I calculate that the NYT’s paywall has pushed that paper past a critical milestone: Its total digital revenue more than covers the cost of its entire newsroom. That’s not good enough, obviously. News organizations have significant overhead costs like real estate, travel, and ad sales. But the paper’s 800,000 or so print subscribers paying $800 a year for the paper are a rich future source of digital subscriptions, and a good portion of its print advertisers would presumably make the transition with readers to an all-digital platform. Papers need new revenue streams to supplement ads and circulation, and they need investment to find them.
I totally agree that the WaPo must transform to survive. The question, of course, is how should it transform? More precisely: How can it do so while preserving what has made it great?
These are extremely difficult questions, but they’re made that much more so by the Post’s myopic insistence on handing more than a billion dollars to shareholders at a time of crisis.