Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New York Times: We're Not a Newspaper Company. Except That We Are Totally a Newspaper Company.

New York Times CEO Janet Robinson wants investors to know that her company is not all about newsprint. “I wouldn’t define us as a newspaper company,” she told the crowd at Goldman’s media conference this morning.

Instead, she says, she prefers to think of the publisher as as “multiplatform” brand. That’s the Web, the iPhone, the iPad, the iPad competitors we haven’t seen yet, etc.

Okay. Except that Robinson spent much of her remaining time this morning underscoring just how important the newspaper–as in, ink and paper–business is to the New York Times (NYT).

On multiple occasions, Robinson pointed out that the print business, which accounts for about 75 percent of the paper’s ad revenues (that number would be higher for overall revenue), isn’t going away. That seems obvious but for some reason needs repeating: “It’s very clear that our print business is a very profitable business, and we will be printing the New York Times for many many years to come.”

And Robinson repeatedly stressed that the Times’ upcoming digital paywall plans will focus intently on hanging on to print subscribers, and that valuable, direct relationship they have with the publisher. “We’re continuing to look at how we marry print and digital,” etc. etc.

What about those plans? Stay tuned, Robinson said–the paper will announce pricing and bundling options later this year. But as we’ve previously surmised, the pay plans won’t be specific to the Web, but will also include options for the paid iPad app the Times is working on, and perhaps for other devices.

Meanwhile, asked to comment about the Times’ relationship with Apple (AAPL) and its interest in an Apple-run newspaper subscription service, digital head Martin Nisenholtz did a masterful job of not saying anything conclusive. He did, however, note that:

  • The Times’ free iPad app is a big hit with advertisers, and that “we have no reason to be working iAds”–Apple’s in-house ad program–for that app. The Times does use iAds for its iPhone app, though. (I’ve found them to be quite buggy, by the way.)
  • Even though the Times sent developers to Cupertino prior to the iPad launch, and Nisenholtz got stage time with Steve Jobs during the launch event, the paper “[doesn’t] align ourselves” with any particular platform. And they’re very excited to see the new tablets running on Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) software.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work