Friday, May 25, 2007

Is the New York Times in Play?

Courtesy of a link from media bistro, Michael Wolf and Jon Fine of Vanity Fair discuss whether the NY Times is in play or not. I don't believe Wolf makes the case - and he is forever looking to throw out the ancient regime - and agree with Fine that at the moment the comparison with the Bancrofts and Dow Jones does not compare to the NY Times circumstances. Interestingly, Wolf suggests a 2x market current cap ($7bill) as his deal or no deal offer which suggests even he thinks the circumstances would have to be extraordinary for this to happen.

On a topical note, the Times has also indicated (via Gawker) that it needs to release itself from the shackles of a print based orientation and become far more flexible both in the manner in which it develops content and who develops the content. According to Managing Editor Bill Keller,
He also spoke about the "gradual reallocation of resources from print towards digital" and copy editors being moved to the day side, so that there could be a "greater flow of fresh quality edit material."

So, journos won't be working all day on one story - or perhaps they will but the content/story will be updated more frequently and potentially by others if the story continues to develop past bed-time. Additionally, he went on to challenge the idea that The Times needs to focus on editorial control, standards and spelling and personnally that worries me. The Times has had its difficulties with some of that in recent years; nevertheless, surely one of the main attractions of the product is the measure of control (and readability) that the editors exert over journos. And while Keller (and lets face it he is more an expert than I) admits the web is different and has different standards, why can't The Times deliver a superior product leveraging the webs benefits while still maintaining The Times' credibility? In my reading of these comments it seems that Keller all too readily 'gives up' in the face of badly edited, unspell-checked, off point crap (that may contain a nugget of useful information).
"We can't let our reverence for quality become a straitjacket in new media," he warned. "The web environment is different... We can offer guidance but we cannot insist on the same control we exercise over print."

(It is more than possible that this blog is a case in point).

Over the past several years, The Times has monkeyed with its print format and Keller announced a material change in trim size. Other newspapers in Europe have gone from broad sheet to tabloid but this change appears to more in keeping with the recent WSJ change.

Echoing Fine rather than Wolf, Keller joked that "There have also been reports of a rat sighting," at the new building which if true would seem to indicate that the rats are still quite comfortable on the big grey ship.

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