Janet Robinson, former CEO of The New York Times Company, received over $21 million upon her departure, a solid 40 percent more than previously thought according to Bloomberg. In a report about the paper of record's leadership woes sounds, reporters Edmund Lee and John Heyler paint a bleak portrait of the company. As one source (described as a "person, who wouldn’t be named because the matter is private"), The Times "faces a leadership vacuum."
As Lee and Helyer explain:
The departure comes as Times Co. struggles with a slide in traditional print revenue on top of pension and interest costs that leave little to invest in its future. Last year, about 70 percent of its estimated $237 million operating profit went to pension contributions and interest costs, compared with 19 percent in 2007, according to company statements.
That sounds a little sensationalistic, but we've been reporting on the head-scratching math problem that The Times' buyouts and CEO-ousting raise. It's hard to imagine a company that's supposedly in dire financial straits can justify spending nearly $25 million (Robinson's payout plus the recent buyouts) to get rid of 14 jobs. Bloomberg's report goes on to detail how The Times "is projected to report revenue for last year of $2.33 billion, a 2.7 percent decline from 2010… the sixth year in a row of sliding sales." Says one consultant, "It’s a disturbing trend, and it does call into question the long-term viability of the company." But didn't The Times recently install a paywall to help boost revenue? Once again, emphasis ours:
The so-called paywall, which went up in March, has bolstered advertising and lifted paying digital subscribers to 324,000 as of the end of September. Still, the effort hasn't been enough to offset the drop in print advertising. … "The sword that's hanging over the neck of the next CEO is the death spiral of print advertising," [media analyst Ken] Doctor said. "That's the challenge."
It's not news that print advertising is a problematic source of revenue for media companies, but mixed into details about Times owner Arthur J. Sulzberger cavorting about Europe and not hiring a new CEO, the grizzly-sounding quote makes Bloomberg's report feel a little like a hit piece. After all, Bloomberg is one of these new media companies from which The Times is defending its market share. We're left to believe that the paper is in real trouble, but as it continues to produce top-notch journalism, it seems unlikely that this so-called leadership vacuum will last very long.
It's long been known that The Times is in a period of transition, and time will tell how well this works out for their bottom line. New media companies are sprouting up practically every day and attempt to woo advertisers away from the paper. It was reported earlier this week that the U.K. Daily Mail eclipsed The Times's website in traffic for the first time, bumping the Grey Lady down to number two. But who knows: The Times's digital transition could work, those buyouts could totally pay off and Sulzberger could take a nice vacation. In the meantime, we're sure to see more condemning reports about the state of the paper.
Bloomberg is booming, by the way.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.