Looking ahead, there's little doubt that newspapers face rather uncertain future. The painful changes brought on by the internet have been exacerbated by some really foolish decisions on the part of the industry. Of all of the newspapers, perhaps none has been more visible in its struggles than the New York Times. Not only is the company doing poorly from a financial standpoint, but its strategy of locking up its best content behind a paywall has proven to be a disappointment. At the recent World Economic Forum, the company's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, sat down for an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, during which he discusses, with surprising candor, the future of the paper (via Threadwatch). On the surface, it sounds like Sulzberger is prepared to do what it takes to embrace the internet. He said that he doesn't know or care whether the company will still be publishing a print edition in five years, but that the company's current mission won't be complete until the last print edition is printed. He also recognizes that newspapers should be able to benefit from the economics of the internet, noting how little it costs to publish online, compared to print. But at the same time, it sounds like Sulzberger is still basically a believer in the TimesSelect model, as he insisted that in the future all readers will have to pay to read the Times online. As for why readers would opt to pay to read the Times, when there are so many sources of news out there, he said the paper can be a trusted "curator" of the news. Ultimately, the impression one gets from reading the interview is that the Times is happy to embrace the internet, so long as it's on its own terms, and the core business model remains the same. It still wants to get paid the same way, and it hopes that its 155 years of history as the paper of record will allow it remain a trusted source of news. Cast in this light, the rhetoric about one day abandoning the print edition doesn't really sound so radical.
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