Man Without Qualities

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Gathering Storm

Don Luskin scribes what in my view future historians are likely to read as the first version of the epitaph of the New York Times:

The New York Times Company desperately needs the money. Last week the company shocked Wall Street with earnings that came in at only a third of what analysts had expected — and expectations for the rest of the year were guided lower, too — thanks to declining circulation and ad revenues. And the company announced the second round of painful layoffs this year — 500 employees this time, including 45 in the news room. Executive editor Bill Keller told the survivors, “I wish I could tell you relief was in sight.”
Of course, dire as the Gray Lady's straights may be, the drastic remedy of resorting to straightforward, disinterested reporting and coherent, fact-checked columnists appears not yet to have been actively considered as a remedy. Perhaps Times management is waiting for the third stroke.

While we await the longer term descent of the Gray Lady's last end, TimeSelect is creating some interesting effects, with Editor and Publisher itself sounding a rather elegiac note:
[O]ne thing is clear already: the once-popular user habit of e-mailing favorite opinion columns from the paper has declined rapidly. ... The result [of TimesSelect]? Not a single such column shows up among the 5 "most e-mailed" today. .... In what must be considered a major feat, Paul Krugman's Monday column, while open only to TimesSelect subscribers, still managed to come in at #8. But that doesn't mean everyone, or even many, who received the column could actually open it. The new system still allows subscribers to e-mail the column to anyone -- but recipients can only read it if they, too, are members.
Since then, things have worsened for Herr Doktorprofessor, as noted here.

On the other hand, Standard & Poors has no time for elegy, and comes right to the point:
The New York Times was hit with more bad news yesterday when Standard & Poor's Rating Services put the company's long term debt on "credit watch with negative implications" after the company lowered its earnings estimates once again.
And then there's the Times' stock performance compared to, say, any of the Dow, the S&P or NASDAQ.

Put it this way: If the performance of the United States economy could somehow magically be interchanged with that of the New York Times over the past couple of years, Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman would be a very satisfied man. But he's not.

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