(March 24, 2019) Initially the spread of Internet media threatened The New York Times with obsolescence. Like newspapers everywhere, free-falling print advertising revenues were offset by only modest gains in online advertising, which had to be offered at much lower prices due to the characteristically lower reader response rate. Meanwhile the advent of Craigslist decimated classified advertising, which was the newspaper industry’s profit cornerstone. From 2005 onward the company announced a series of layoffs and employee buyouts that only ended in the first half of 2017.
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In order to offset the steady revenue decline, the newspaper created a paywall for unlimited access to its online version in March 2011. Although virtually no other newspaper had any success with an online paywall, The Times grew to 1.1 million subscribers five years later in March 2016. Less than three years (December 2018) later, online subscribers had tripled to 3.4 million. In comparison, subscribers to the newspaper’s print version presently total only about 1.0 million and have been steadily declining. Due to the robust online growth, however, The Times recently announced that it will increase per-subscriber fees later this year while also setting a goal to reach 10 million Internet subscribers by 2025.
According to an Esquire magazine article last week, The Times’s turnaround results from a Faustian bargain to abandon objective news coverage in exchange for financial success. Specifically, argues Esquire, in the manner of a demagogue The Times is pandering to President Trump’s critics in order to attract a mob of loyal subscribers by telling them only what they want to hear. It has become an echo chamber for confirmation bias, which has led critic Andrew Kalavan to routinely refer to The Times as “a former newspaper.” Thus, the newspaper hired and appointed Sarah Jeong to its editorial board, despite her public and shameless disdain for white males. As this chart shows, the newspaper’s online subscription growth accelerated during the 2016 presidential campaign. Even the company’s management confessedly refers to the acceleration that triggered the ensuing prosperity as the “Trump bump.”
From the perspective the Civil War, Esquire’s criticism explains The Times’s one-sided coverage of the controversies surrounding Confederate symbols during the past three years or so. Their articles have been consistently hostile to the Southern viewpoint. Even more significant is the newspaper’s intolerance of contrary opinions, which has contributed to a near total cultural censorship. Well reasoned letters-to-the-editor and Op-Ed submissions supporting such statues and flags are ignored. Simultaneously, expressions of hatred toward the supporters of the symbols are as obvious as cow patties on a snow bank among the authors and reader comments of such articles.
In contrast three open-mined Southern white males led the newspaper as Executive and Managing Editors during the pivotal 1960s when they put the paper’s influence behind the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They also supported feminism and other lasting liberal initiatives. Turner Catledge was a Mississippian while James “Scotty” Reston and Clifton Daniel were from North Carolina. But, as Drew Klavan might put it, that was back when The New York Times was a newspaper, and before it sold it soul to the Devil thereby transforming itself into “a former newspaper.”