Friday, 14 November 2008

New York Times Company to be bailed out by private investors?

I've been blogging for some time on the very real possibility of the NYT Company taking themselves private as part of some sort of philanthropic bailout by civic minded members of the great and the good of New York. No pressure to make vast profits, worry about shareholders etc.

Interestingly, this tongue in cheek piece from Businessweek, like any satire, has more than a grain of truth behind it.

The money won't come from government, but it may come from a group of very rich, liberal investors.

I wonder if the Family are working the dinner parties and putting out feelers to see if anyone is willing to throw their hat into the ring?

Media Centric November 13, 2008, 5:00PM EST

A Bailout Plan For U.S. Newspapers
A modest proposal for a lobbying campaign to save America's battered dailies
Jon Fine

TO: Senior executives at U.S. newspaper companies
FROM: Tongue & Cheek Lobbying Innovations LLC
The post-Election Day landscape brings great change for America and its governing philosophy, and this is why we must move quickly to craft a federal bailout for the newspaper industry.
I know from some previous discussions that not all of you agree. Unlike with banks, the collapse of American newspapers does not endanger the world's financial system. Unlike car companies, the newspaper industry does not lose billions of dollars each month. No matter. We can position this as a proactive move to save the only industry prominently mentioned in the Bill of Rights. (Our message team likes that last bit. You'll hear it a lot.) This industry employs over 52,000 journalists, thousands of other workers, and it faces unprecedented challenges. It takes more than a quadrennial sales spike from a closely watched election to save newspapers. Also, the bailout money is there, and—ask any struggling retailer or chain of hair salons soon to claim that they, too, are banks—it won't be there forever.
An Obama Administration will likely show little love for the workaday press, as a simple holler out to your reporters that covered his campaign will confirm. (If you still employ campaign reporters, that is.) But Barack Obama is a civic-minded man. He will appoint civic-minded staffers. They may not love reporters, but they grew up with newspapers. They won't want them to go away, especially since we will paint a news paradigm without papers as being dominated by Fox News and bloggers banging on spittle-flecked laptops.
Decades ago, legislation passed to allow joint operating agreements between competitive local papers, in order to preserve diverse editorial voices. Our mission today will be cast as preserving educational voices.
Two potential Newspaper Rescue Acts:
Debt Relief/Subsidization. The U.S. assumes all outstanding debt at all newspaper companies. At midyear that was $14 billion for the publicly traded players (excluding News Corp., which only owns two U.S. newspapers, but more on them later), $12.5 billion for the Tribune Co., plus more for other private players. The U.S. may take equity stakes in all companies, should the government deem this wise. This plan also includes a onetime sum to offset current revenue shortfalls. Newspapers took in $45 billion from advertising in '07; let's assume ad declines this year and next will total $15 billion. Cost: Around $45 billion.
Industry Digitization. Think of the "license fee" British households pay to the BBC. Government will subsidize Amazon's (
AMZN) Kindle (or equivalent device) and mandate that each household purchase one for $50. (Households below the poverty line will get one free.) This plan also provides several billion dollars to develop new digital news products, retrofit or dispose of obsolete assets (like printing presses), and roughly maintain existing newsroom staffs. Government again has the option to secure passive equity stakes. We will stress this plan's "green" aspects. Cost: Approximately $55 billion.
To paraphrase incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, never let a crisis go to waste—it allows you to do big things. Tongue & Cheek can guide the lobbying push essential for our mutual success, but we will require the participation of industry leaders who can navigate Washington with finesse and charm. In other words: Sam Zell, please stay home and tend to Tribune. (By the way, Tongue & Cheek has cultivated News Corp. (
NWS) executives. Having Rupert Murdoch on board will defang those who howl about liberal media bias.)
Should our proposals fail, we can still shake loose much low-hanging fruit. For starters, a special—and substantial—tax credit for daily newspapers, given our "educational" rebranding. Consumers' subscriptions will win tax-deductible status as well. I'm less certain than some of you that lifting laws preventing newspapers from owning radio or TV stations in the same market will fatten bottom lines. But here, too, a persuasion campaign can reap benefits.
I recognize some may perceive all this as an admission of defeat. But let's feel a sense of opportunity, not shame. And always remember how your business differs from the other supplicants. No newspaper ever bankrupted a country or peddled a product as patently putrid as the Pontiac Aztek.
Fine is BusinessWeek's MediaCentric columnist and Fine On Media blogger .

Meanwhile, how are those stocks doing?

Er, not too good. As of about 20 mintutes ago, here's the story.

New York Times Co
NYT on other Exchanges
7.49 USD Last
-0.47 -5.90% Change
687.4K Below Average Volume

Data as of November 14, 2008 13:27 exchange time. Market data is delayed by at least 20 minutes

That would be a 20% drop this week, with a low of $7.33 and a low of $7.44 this week. If there's ever a time to do this, it's now.

It's not a strategy for survival, it's not a business plan, even as a non-profit making foundation funded newspaper, but it would buy some much needed time for someone, please someone to come up with some ideas.

This ad recession is going to go into 2010, no doubt about it, and that means 2 years of agencies and clients finding cheaper and cheaper alternatives that work. I don't think there is a lender out there right now with that much patience or risk carefree.

People are talking about GM going bankcrupt. Well, wait till you see the Q4 earnings, then the 2009 Q1 and Q2 and need I go on......


"Books about cosmopolitan urbanites discovering the joys of country life are two a penny, but this one is worth a second glance. Walthew's vivid description of the moral stress induced by his job as a high-flying executive with the International Herald Tribune newspaper is worth the cover price alone…. Highly recommended."
The Oxford Times

'I read
A Place in My Country with absolute unalloyed delight. A glorious book.'
Jeremy Irons (actor)

‘Ian Walthew was a newspaper executive with a career that took him round the world, who one day did a mad thing. He saw a for-sale sign on a cottage in the Cotswolds, bought it, resigned and moved in. For the first few weeks he just lay on the grass in a daze. Then he started talking to his neighbours and digging into the rich history of this beautiful part of England. Out of his inquiries grew this affecting and inspiring memoir.What sets it apart from others of its ilk is the author’s enviable immunity to cliché and his determination to love his homeland better than he used to.
His elegiac account of relearning how to be an Englishman should be required reading for anyone who claims to know or love this country. Financial Times

For more reviews visit

No comments: