New York Times Gets Smaller

Beat Generation Economics Hiphop Internet Culture Love Music New York City

1. So the New York Times is going ahead with a payment wall for its website. I still say this is a bad business decision. Newspapers have always made more money on advertising than on sales, and newspapers that force readers to pay for online content will significantly harm their advertising numbers without bringing in a lot of subscription revenue. The New York Times is about to get much smaller.

The irony is that the Times is doing this to avoid getting smaller in a different sense: this is a Hail Mary pass to fend off major staff reductions based on pessimistic financial projections. I believe they'd be better off allowing their staff, operations and budget to get smaller and smarter, minimizing their presence in areas where they are redundant (sports, local reporting, maybe even business) and focusing on areas where their coverage is essential (national and global politics, culture, arts). This would be a different kind of Hail Mary pass, a different kind of transformation, and I wish they'd made this choice.

Years ago in my Time Inc. advertising days I met several times with Martin Nisenholz, who has had amazing staying power (over 15 years!) as the head of NY Times digital operations. I remember him as a thoughtful and careful executive. I'm sure he, Bill Keller and the Sulzberger family owners believe they are making the best decision possible, and I wish them well. But I will certainly be paying less attention to the New York Times once it removes itself from the currency of real-time dialogue on the web, and of course my long-running love story with the New York Times Book Review will end once the publication ceases to be openly available to all readers. I'll find something else to write about every weekend instead.

2. I can't say it had a gigantic impact on my life, but when I was a kid scraping the bookshelves for juicy stuff my elders left around, I read and liked Erich Segal's Love Story. Later I saw the movie. I wish I had more to say about it now that Erich Segal has died. Maybe my favorite thing about Love Story was the title, the logo, that very of-the-period cover design.

3. The Beat Museum of San Francisco presents The Jack Micheline Wall.

4. Another shout-out (from the NY Times, no less -- see what I mean about their important presence in arts/culture reporting?!) for the Tuli Kupferberg benefit this weekend, which will feature performances by Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, Peter Stampfel and co-Fug Ed Sanders. I can't be there, but I know I'll miss an epic show.

5. I've been working hard hard hard and I need some blogging fun. You may have also noticed that I tend to be at my blogging best when I have a multi-post concept to work with. So, hopefully starting tomorrow, I'm going to begin a new five-part series here at LitKicks. There have been many decade "round-ups" in arts, music and literature published around the web in the past month, but I don't think enough attention has been paid to the fact that the 2000s were truly a golden age for hiphop music. So, over the next five weeks I am going to post a countdown: Five Hiphop Album Masterpieces from the Past Decade. Please join me in the comments section (once the series begins, hopefully tomorrow) to let me know what you think of my selection.

5 Responses to "New York Times Gets Smaller"

by Bill_Ectric on

I'm looking forward to the Hiphop countdown, Levi, because I know you approach the genre from several angles: visceral, literary, sociological, and and artistic.

by Pete on

And I suspect that the NYT's online subscribers will still have to endure the same ads that free users do.

by Levi on

Pete, that's if the Times manages to sell any online ads at all once they put up the wall!

Actually, my latest thinking is that the Times won't even go through with this plan. Maybe the purpose of the press release is to test the reaction and see how many other newspapers will throw down with them. I'm starting to suspect the payment wall will never actually happen.

by Eli Stein on

I agree with you there, Levi. It's a bad plan and hopefully they will rethink it. I can't see this move as benefiting the Times' bottom line at all.

I've been gradually losing interest in the online New York Times over the past two years or so; everything seems to be shrivelling and deteriorating. These new fees will be the clincher for me.

And Yes, that Kupferberg tribute show sounds like the blast of the decade for us smart cool people. I was listening to my old copy of Tenderness Junction just this past weekend, actually.

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