Playboy had pornography in a soft-focus way, along with a goodly number of real, interesting articles. The magazine was done in by market fragmentation. The dedicated porn readers were taken by the true hard-core porn magazines (of which Penthouse was a precursor). The soft-core people moved upscale a bit to the "Guy" magazines (FHM being a leader there). Political junkies moved on to hard-core political magazines which have become much more numerous and well written over the last few decades.
What the NY Times peddled was soft-focus liberalism along with "hard" news. We seem the same sort of defection. The hard-core liberals have shifted to media that's as hard-core as they are. Non-liberals have migrated to media that was more right wing and did as good a job (and nowadays better) at being authoritative. It seems to me that the NY Times has tried a different approach in shifting to be much more hard-core liberal while trying to maintain the image of objectivity. That's just not possible in the more media savy modern America and we are seeing the inevitable crash from trying.
I think that Americans today want their media more raw and unfiltered so that one can do the mixing oneself, rather than accepting what some effete snob in New York City thinks is the right mix. Of course, the rise of modern irony is a big factor in this and the NY Times was part of the cultural shift that made that more widespread. Is that ironic or is it fitting that an organization that aided and abetted the challengers of authority should itself be destroyed by the forces that unleashed? I'm not sure, but I do know that I am having far too much schadenfruede watching it all happen.