Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's Eating the New York Times?

After reading what is essentially a story about getting high at Disney World in, of all places, the New York Times magazine I wonder: what is eating the paper of record? Why has it come to this?

For the past few weeks, the Times has seemed, well, out of sorts. Aside from the fact that in the magazine the writers are aggressively -- overaggressively -- asserting themselvesinto their pieces making for a much more blog-like experience (and not in a good way), there was that social media war last Thursday with the Huffington Post. HuffPo finally got the direct head-to-head match with the paper of record that they have been waiting for: it is not unlike the inevitable first blowup between a teenager and their parent.

The New York Times should be competing ferociously with the Wall Street Journal, which has the country's largest average weekday circulation according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, on all fronts: in print and digitally. In New York, for example, their print circulation is declining. From AdAge:

Over a year after Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal introduced Greater New York to better compete for New York Times advertisers and readers, the section is winning with advertisers but not necessarily with readers.

"The revenue for the region is up 100%," Journal Chief Revenue Officer Michael Rooney said. New Journal advertisers from the region since Greater New York began include FreshDirect, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Willoughby's camera showroom, Gagosian Gallery, Paul Miller Auto Group, Hudson City Bancorp and Zachys Wine & Liquor.

"Prior to The Wall Street Journal coming out with that edition, we were always a little hesitant," said Andrew McMurray, VP of Zachys, a longtime Times advertiser whose brick-and-mortar store is located in Scarsdale, N.Y. "It was very cost prohibitive and weren't sure going after just a financial audience was the right move for us."

This is a perfect opportunity to launch a snarky ad highlighting the fact that their arch nemesis is losing circulation in New York, a target rich environment for ad money. Regain some of that ad turf. This is not the time to get into social media distraction with the Huffington Post, an organization that has dreamed of such a frisson for years to cement their anti-establishment credibility (similarly, the John McCain campaign used a "war" with the Times to surmount skepticism from their right flank). This is feeding the beast.

In such a situation -- uniques be damned -- the Huffington Post wins. The Times gains nothing from social media turf battles on Twitter.

Straighten up and fly right.

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