Way back in the day, when the New York Times was still a profit making enterprise of the
Democratic Party media industrial complex, they were on a bit of a buying binge to expand their empire. The year was 1993, and to lock down their hold on the entire northeast – truly the home base of their ideological support to begin with – they shelled out more than one billion dollars to purchase the then venerable Boston Globe. But times change, as have the fortunes of the Paper of Record, and it was clearly time to say goodbye. So how much did they get for this jewel in the media crown?
Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, confirmed that Mr. [John W.] Henry [principal owner of the Boston Red Sox] would pay $70 million for the paper. That would represent a staggering drop in value for the Globe, which The Times bought in 1993 for $1.1 billion, the highest price paid for an American newspaper.
Well that’s some pretty savvy deal making right there, and no doubt about it. A loss of only $1.03B in twenty years. News such as this likely comes as no surprise to those who have been watching the Times shrink the size of its paper, the number of people on staff and the number of research office locations, along with chopping up its subscription options. The print version of the paper is still in trouble, and essentially giving the Globe away to the Red Sox is just one more symptom of a much more serious underlying disease.
But I specify the “print version” for a reason here. Business Insider has been watching these same proceedings, yet come to the conclusion that, We Never Need To Worry About The Future Of Journalism Again! If that sounds like a bit of a disconnect, we should emphasize that they’re talking about digital publishing.
The New York Times Company did the world of journalism a big favor today.
The company finally disclosed the exact revenues of its digital business.
The numbers were impressive. And they made clear that no one ever needs to fret about the future of journalism again.
Specifically, the New York Times reported that the revenue of its digital business is now about $360 million a year.
That’s composed of about $200 million of advertising revenue, which is basically flat, and another $150 million of digital subscription revenue, which is growing nicely.
Assuming the digital subscription revenue continues to grow as the company rolls out new subscription products, which it will start to do next April, the New York Times Company should soon have a $400 million digital business.
The author, Henry Blodget, concludes that a $400M digital business will support a newsroom staffed with 850 journalists. Yes, that’s less than the current army of 1,100, but he still sees it as being stable, viable, and able to carry out “the mission,” whatever that may mean in the modern age. But what about the print version which is where the Paper of Record finds its roots?
But the future of the New York Times print edition is a very different thing than the future of journalism, or, for that matter, the future of the New York Times.
The future of the New York Times print edition–and some of the current New York Times newsroom budget–looks dim.
But the future of journalism looks excellent.
Exit question: Even if we are to take all of Blodget’s assumptions as given, and even if we stipulate that the Gray Lady is providing some value that we don’t already have elsewhere, if the old school media giants like the Times switch over to a fully digital format, does the practice of “journalism” remain the same? Or do they just turn into a really expensive blog? Your thoughts?