Wall Street Journal vs. NY Times fight will go 3 rounds and end in a knockout 8/13/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
Ladies and gentlemen. In this corner, hailing from the undisputed champion NY Times, is Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr., son of the legendary and aptly named former Times publisher, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger. And, in the opposite corner, his challenger, representing the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and looking surprisingly nimble for his 76 years, Rupert Murdoch. Good luck, and may the best man win in this battle to control the national conversation.
Round One: At the bell, Pinch gets up from his stool slowly, having had a difficult training season. The share price of the NY Times is half what it was 5 years ago, and its bond rating has dropped to ‘BBB,’ just 2 levels above ‘junk.’ He closed a now unneeded, state-of-the-art, 15-year-old printing plant, and sold-off highly profitable TV broadcasting properties for cash. His classified ad revenues are down 13%, and retail ad revenues off by 15%. He was also caught-up in a brawl with investor Morgan Stanley, which has been organizing a stockholder revolt to seize control of the franchise from Pinch’s family members. All of this stress has caused Pinch to lose weight, with the paper now trimmed by 1 1/2 inches to reduce expenses. Meanwhile, Rupert is bouncing up-and-down like a kangaroo from his native Australia, going through a series of fakes — first acting like his main interest is the new Fox Business Channel, then a beefed-up financial section, then a fake move to the right as if to lure conservative readers. But he never lays a glove on his opponent, and seems satisfied watching Pinch wear himself out. The crowd, thirsty for blood and immediate action, boos.
Round Two: Rupert leaps to his feet and immediately begins a series of punches. A right jab, then another, then another, in a move reminiscent of his Fox News Channel launch days. He is adding news stories to the WSJ that make Democrats look bad, clearly signaling to his conservative fans that the WSJ is willing to take the fight to the former Vietnam war protester. Then, Murdoch lets out a flurry of punches that appeal to all newspaper fans, and it’s unclear whether they are coming from the right or left. There’s the addition of some liberal columnists and sensationalism, in the tradition of Fox News’ hiring of Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren. He’s even started to publish photos of celebrity “knockouts,” some of which are just as attractive as Fox’s female news anchors. A punch-drunk Pinch is now up against the ropes. He seems disoriented and confused, and pleads with the FCC and FTC regulators who are refereeing the fight, claiming that he is being hit below the belt by moves that fall outside the rules of journalism. But the refs issue no warnings to the challenger, and the fight continues. Blood is starting to pour from a gash just below Pinch’s sense of entitlement.
Round Three: Now that Rupert has built a better, more competitive WSJ that can take-on the NY Times in quality and customer satisfaction, he makes his boldest move yet. By dropping the price of the WSJ by two-thirds to 50¢, he attracts large numbers of Times readers to try his superior new paper, while applying enormous financial pressure to the Times — a paper which now costs more than twice as much. Pinch staggers and falls onto the mat, while nervous stockholders try to convince him to send in another member of the Sulzberger heir tag team. Pinch waves them off, gets to his feet, then stumbles right into the waiting fist of Rupert, who slugs him with sharply reduced advertising rates. Pinch falls backwards and lands flat on his back. The fight is called. A new champion is crowned. The Sulzberger dynasty is over.