As the Internet becomes the driving force of the print media, it’s not surprising to hear newspaper moguls talk about their online strategies. However, when the chairman of the New York Times Company says, “I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years,” one should sit up and take notice.
With that in mind, Haaretz’s Eytan Avriel had a chat with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., while he was in Davos, Switzerland, during the recent World Economic Forum (h/t Drudge, emphasis mine throughout):
Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years?
"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," he says.
Join the club, Pinch. The article continued:
Sulzberger is focusing on how to best manage the transition from print to Internet.
"The Internet is a wonderful place to be, and we're leading there," he points out.
The Times, in fact, has doubled its online readership to 1.5 million a day to go along with its 1.1 million subscribers for the print edition.
Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper. That will mark the end of the transition.
Maybe that will also mark the end of his paper being one of the leading proponents of socialism in a capitalist democracy. One can dream, right?
The article continued:
How are you preparing for changes to the paper that are dictated by the Internet?
"We live in the Internet world. We have, for example, five people working in a special development unit whose only job is to initiate and develop things related to the electronic world - Internet, cellular, whatever comes.
The average age of readers of the New York Times print edition is 42, Sulzberger says, and that hasn't changed in 10 years. The average age of readers of its Internet edition is 37, which shows that the group is also managing to recruit young readers for both the printed version and Web site.
Also, the Times signed a deal with Microsoft to distribute the paper through a software program called Times Reader, Sulzberger says. The software enables users to conveniently read the paper on screens, mainly laptops. "I very much believe that the experience of reading a paper can be transfered to these new devices."
Will it be free?
No, Sulzberger says. If you want to read the New York Times online, you will have to pay.
In a market of seemingly endless free information, it seems to be a dangerous business strategy to rely on people paying for it. Regardless, the article continued:
In the age of bloggers, what is the future of online newspapers and the profession in general? There are millions of bloggers out there, and if the Times forgets who and what they are, it will lose the war, and rightly so, according to Sulzberger. "We are curators, curators of news. People don't click onto the New York Times to read blogs. They want reliable news that they can trust," he says.
"We aren't ignoring what's happening. We understand that the newspaper is not the focal point of city life as it was 10 years ago.
"Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information," he says. "But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world."
Unfortunately, Avriel didn’t ask Pinch any questions about the paper shifting its political leaning more towards the center during this transition. Even though the answer is probably quite obvious, it still would have been fascinating to see how Sulzberger would have addressed it.