It's not uncommon these days for print journalism to be regarded as an entity headed for extinction. After all, there are numbers to support such a notion. Circulation is down, as are sales off newsstands, while the median income for print journalists is on a steep decline. After this weekend, however, came the atomic bomb of all statistics, with one of America's biggest giants in the newspaper industry meekly exchanging hands.
After purchasing The Boston Globe for a staggering $1.1 billion in 1993, a record amount back then, the New York Times Company sold the New England based paper to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry for a measly $70 million, a figure that means the Globe depreciated in value by over $1 billion.
The fact that such a reputable publication could plummet is no criticism against the Globe itself. The newspaper has continued its good work in Boston and has had four Pulitzer Prize winners in the past four years. Their fall from grace, at least financially, is indicative rather of where the print industry is now compared to where it was 20 years ago. And that's without considering the liabilities that the New York Times would still have to assume.
Taking those liabilities into account, however, the picture becomes even sadder as, even with the money generated from the sale of the Boston Globe ($70 million), The New York Times still won't make a profit against how much they owe in pensions to the Globe ($110 million).
But there is hope for the Globe at least to maintain its sovereignty, albeit without the enormous price tag it had in the 90s, as its new owner spoke with a tone that hinted at plans to keep the Globe strong for the long-term.
"This is a thriving, dynamic region that needs a strong, sustainable Boston Globe playing an integral role in the community's long-term future," said John Henry, who also owns English soccer team Liverpool, in a statement.
But while there is room for positivity in thinking about the Globe's future, there might not be any to spare when looking elsewhere in the industry after this weekend, during which another big journalistic name was humbled in a disheartening way.
Newsweek, once the second largest weekly news magazine behind Time, was sold for the second time in three years and just seven months after it printed its last hard copy edition in December 2012.
The New York based publication was first sold by the Washington Post Company in 2010 to Sidney Herman for $1 (not a typo) in an agreement that also included the acquisition of all Newsweek's liabilities, before merging with InterActiveCorp's (IAC) The Daily Beast. It was a deal so dissatisfying for IAC that its chairman couldn't help but address how useless it was to him in April.
"I wish I hadn't bought Newsweek," Barry Diller said in an interview with Bloomberg in April. "It was a mistake."
That "mistake" was taken off his hands this past weekend for an undisclosed amount by the International Business Times (IBT), which was founded in 2006 and seems more excited than Diller did to be taking on the publication.
"We are thrilled to welcome this iconic brand and global news property into our portfolio. We believe in the Newsweek brand and look forward to growing it, fully transformed to the digital age," Etienne Uzac, co-founder and chief executive officer of IBT Media, said in a statement.
All in all, though, both of the headlines provided by the sales of Boston Globe and Newsweek this weekend paint a very bleak picture of the world of print media. The industry's standards have dropped so low that one paper's value can decrease by $1 billion and still have a hopeful future, while another publication is forced to stopped printing altogether and must be taken exchanged between an unhappy owner and an online publication that is over 70 years younger.
Both stories are equally disheartening and both of them can be attributed to the expansion of online media because the math is really simple. Free online content ready at the touch of a button is a much more attractive proposition to Gen-Y than content that needs to be first located, then paid for.
That's just the way things are in this age, one during which we are witnessing the slow and painful death of print media.
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