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Friday, 13 May, 2011 3:46 PM

New York Times CEO says Detroit newspapers can benefit from paid online subscriptions

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

New York Times Co. President & CEO Janet L. Robinson addresses the media in Birmingham, Mich.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

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BIRMINGHAM, Mich. -- New York Times Co. President and CEO Janet L. Robinson said that The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News can benefit from paid online subscriptions similar to what the Times has implemented. She spoke to members of the Detroit Economic Club and the news media on Wednesday at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Mich. Robinson added that it was a good decision for the two Detroit papers to try out new delivery methods.

“We could not have even prepared [for the downturn],” the president and CEO said. “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. We have reinvented the company. Mature businesses have mature problems. We launched NYTimes.com and Boston.com in the mid-‘90s. Our first research and development lab opened in 2006. We invented apps for smart phones.”

Robinson believes that if readers should have to pay for the print edition, they should also have to pay for the digital edition. Over 100,000 people have signed up for the paid online subscription from mid-March to mid-April. The newspaper has seen a 40 percent increase in subscriber growth on devices such as the Kindle, Nook and the iPad.

“We will print a newspaper for a very, very long time,” she added. “We’ve seen an increase in home delivery orders as well. We’re seeing solid growth going forward that is above our expectations. We did extensive consumer research. It has helped our company advance and reposition itself. I think everyone should look at their own model in their own way.”

The New York Times Co. executive admitted she had to cut some staff and close some news bureaus. Two McClatchy Co. newspapers in suburban Kansas City are shutting down along with the elimination of two dozen jobs at The Kansas City Star. Robinson doesn’t think any more small newspapers will close or cut their staffs in the near future.

“I think newspapers are going to be alive and well for many years to come,” the president and CEO explained. “There is a very loyal audience to a print experience. The print experience is very different from an online experience. There are many newspapers that have done a wonderful job of not only their strong content offering, but really offering hyperlocal content that really serve their communities. Certainly, here in Detroit, that’s definitely the case.”

The Times uses a “metered model,” which allows users to read 20 articles for free per month. After that limit is reached, the user will see a pay wall, asking them to pay up to $20 per month. Home delivery subscribers are exempt from the pay wall. The pay wall now represents 28 percent of the newspaper’s annual revenue.

“We have had many kidnapping attempts,” Robinson said of her international reporting staff in Libya. “We demand they call the foreign desk. Good judgment is front and center. It’s wonderful to hear they were alive and well. These are truly great journalists. A lot of news organizations have cut back on foreign coverage. Our international coverage is a differentiating factor.”

The New York Times Co. also owns The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, others newspapers in the southern United States and a 17 percent stake in the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park and the Liverpool Football Club. In addition, it recently acquired About.com.

“The Red Sox have done quite well over the past decade,” the president and CEO explained. “We wanted our sports writers to get more visibility in that area. The New York Times keeps opinion on the editorial page. The standards are constantly reviewed.”

Robinson offered some advice for recent graduates of journalism who may be looking for their first jobs.

“You define yourself by competency,” she said. “Make sure to keep a book of clippings. Talk to everyone. Send your resume to small papers and large papers. Don’t be afraid to take a job below your grade level. Don’t be terribly picky.”

Janet L. Robinson has consistently been named one of Forbes’ list of 100 most powerful women in business. She is the first female president and CEO of the 160-year-old New York Times Co.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Detroit News Editor & Publisher Jonathan Wolman chats with Robinson before the start of the meeting.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Thomas Dekar of Deloitte LLP read the questions from the audience.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The D.E.C. meeting took place inside the beautiful Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Mich.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Some of the attendees from this meeting.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Detroit Economic Club President & CEO Beth Chappell welcomed everyone to the meeting.

 

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