Sulzberger Predicts the End of Print Newpapers

Posted on February 7, 2007

Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman and publisher of The New York TImes shocked just about everyone at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland when he said that he doesn't know if The Times will even be in print in five years. As media moves to the Internet, he's not sure print will even stick around.
Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years?

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," he says. Sulzberger is focusing on how to best manage the transition from print to Internet. "The Internet is a wonderful place to be, and we're leading there," he points out.

The Times, in fact, has doubled its online readership to 1.5 million a day to go along with its 1.1 million subscribers for the print edition. Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper. That will mark the end of the transition. It's a long journey, and there will be bumps on the road, says the man at the driving wheel, but he doesn't see a black void ahead. Asked if local papers have a future, Sulzberger points out that the New York Times is not a local paper, but rather a national one based in New York that enjoys more readers from outside, than within, the city.

Classifieds have long been a major source of income to the press, but the business is moving to the Internet. Sulzberger agrees, but what papers lose, Web sites gain. Media groups can develop their online advertising business, he explains. Also, because Internet advertising doesn't involve paper, ink and distribution, companies can earn the same amount of money even if it receives less advertising revenue.

Really? What about the costs of development and computerization?

"These costs aren't anywhere near what print costs," Sulzberger says. "The last time we made a major investment in print, it cost no less than $1 billion. Site development costs don't grow to that magnitude."
That's a pretty shocking statement coming from someone like Sulzberger. But it's in line with what other industry insiders are saying. Print newspapers will no longer exist one day -- which will save a lot of trees. Although it depresses people who love to read a morning paper with a cup of coffee.

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