ADOTAS — Even though I now live a few thousand miles from my birthplace, New York City, I still consider The New York Times my hometown paper. I remember with fondness going out Saturday evenings and buying the Sunday Times together with a pint of ice cream and reading the paper until 2 or 3 in the morning.
So as you can well imagine, I have been following the well-documented financial struggles of The Times. I even wrote a piece in Adotas a few months ago entitled, “New York Times, people will pay for what they once got free”.
Well a few weeks ago, I was reading a piece in Vanity Fair by Matt Pressman about why Time and Newsweek will never be like The Economist, when I had a Eureka moment. Obviously Time and Newsweek will never be like The Economist, but why not The New York Times?
What makes editors want to copy The Economist is the fact that the publication doubled circulation and steadily increased advertising rates and news stand prices.
So why should The New York Times be checking out The Economist? Here I’m going to borrow from Mr. Pressman and his very reasons for why Time and Newsweek aren’t like The Economist:
1. Editorial Quality – Mr. Pressmen claims that The Economist “gives you the essential facts and a meaningful takeaway”. Though The New York Times reporters do include opinion in their pieces, there is always a meaningful takeaway which isn’t present in the leading American news magazines.
2. Appealing to Finance Types – Though I’m not sure how many people on Wall Street read The New York Times, they should be. The paper provides a holistic view of the news of the world which helps framing today’s financial stories. So even for analysts who are getting their financial news from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times is still a ‘must read’ to put the financial stories into a proper global perspective.
3. There are limited readers up for grabs – Here, the claim is that only a small sampling of readers are interested in a publication like The Economist, hence its small market potential. I personally believe that there are more people who could be convinced to read The New York Times, though I don’t think most would buy the paper at a newsstand. The Times must create technology-friendly offerings which will enable readers to engage with the paper in a manner that best fits their specific needs. This will include smart phone applications, voice applications, country or feature-specific applications – whatever will meet each individual’s needs.
4. Snob Appeal – Anyone who has ever read the wedding section in The Sunday New York Times or movie reviews on Fridays knows that The Times has snob appeal. The challenge for The New York Times is to find more snobs to appeal to without becoming mass market. I doubt that The New York Times will ever become mass market, but whether they kind find enough snobs to appeal to, only time will tell.
Despite the financial status of newspaper, they serve an important part of our history and culture. Whether delivered in print with thud on the door matt or digitally, newspapers are an institution that should be saved, andThe Times is one of the best papers out there. I just hope they figure out how to turn the ship around in time.