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article imageThe New York Times exploring alternative business models

By Michael Krebs     Jul 19, 2009 in Business
The New York Times looks to survive the recession and climb out of the $1 billion in debt it now carries. The company grapples with charging for web access and using non-profit assistance models.
The future of The New York Times business model is being discussed openly with readers and among editors, as the newspaper struggles under a $1 billion debt. Selling assets is just part of the solution.
"Officials at the New York Times Co. acknowledge that they are considering whether to charge visitors to the NYTimes.com Web site for reading articles," NPR reported on Sunday. "And senior editors at The New York Times itself are also asking whether they should accept money from foundations to help underwrite the newsroom's prodigious journalism."
Charging for web access has long been a slippery slope, as web information consumers have become accustomed to advertising-supported access to content. NYTimes.com has twice charged for some content - and has been forced to abandon the model in both instances. The action infuriated many readers and limited the reach of the most well-known New York Times columnists.
"The Times newspaper appears better positioned than many of its peers to emerge strongly from the recession, in that it has a national reader and advertising base and because it has attempted to limit cuts to its editorial offerings," according to NPR. "But the Times Co. is carrying significant debt — which currently stands at about $1 billion. In fact, the debt is so significant that executives restructured a portion of it with loans that carry 14 percent interest rates."
Selling assets has also been an option for the New York Times. Most recently, they received $45 million for classical music radio station WQXR. They are also seeking a buyer for The Boston Globe. But $1 billion is a difficult figure to get away from.
So the Times is also considering soliciting money from non-profit organizations.
"We've begun to ask ourselves whether it would be possible to get the kind of support that NPR does from foundations for its journalism," Craig Whitney, an assistant managing editor at the Times, told Bill Mitchell, an analyst of economic models for the news business at the Poynter Institute.
Non-profit money injections for a for-profit publicly-traded company would certainly raise numerous questions. But as the recession bites more deeply at the newspaper company's foundations, more radical solutions will likely present themselves.
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