Times Get Tougher At The New York Times

The New York Times Company suspended its dividend payments today. The struggling company had reduced the dividend to $.06 per share in November.

The reduced dividend payment would appear to signal some degree of desperation on the part of the company. It will save only $34.5 million a year which is a pittance given the size of its operation and the financial hurdles it faces. Its stock closed at $3.51 today which I believe is less than the cost of the Sunday paper in New York.

Personally, I find this quite distressing. I spend an exorbitant amount of time reading things online yet settling down with a newspaper in my hands is still my preferred method of absorbing the news. I know, I’m showing my age. Sorry. While I rarely agree with their politics I revere the Times heritage and news gathering and analysis capabilities. I don’t think that blogs and their brethren on the Web can replace the Times or other great newspapers.

I’m no great student of newspapers or the newspaper business so I don’t know how the industry came to these sets of circumstances. A couple of days ago I came across a really good journalism blog written by a professor at Arizona State University. His latest post concerned the reasons for the failure of the newspaper business as analyzed by his students. The name of the blog is McGuire on Media. Here is the link to the latest post. It makes for interesting reading even though the kids are analyzing everything with perfect hindsight.

I don’t know if the Times will survive or not and if it does what form that survival takes. For that matter, I don’t know if the entire industry survives in anything resembling its current shape. I do think that continuing to give content away for free on the Internet is a road that will only lead to the debasement of news and opinion. But I have no idea how you change that model.

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