Market fragmentation
Posted by aogThursday, 29 May 2003 at 18:38 TrackBack Ping URL
I wonder sometimes if the NY Times is suffering in a sense from the same forces that drove Playboy magazine into effect obscurity.

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.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Prentiss Riddle Friday, 30 May 2003 at 21:08

The problem with this analysis is that the Times isn’t in any trouble. Its circulation has done nothing but expand and it has become the American, and perhaps the world, newspaper of record. This despite all the criticism on the left and right.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 31 May 2003 at 08:05

My understanding is that the circulation of the NY Times is dropping, recent figures being in the neighborhood of 60,000 over the last six months. As for being the paper of record, that’s fading fast. Even The Guardian reports that of the people Jayson Blair misquoted, not one called in to complain and of those asked why not, they all said “It’s the NY Times. What do you expect?”. That’s not a paper of record. See here for more detail.

End of Discussion