Snow job: sick nasty shreddin' at The Times' website? Huh?

“OMG!” I thought. There, on the website of the Gray Lady — a moniker attached to The New York Times for its past penchant for words over photographs — was a headline I never expected to see:

Snowboard Videos: Send Us Your Tricks

“How dare The Times stoop to such pandering to an unseemly demographic,” I harrumphed. Snowboard tricks? In The Times? How could my principal source of serious news by serious people about serious issues and events sink to pandering to the fans of fakie? This is unthinkable.

Beginning Feb. 12, The Times will open a website to host these videos. But why on earth (or snow) would The Times want snowboard videos? I mean, gee whiz, this could amount to amateur night among the heathens. The Times does things right — you know, professionally done photography, video, graphics and other illustrations. What gives with wanting videos likely to be of goofy-footers eatin’ snow?

The Times needs money. That’s what gives.

Two and a half years ago, The Times had neared what some wags termed financial collapse. According to analyst Henry Blodget, in the short term The Times owed almost a half billion dollars more than it had in assets. A few months later, The Times decided to borrow $225 million against its interest in its brand-new headquarters. Those were tough “times.”

Today The Times reported that its fourth-quarter earnings more than tripled over a year ago. That does not mean, however, that New York Times Co., which owns its namesake paper, The Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune and 15 other daily newspapers, is making fat profits.

During that fourth quarter, The Times cut 8 percent of its newsroom staff. That, of course, saved money. Its advertising revenue saw its smallest decline — 14.7 percent — in a year, but that’s still a decline. According to the AP story: “Overall revenue fell 11.5 percent to $681 million, better than the $653 million expected by analysts.” But revenue — despite whacking personnel, a slightly improving economy and lower pension costs — continues to decline despite gains in online ad revenue. The Times continues to falter financially.

The Times over the past decade has removed so much talent from its newsroom, as have so many other American newspapers. It’s added responsibilities to those who remain — getting content on the website as well as managing content for mobile devices, for example.

These days, I read The Times mostly on my Blackberry. (And boy, does that surprise me.) But online and on mobile, each day I see evidence of erosion of the quality of The Times — editing errors, writing errors, failure to follow up on points made by sources, over-reliance on “official” sources, and so forth.

I love The Times. I have read it my entire life. Despite its increasing flaws, I still regard it as the best daily newspaper in America. But The Times no longer loves me. At 64 years old, I am no longer the demographic it desires to sell to advertisers. It you’ve seen The Times‘ television ads for its “weekender” subscription, it should be clear that the demographic The Times wants is far younger, with perhaps more disposable income, than me. (Fun link: See the parody ad.)

I keep waiting for the online edition of The Times to ask for videos of lawn bowling and shuffleboard, but I guess I’ll just have to keep dreaming.

Now, let’s go look at those shredder vids, eh, kids?

3 replies »

  1. Great piece, Denny.

    I am reminded of Groucho Marx’s response to VARIETY (sometime in the early 50’s, I think) when that publication suggested that the Marx Brothers should reunite because “they could make millions….”

    Groucho wrote, “You seem to think that the only thing that matters in life is money. You would be right.”

    Now, I’ve got to go – new powder here on the mountain and I need to do some shredding and get my trick for the TIMES worked out….

  2. “I love The Times. I have read it my entire life. Despite its increasing flaws, I still regard it as the best daily newspaper in America.” I

    also read the Times daily, although more often on my good ol’ fashioned macbook than my blackberry, although I find that happening more and more lately, too. Sadly, I have also noticed errors creeping in, the sort of sloppy stuff I would expect from my hometown paper. This displeases me.

    What downright angers me is the rumor-mongering spurred, if not outright perpetuated by the Times this week surrounding an as-yet unreleased profile on Governor Paterson. This is not what I expect of my newspaper. Heck, this is not what I expect from anything loftier than the Supermarket rag I scorn at the checkout counter. After this fiasco, whether an actual profile comes out or not, I’m seriously reconsidering my newspaper allegiance. Notes on a scandal, Dr. Denny?