Media Moves

Outgoing NY Times CEO Thompson says physical paper may end in 20 years

August 11, 2020

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Mark Thompson

The New York Times was founded in 1851 and now boasts more than 900,000 people subscribed to the print version of the newspaper. At the current subscriber levels, the paper could be printed seven days a week at a profit without a single advertisement, outgoing CEO Mark Thompson said.

However, as readers switch to online-only reading of the Times, a printed paper is clearly a dying form. This was also reflected in the fact that last quarter’s reporting saw digital revenue exceeding print revenue for the first time ever.

This is what Thompson says, reports CNBC:

“I believe the Times will definitely be printed for another 10 years and quite possibly another 15 years — maybe even slightly more than that. I would be very surprised if it’s printed in 20 years’ time.

“I’m skeptical about whether it will recover to where it was during 2019 levels. It was already in year-over-year decline for many years. I think that decline is probably inexorable.

“I think by 2016, we’d gotten our act together. We had a lot of digital expertise in the building. We’d decided we were subscription first and that we’d pivot the business not just from print to digital but from advertising dollars to subscription. And just at the level of product, customer journey and marketplace, we’d gotten a lot better. And so we were ready to take the opportunity when it arose.

“Clearly, a dramatic news cycle — just day after day, enormous stories and enormous headlines — clearly helps. Our societies have been torn apart by fundamental disruptive forces around social division, globalization, automation, climate change, mass immigration and so on. If you think one election result is going to solve those problems and the news is going to go back to a placid few months in 1958, I don’t believe it.

“After arguably decades of post-war stability, we’re now in this crazy period of uncertainty and tension and anger, and I don’t think the anger goes away. We know, I think, in advance, that the losers of the election in 2020, whoever they are, will not wish to believe the election was legitimate. The battle will go on, the noise will continue.”

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