Sulzberger to Address New York Times’ Staff

Journalism Fan just sent me a note to le me know Arthur Sulzberger is going to address his staff today to discuss the comments he made to Ha’aretz last week. I found more details on the New York Observer’s web site.

Here is in essence what Sulzberger is going to be talking about:

“We are continuing to invest in our newspapers, for we believe that they will be around for a very long time. This point of view is not about nostalgia or a love of newsprint. Instead, it is rooted in fundamental business realities: Our powerful and trusted print brands continue to draw educated and affluent audiences.

“Traditional print newspaper audiences are still significantly larger than their Web counterparts. Print continues to command high levels of reader engagement. And, of course, we still make most of our money from print advertising and circulation revenue. And yes, I remember what I said here last year and what I was supposed to have said last month at Davos about not having a printed product in five years time.

“So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around–in print–for a long time. But I also believe that we must be prepared for that judgment to be wrong. My five-year timeframe is about being ready to support our news, advertising and other critical operations on digital revenue alone …whenever that time comes.”

The Observer concludes:

It was a gaffe, but also an epiphany. The New York Times is the newspaper of today. As it happens, today is when people read the newspaper. (…) And even as the American newspaper industry is preparing for the day the Internet kills it off, The Times has made itself into the dominant newspaper on the Web. It has gotten there by trial and error—and the trials and the errors are both ongoing—but the basic premise has held: It is the paper, only without paper. (…)

It’s easy, except it’s not. The Washington Post is a soup of cryptic links, bobbing in and out of view. Dailies in cities like Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco are still hidden behind “portals” (please resize your newspaper to fit this window). It’s not that is immune to fads or bad ideas. There are tepid blogs and cornball videos and if-you-insist podcasts strewn around the site. They will likely go away, piece by piece, as the real experts in those media—following The Times’ example—claim their own share of the Web audience. In the meantime, you can ignore them, and read the paper.

What it means: Sulzberger is back-tracking for good reasons. Newspapers (especially the New York Times) are still going to be published in 5 years, the business is still viable (and profitable) and many people still care a lot about the print medium (myself included). But this clearly shows Sulzberger and his exec team are thinking about a digital future where the content is more important than the medium (which is a smart way to think). For more information on the New York Times’ digital strategy, I invite you to read this excellent Business 2.0 interview with Martin Nisenholtz, SVP Digital Operations.

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