The Impossible Balancing Act

October 3, 2011 • Media Economics • by

Arthur J. Sulzberger

You certainly know Rupert Murdoch, but have you heard of Arthur J. Sulzberger?

Perhaps not, as his name is only well known among media industry insiders. Like many other newspaper publishers, he makes little effort to seek the public limelight. Sulzberger is the publisher of the family-controlled New York Times. In fact, his great, great grandfather was responsible for coining the “All the news that’s fit to print” slogan tucked into the upper left corner of the NYT masthead.

Only a few years ago Murdoch’s News Corp. swallowed the Wall Street Journal, turned it upside down, eliminated a few archaic tendencies and re-launched the paper. At the time, there was much speculation about whether the New York Times would have to deal with a dangerous competitor on its own turf. For a while, the “Grey Lady” – as Americans affectionately refer to the paper – was close to insolvency. Fortunately Mexican investor and TV-magnate Carlos Slim came to the rescue, investing $250 million dollars in the NYT.

Since then, the situation seems to have become less tense. The New York Times could, within a short time span, stand to generate 400,000 online users for their paywall-protected content. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has been suffering from reputational damage due to its Murdoch affiliation. Many years ago the Springer Company in Germany was forced to learn a similar lesson, and in short, it’s a difficult balancing act. That is, earning most of your money with yellow press trash while still attempting to maintain a role in the upper elite market of high quality newspapers. The credibility and dignity which the New York Times, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung have attained is simply difficult to match for papers belonging to larger media conglomerates.

Published in Die Furche, No. 39/2011, by Stephan Russ-Mohl

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