On Tuesday, the New York Times finally put the nail in the International Herald Tribune, the 125-year-old newspaper it snatched from joint ownership with the Washington Post in 2003.
The past ten years have not been kind to the IHT or the Times. Ad revenues continued their flight to Google, and they’re not coming back.
I don’t care if the newspaper is in structural decline, I’m sad to see the IHT go. It had something special, which the Times could never quite bring itself to see. To the folks in Manhattan, the IHT was just another crappy regional newspaper that Times Co. would have liked to milk for profit. Only the IHT was never profitable.
For every two pages management cut from the IHT’s print edition, NYT Co. saved 1 million euros per year. They pledged to keep the IHT at a stable, if thin, 20 pages, meaning they’re committed to losing 10 million euros a year on the international NYT, but for how long?
Sulzberger promises are like crocodile tears. Despite the massive value Arthur Jr. has destroyed at NYT Co., all he really cares about is the company’s share price, which means that if he thinks they’ll get a bump from shutting down the iNYT and ridding themselves forever of the French unions, they’ll do it.
I’m going to hazard a prediction: The iNYT will soon be web only, meaning the ex-IHT’s print edition will die. It’s going to happen within the next two years, and possibly as early as 2014.
But it will not happen before the NYT tries everything in its playbook to capture the IHT’s luxury advertisers, which are its only money maker. Those advertisers only stick with the IHT because of Suzy Menkes, one of the world’s great fashion journalists.
A couple weeks ago, the NYT ran a full-page Cartier ad that was exactly the same as an ad in the IHT. That’s the death knell. As soon as they feel they rounded up all the advertisers, the iNYT will be nothing but a web page.
Suzy Menkes was named international fashion editor of the NYT in May. That’s the bridge the Times is building to herd advertisers to New York. Guess what Suzy, you’re title is only as strong as the ads NYC doesn’t have yet.
What are some other signs that the NYT will shut down its European and international printing operations? It moved the IHT’s offices from a near suburb of Paris called Neuilly to a much more remote one called Puteaux last year. This had made life more difficult for everyone tied to the European newsroom. And making life more difficult for people is a great way to get them to quit, which is highly preferable to laying them off, under French law.
The NYT is building up a newsroom in London, moving editors there from Hong Kong and Paris. Anyone on a New York contract (as opposed to a French one) is being forced to go. They have more than half a dozen now, up from zero a little over a year ago.
Two strategic questions: Aren’t European advertisers paying for the print subscribers to the iNYT? And isn’t that readership relatively old and not very computer literate? What happens when you tell the advertisers they’ll be targeting Manhattan readers from now on? And what happens when you tell those readers sorry, that beautiful artifact we delivered to your yacht everyday is now available only online?
I’ll tell you what happens: The readers either subscribe to a real newspaper or they discover they can read online news for free. And when those readers disappear, so do the ads.
So congratulations, Arthur Jr., you just killed a beautiful paper, and you’ll have almost nothing to show for it.
There can be no true description of the stroem. Even naming it is a dubious and provisional affair. But not everyone will make the necessary pilgrimage, so I must try to briefly describe its undulations, and the effects its vision it produces in the beholder.
First you must imagine the backdrop, which is a black space, a great darkness whose limits cannot be defined, at the edges of which you find only infinity, diverse species of infinity that vary with the direction of your eyes.
Now picture a river flowing through space. It is uninhibited by gravity, and has no bed or banks. Still, the stroem is held together by an invisible force. Even while its flow is shaken and appears ready to fly apart, even as eddies flare at its edges, each current of the greater stream returns, and the river coheres.
At an origin far away, invisible, the river is being shaken. It is almost like a bundle of silken strings that move together in slow motion, like a whip along which a wave passes, but in fact the strings absorb endless waves, and the strings themselves are more than strings.
Each current is like the rain when it falls in ribbons, long planes that bend and twist. And they are more than ribbons. Ropes of burnished water with silken planes on many sides, whipping and curving and flirting with the blackness all around. Beneath their manifold surfaces, you dimly sense that other, more subtle, movements are taking place, the ephemeral traffic of water within water.
We just got this into the office, and we’re not at all concerned that Clemens is only sixteen in this photo.
Hey, Sam. Hey.
Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain c. 1851, when the author was just sixteen. This daguerreotype graces the cover of the second volume of Twain’s autobiography, which will be published on October 5, 2013.
flipping through a cardboard-paged book to my daughter today i realized the paradox of reading. each illustrated page feigns a depth it can never possess. likewise, words, though read diachronically, are all frozen together on the page, in a fixed state. This fixed state, a static thing, nevertheless produces the illusion that we are traveling through time. the prose is stuck while it seems to soar. of course this is only a paradox when you fuse the thing stored as a whole with the thing which is read in parts.
just as each line of code in a file is an instruction, which taken together form a list of instructions, so too each sentence in a story is a command sent to the mind of the reader. but unlike the computer, the reader can decide to stop reading at any moment, so the commands (each of which orders us to paint a picture, imagine a seen, hear a bit of dialogue) must be compelling. and compelling is more than an adjective for blurbs. it means something very precise. each compelling sentence bears hidden within it a question that the reader asks herself. the need to answer that question is what compels her to read the next line, and the next, and each line both answers the question of the line before, and poses another that will lead the reader on; the reader, who will soon be haunted by a large and constant question until the last page: what’s about to happen to these figments i have learned to care about?
from the living room’s children to join those gathered in the kitchen. they were pretending to have a better time. all the stools at the breakfast bar were taken, so he stood near the counter, and in his fingers slowly turned a spoon that had been left near the sink.
imagine you have given the computer a dynamic map of the world. it sense everything moving as everything moves, and it is aware of that interlacing motion from every point of view at once. is this not a new kind of consciousness?