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The Future of News: 14 Years Ago

By - March 20, 2009

The Neiman Journalism Lab has gotten its hands on a forum with the Publisher of the NYT and the-then Editor of Digital for Time Inc., in which they struggle with the question of how the Interwebs were going to impact their print biz.

It’s fascinating reading.

From the overview, written by Zachary Seward:

But the transcript is also notable for how little distance some of these debates have traveled in the intervening years. Time Inc. is, in fact, still experimenting with online subscription models, and The New York Times Co. is still trying to figure out how to make money on the Internet.

Many terms of the debate, meanwhile, had already been set by 1995: Sulzberger indicated awareness that online competition would force newspapers to focus on unique and and in-depth reporting over easily replicable content. And he was already calculating, albeit with highly optimistic figures, the production savings in moving away from print.

The most significant difference between this conference and so many similar summits being held today was a lack of urgency. The Times had recently struck a deal to make its content available to users of America Online and planned — with a hesitancy that seems poignant in retrospect — to post every front-page article on the Internet for free. The Times Co. and Time Inc. still had thriving business models for their print products, and no one was prepared, as Clay Shirky wrote last week, to think “the unthinkable.” Sulzberger was forthrightly uncertain about the Internet’s implications for his business but at the same time, blindly confident.

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One thought on “The Future of News: 14 Years Ago

  1. Fascinating and still relevant. Sulzberger was winning in that he “recognized long before most that only unique content would have a chance of selling on the web…”

    Almost as fascinating and somewhat frightening? ’95 was 14 years ago.