Tag Archives: Arthur Sulzberger

Making GateHouse execs look like pikers

Check out some of these numbers at the New York Times Co., courtesy of the Boston Herald:

  • About $6 million in total compensation each for chairman Arthur Sulzberger (up more than 150 percent over 2008) and president Janet Robinson (up 32 percent).
  • About $2 million for former Boston Globe publisher Steven Ainsley.

Just for the heck of it, let’s assume Sulzberger and Robinson, in deference to their company’s problems, had decided to get by with a paltry $1 million apiece in 2009. Ainsley, too. That’s $11 million — or 55 percent of the $20 million in union givebacks the company extracted from the Globe’s unions. We are talking about three people.

No question the Globe needed to downsize and reinvest in new technologies. No question it couldn’t support nearly as many staff members as it had once employed.

But the bonuses show, in case there was any doubt, that the cuts in pay and benefits was, for management, a war of choice, not of necessity.

More from Editor & Publisher.

What does Times video campaign mean for the Globe?

Trying to figure out where the Boston Globe stands in the New York Times Co. firmament is a little like analyzing the ins and outs of the old Soviet Politburo based on their position on the podium during the May Day parade.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be struck by a story in today’s Times (it also appears in the Globe) reporting that Times content will soon be featured on 850 screens in public places in five cities — including Boston.

The content, according to the story, by Times media reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, will be shown on screens owned by RGM Networks in places such as coffee shops, casual restaurants and newsstands at airports.

Last year, of course, the Times Co. tried to sell the Globe after months of angst, including a threat to shut the paper down, if the paper’s unions wouldn’t agree to $20 million in givebacks. The sale was called off amid reports that neither of the two bidders was willing or perhaps able to come up with sufficient cash.

The Globe remains the Times Co.’s second-biggest paper. So you’d think that the company would avoid doing something that would benefit the Times at the expense of the Globe.

Not to make too much of this. It’s a modest venture, and it’s not as though the Times Co. never promotes its flagship in Boston. But it does play into the notion that, once the economy improves, Arthur Sulzberger and company will put the Globe on the market once again.

Quick thoughts on the Times’ pay-wall plan

The New York Times today made an important announcement that we will no doubt pick over closely in the weeks and months ahead. According to a memo from Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and president Janet Robinson, the paper will start charging for Web content in 2011.

Over the past year or two, it has become increasingly clear that advertising may never fully support the infrastructure of large newspaper Web sites. With huge chunks of classified advertising lost to Craigslist and with display advertising undermined by the decline of once-vibrant downtowns, newspaper executives have been struggling with ideas to persuade readers to pick up a larger share of the tab.

The Times’ plan is fairly nuanced, and parallels proposals being discussed by Steven Brill, the founder of Journalism Online. You would be allowed to access a certain number of articles per month (perhaps five or 10) for free. After that, you would have to pay. Access to the Web site would remain free for subscribers to the print edition.

Charging for Web-site access undermines the sharing culture of the Web, which is what gives it its value. Still, the Times’ plan is relatively benign. Bloggers who regularly link to and excerpt Times content will have the choice of paying up or going elsewhere. Blog readers will be able to click on a modest number of Times links for free.

Several years ago the Times tried charging for its opinion columnists and certain online-only features. The experiment was not a failure, but Sulzberger and company concluded they could earn more advertising revenue by returning to free access. The wheel turns, and it keeps turning.

My early prediction is that the Times’ metered-access plan will be no more than a limited success, and not easily emulated by other papers. The Times remains the gold standard of mainstream journalism, and a lot of people will be willing to pay for it. By contrast, a good regional paper like the Boston Globe must compete with a wide array of other local media. If the Web sites of local newspapers and radio and television stations remain free, readers may find that they’re not willing to pay for the Globe’s admittedly superior content.

The most promising route for newspapers to take is to charge for convenience (print, e-readers and smartphone editions) and community (special premium online content, member discounts, discussion forums and the like). Charging for basic Web access has proved to be a losing proposition in the past, and that’s likely to continue.

But it’s been clear for some months now that we were about to embark on another experiment in charging for Web content. At least it sounds like the Times is going about it the right way.

After tumult, status quo for the Times Co.

Downtown Worcester

Union Station, Worcester

With 2009 drawing to a close, it’s now possible to say something that would have been inconceivable six months ago: the New York Times Co. is still the owner of the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Was it all a dream? Starting last spring, and stretching well into the summer, there was nothing but tumult. First the Times Co. demanded — and ultimately got — $20 million in concessions from the Globe’s unions. The drama was high, as management threatened to shut down the paper if the unions refused to meet its demands, while the Boston Newspaper Guild — by far the largest union at the Globe — rejected one set of concessions before finally bowing to the inevitable.

Then the Times Co. put both papers on the market. And, for a while, it looked like a significant restoration was in the works. A group headed by former Globe executive Steve Taylor emerged as a leading would-be possible buyer for the Globe, and former T&G editor Harry Whitin looked like he might be moving into the publisher’s office at his old paper.

But Times Co. executives decided to hold on to the Globe. Then, yesterday, they announced that the T&G was no longer for sale, either.

No doubt the papers were pulled off the market for a variety of reasons, both good and bad. Costs are down, circulation revenue is up thanks to a hefty price increase and, overall, the financial picture at both papers appears to be brighter than it was a year ago. On the other hand, is there any doubt that both papers would have been sold if Arthur Sulzberger and company had been able to get what they considered to be a fair price?

With things more or less the same as they ever were, members of the community have a right to feel as though they’ve been jerked around. It would be a good idea if the Times Co. devoted 2010 to rebuilding the Globe’s and the T&G’s ties to the community.

Naming Chris Mayer to be the Globe’s next publisher (he’ll have responsibilities for the Telegram & Gazette as well) was a smart first step. He’s energetic, he’s rooted in Greater Boston and he seems far more likely to be a presence on the local scene than his recent predecessors have been.

But both papers have a long way to go if they are to recover from the wounds they’ve suffered — wounds that are largely characteristic of what the entire industry is going through, but some of which were self-inflicted. The best thing the Times Co. can do next year in these parts is to make itself invisible.

Photo (cc) by Bree Bailey and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.