Sunday, March 15, 2009

Strategizing About The New York Times' Future Revenues

Journalism is being transfigured by the new information ecosystem and its very definition is changing. Given the volcanic explosion of Web sites, search engines and social networking channels, how could it not?

High-quality journalism – from covering City Hall or Iraq – is getting harder and harder to pay for. Traditional revenue streams are, in many cases, anemic and getting weaker. Due to the combination of secular and cyclical pressures I mentioned earlier, the immediate future looks, at minimum, grim.”

One of the many reasons why such a solution [ie, a any answer on how to charge for content] is so elusive is that what works for The New York Times is not going to work for Newsday or The LA Times; what works for is not going to be a solution for Politico, Salon or Slate. As I will discuss shortly, each site has a different relationship to the Internet and has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

We have to respond to their [ie the web audience’s] desire to do something with the content we make. Our readers want to share it, or blog it, or comment on it, or tweet it. They want to use our journalism as raw material for what they make. This can be a very good thing because it does enhance our audiences’ involvement with our sites, but it also takes us back to issues of authority and what is and is not “Real Journalism.” … Our strategy must be rooted in the fundamental premise that we must be OF the Internet, not merely ON it, requiring all of us to move from publishing our content on the Web to becoming full Web publishers.

- Arthur Sulzberger, Jr, chairman of The New York Times, in Staci Kramer, Weekend Reading: NYT’s Sulzberger Admits Need For More Paid Content, PaidContent.Org, March 13, 2009

Sulzberger gave an interesting talk at Stony Brook University on March 12, 2009, about the Times’ approach to its precarious new environment. The quotes above are interesting excerpts. The key issue (also echoed by Times Sernior VP of Digital Operations Martin Nissenholtz in the Times itself recently) is finding ways to charge for content while not derailing the huge audiences the Times gets through search engine and blog links and that attract advertisers.

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