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Are Job Cuts at the New York Times a Sign Print Newspapers Will Perish?

The New York Times announced last week that it plans to eliminate about 100 newsroom jobs and an unspecified number of positions from its business and editorial operations. The fledgling newspaper will offer buyouts and lay off workers who choose not to leave voluntarily. The cuts are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

According to Times executives, the reduction in its workforce is necessary to ensure its long-term viability and profitability. The number of job losses has mounted in the last five years as its total company employment has been lowered from 7,665 in 2009 to 3,529 in 2013.

“The job losses are necessary to control our costs and to allow us to continue to invest in the digital future of The New York Times, but we know that they will be painful both for the individuals affected and for their colleagues,” publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Chief Executive Mark Thompson said in a statement sent to staff.

Business analysts project that the newspaper will sooner or later meet its untimely demise.

“People who read the Times will pay anything, and they’re the high-income, high-education readers advertisers want to reach," said Ed Atorino, analyst with The Benchmark Company, in an interview with CNN Money. "But 100 less reporters means less content, by definition. Less content will eventually mean less demand. Sooner or later they will be bumping up against the laws of economics."

Shares for Times have also been on the decline this year from just over $17 per share in May down to under $12 this month, though news of job reductions gave the newspaper a slight increase in share price.

Is this another example of the death of the print industry or just failed adaptation and innovation?

With so many blogs, news publications and outlets to choose from on the Internet, the New York Times has dramatically suffered from the competition. For instance, the newspaper’s average weekday circulation reduced from 935,000 to just over 700,000 in a five-year time span. Its digital circulation has suffered the same fate: it jumped 13 percent at first, but its digital growth has since been curbed.

Media experts have asserted that the Times could have flourished if it followed the Wall Street Journal’s paywall business model earlier, a method whereby Internet users can only access a certain amount of articles for free per month and then they have to pay the paper if they wish to read more.

In the past couple of years, a growing number of conventional newspapers in the United States, Canada, Europe and elsewhere have adopted the paywall infrastructure, but many have proven unsuccessful.

Although many are quick to point to the Internet as the culprit for the death of the newspaper industry, a study released this past summer entitled “Trading Dollars for Dollars: The Price of Attention Online and Offline” found that there are three premises to consider: online revenues are lower than print revenues, the online advertising market is more competitive and the Internet is not the primary reason for the decline of the journalism industry.

Other newspapers that have embraced the web and/or paywalls are flourishing. The Wall Street Journal is doing well, BuzzFeed is expanding and the Huffington Post continues to perform at an admirable level. Despite the prevalent sentiment that newspapers are dying, billionaires seem to think otherwise.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett has been on a buying spree of newspapers, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry acquired the Boston Globe and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post.

Are print newspapers dead? We shall likely find the answer to this question in the next 10 years.


Photo by samchills via Flickr.

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