Ev, that’s true. But I’m not sure if the Times has ever identified that the market is their problem.

The problem is one of peripheral perception, particularly coming from this idea that because Buzzfeed or Vox or whoever is x, y or z, that the Times needs to be that too, or die.

I don’t even really see them being in the same business. If they are, it’s only in fringe ways, in that they all endeavor to communicate through words or ‘content,’ if you will. The content of that ‘content,’ however, is not the same.

I can’t even say I’m the biggest fan of the Times, and while those other companies are trying to get into their game, as the Times is theirs, there’s still a pretty wide gap between what they all do.

Lumping them all together, as if they all practice the same thing, is where you start running into issues. Just because a company has an online product, and that product deals with eyeballs and attention, doesn’t mean it should be in the same conversation as everything else.

Nor should it be priced the same. I’m not going to take points away from the Times for saying, hey, we pay a lot to produce this stuff, maybe you should pay us for it? We should actually support that, rather than try to tear it down, so that the value across the board for efforts in that vein are seen in a more positive light (i.e. people get accustomed to paying for it).

But on the web, everyone is obsessed with scale while leadership often has trouble saying, okay you’re doing that, but we’re okay doing this. It’s more like, “Buzzfeed has 500 million uniques, we need to get 600 million!” It’s a dick-swinging contest and we need more companies to be like — you know what? I’m okay, my dick is cool the way it is.

In that sense, the Times, or any newspaper/media business, for what it’s worth, doesn’t need 600 million non-paying eyeballs to stay in business or even make money for that matter. It needs whatever it needs — I don’t know the number — to pay the $30 a month, or whatever it is, to keep their thing humming along.

But look, who knows what their real issues are? I’m not their accountant and I’m sure there are tons of things people aren’t thinking about when it comes to their business. Like pensions and expenses and all kinds of institutional stuff that is way out of my depth of expertise.

At the end of the day, I would just never fault anyone for asking people to pay for something. In media, we’ve walked around acting like our work has no value — take it for free, pay with your eyeballs! — when we both know it does. It’s not surprising that now, a decade into this, it gets treated that way. I don’t think dropping the cost to near zero is the answer to anything. Let the music industry lead the charge on that one.

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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