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As a Newspaper Expert, He Makes a Great Cablecaster



Just back after a weeklong vacation, and I have a simple question: Does Jim Cramer have any idea what he's talking about?

My query comes courtesy of a buzzed-about column the former hedge fund manager-turned CNBC screamer has just penned for New York magazine about the New York Times. Noting that the storied newspaper is about to dump its stock tables to save space, funneling people to its Web site for stock info, he suggests they go one step further and junk the entire print version of the newspaper.

It's a bold idea. And it's advanced with few figures or financial analyses to back it up. Is this how he picked investments back in his hedge fund days?

A look at the NYT's recent earnings release provides some numbers to burst his bubble. According to their statements, the NYT Media Group, which admittedly includes the newspaper, its web site, a radio station and the International Herald Tribune, made $101-million in ad revenue in February., the web site whose success inspired Cramer's excited advice, made about $5-million that same month.

The New York Times has a staff of about 1,200, many of whom are considered the best journalists in the industry. I don't know how good the 500 contributors are to, but I bet they don't earn what the newspaper's writers do, or create the same amount of original content.

So if the NYT was to jettison its print edition, how would it make the kind of money needed to support its giant-sized newsroom? And without that newsroom, how does it generate the kind of comprehensive coverage which has become its core brand? And doesn't somebody who calls himself a business visionary have to float at least a few figures to back up such sweeping claims?

Apparently, not in Cramer-land. Let's hope the folks now leading the Gray Lady through its turbulent economic times are living in a different zip code.

NYT Stock Tables Going, Going Gone....

Cramer's rant does make one great point: the time for newspapers to eliminate their stock tables has long since come.

It's something the Newark Star ledger, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and many other newspapers are doing or have considered doing. At a time when rising newsprint prices are threatening an already constricted industry, elminating pages and pages of data that most serious investors already have at their fingertips online makes sense.

The NYT presented readers today with a fancy, two-page graphic explaining how to use their redesigned online portal to track stock tables more closely.
But newspapers have found their stock tables a bit like the sports reports on local TV news. They may only attract a fraction of the audience, but it's a vocal and advertiser-friendly fraction. Some newspaper which trimmed or eliminated such pages have found themselves forced to restore the cuts after reader protest. And with circulation sinking like a stone, the last thing papers should do is snark off loyal readers.

Unfortunately, as with so many changes newspapers are contemplating, the only way to find out how badly such a change will rile consumers is to make it, and weather the aftermath.

What I wonder: Does such a change make older readers -- who may not like the Internet or don't have access to it -- feel abandoned?

As always, feel free to let me know what you think here.

Couric to CBS Against All Reason?

Speculation about Katie Couric jumping ship to CBS continues at a fever pitch across the industry. TV Week reported this morning, the deal is all but finalized, expected to be announced today or later this week

CBS flacks say they have no press conferences scheduled for today and have no idea what the future days will bring. The only announcement they have provided is that weekend Early Show co-host Russ Mitchell will also take over anchoring the Sunday edition of the CBS Evening News.

This means two things: Russ, as we all knew, will not be the main anchor, and CBS is continuing network TV's time-honored tradition of parking promising anchors of color on the weekend shift.

I've already written about how a Couric move to CBS would be bad for her new home and her old one. Let's hope the Queen of All Media and CBS president Les Moonves know something I don't -- besides how much a Lambourghini costs.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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