What the Rest of Us Can Glean from the New York Times Innovation Report

Tough Times at the Times … and Just About Everywhere Else

According to most industry pundits, the print-centric Times, like most “legacy-journalism” enterprises, is sailing on stormy seas in this era of digital media. Revenues, both print and digital, are down overall in recent years, and, by some measures the Times is getting clobbered by its more digital- and social media-savvy competitors, specifically BuzzFeed and HuffPost.

But step back a minute and consider that the content posted by BuzzFeed and HuffPost is frequently “click bait,” stories on shallow subjects and those with little depth. One’s opinion on these sites notwithstanding, suffice it to say the mission and audiences of these two aforementioned sites differ significantly from that of the Times, considered the platinum standard for reporting and news coverage worldwide. As such, in the eyes of many, the latter’s pursuit is noble, critical, and worthy of protection. Perhaps more tangibly, in the eyes of many advertisers, the Times still attracts a more desirable audience.

Consider, then: revenue. According to Politico, HuffPo is said to take in just $100 million in revenue per year. Even BuzzFeed, for all its pageviews, is still only a $120 million business. Meanwhile, “for the first three months of 2014, total revenue at the Times rose 2.6 percent year-over-year, to about $390 million, and for the first time in several years, both print and digital advertising revenue increased.” This, according to the Times’ own reporting.

Granted, revenues at the Times and other similar news organizations, such as The Guardian and Washington Post, are down from their heyday in the mid-2000s. More than likely, with all the new competitors vying for consumers’ time, they’ll never return to the heights of those glory days. So, yes, these organizations must make changes, but is the good ship Times sinking? No, but like the rest of us in publishing, it’s having to navigate and do business in uncharted, choppy waters.

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