driving the nails into their own coffins by firing their most expensive (and famous) columnists–the ones readers really want to read. The analogue at the New York Times, we assume, would be Janet Robinson firing Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman.
We agree. This is dumb. Better to cut costs in other areas.
But we would love to hear David Carr’s solution to the problem newspaper companies face–including his own. It’s easy to point out mistakes, but hope and denial are not strategies (and they do seem to be quite prevalent in the executive suites at the Times). So, what’s the answer, David?
Our answer, should the New York Times take us up on our offer to buy its digital business, would/will be to figure out which 20% of the newsroom account for 80% of the readership (we don’t know for sure that the 80/20 rule holds here, but we bet it does). We would then keep those folks and leave everyone else to continue to write for the paper.
The new economics of newspapers, in a web-only world, will only support a fraction of the news-gathering costs that were affordable in the old world. This doesn’t mean newspapers need to fire people indiscriminately or stupidly (blowing away columnists who account for a huge percentage of readership, of example). It does mean, however, that they have to radically cut costs.
Any suggestions, David? What would you do if you were Sam Zell?
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