Back in the day, everyone was going to spin out and go public, even the digital unit of the New York Times. Then the crash came. The press (that which even bothered to cover the sector, or was left standing) beat everyone about the head in a fit of schadenfreudian pique, and the game was called over.
Well, game’s on again. I’ve said this many times, and I will keep saying it. What happened in the late 90s was a warm up, and the main event is upon us. I hope we’re not headed back to the mania of that period, but certainly many – if not most – of the bets of that era are proving prescient, if not financially rewarding in the short term.
Case in point: The New York Times’ earnings, announced yesterday. In essence, the NYT’s digital business (NYTD), run for years (including the late 90s) by the remarkably adaptable Martin Nisenholtz, is the story of the day. The NYTD is now on an earnings run rate of $30 million a year, and it’s only going up. Were it not for the NYTD’s earnings doubling this past quarter, the entire NY Times Corp’s earnings would have stalled compared to last year. I am sure shareholders are quite pleased with Martin, and he deserves the credit. I’ve no idea if NYT execs wish they could have spun NYTD out, but I am quite sure they are pleased they stuck with it after the crash. They are only beginning to reap the rewards of that foresight. (Not many publishers had it.)
PS – The Times has Google to thank in part for these stellar results…. NYTD is one of Google’s premier AdWords clients.