With Draconian Staff and Budget Cuts on the Way, Gloom, Doom Loom for New York Times

Business Insider is an online news outlet founded by a couple of tech wizards from Silicon Valley. Recently the magazine had an interview scheduled with the CEO of About.com to talk about the company’s outlook. Though the interview had been scheduled for weeks it was cancelled at the last moment for reasons that seemed, well, fishy.

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After repeatedly asking why, Business Insider finally got the real story behind the cancellation. It turns out that About.com is owned by the New York Times Company and the company is not at all pleased with what Business Insider has been saying about their flagship, i.e. the paper of record. What has the Gray Lady in such a snit? This assessment of its inevitable decline:

… we continue to think that the company will require a major restructuring, one in which approximately half of the estimated $200 million in annual newsroom costs are eliminated.

As Arthur Sulzberger himself recently acknowledged, there will come a day when the New York Times is forced to stop publishing its print edition. When that happens, the paper’s economics will change radically, and the online business simply won’t support the same cost structure that the print edition does, paywall or no.

In other words, the Times probably only has a few years before financial realities force the company either to find a benefactor with deep pockets (a la Newsweek) or lay off a substantial percentage of their news staff.

Once the real reason for the cancelled interview was out, Business Insider wrote to the PR chief at the Times Co. and offered him the opportunity to explain why their assessment of the paper’s fortunes was wrong. But the PR chief declined to respond. Here is the conclusion reached by Business Insider:

Now, in our experience, when people who are trying to get you to change your view by saying you are “wrong” won’t explain WHY you are wrong, it often means you are right.

That’s significant because if Business Insider is right, we’ll be hearing a lot less from the Times in the not-so-distant future. And that will change not only the course of American journalism, but the course of American history as well.

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