In a post on Newsday’s own Business Beat blog, Thomas Maier quoted newspaper analyst John Morton as stating, “This deal gives the Post a significant advantage over the Daily News.” Without a hint of triumphalism for his possible soon-to-be employer’s good fortune, Mr. Maier further quoted Mr. Morton as saying, “It’s not a good day for the Daily News.”
The same day, up at the new Eighth Avenue headquarters of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was making his annual presentation to New York Times Company.
Just a bit over a minute into his presentation, Mr. Sulzberger Jr. began speaking about the company’s online products.
“These are impressive figures,” intoned Mr. Sulzberger, referring to the company’s Web income and traffic, “and they individually and collectively underscore the fact that the New York Times Company is in the midst of a successful and ongoing transformation.”
But the Web site accounts for just about 10 percent of the company’s income; the company posted a $335,000 loss in the first quarter. That was not an impressive figure. At that meeting, four new directors were elected to the board; one was Dawn Lepore, the CEO of drugstore.com.
The Times strategy in the overall newspaper decline has been to focus much of its new development on the Web; and similarly, conversations with Times reporters and editors about how they’ll compete with Mr. Murdoch’s new, general-interest Journal have recourse continually to The Times’ unchallenged reach on the Web in the region.
“Competing in the journalistic ferment of the Web has driven us to build a news website that draws phenomenal traffic, has great revenue growth, and consistently wins accolades from the people who hand out Web accolades,” wrote New York Times executive editor Bill Keller in an e-mail to The Observer earlier this week.
The Times is nearly ready to unfurl an expanded business report on its Web site. It’ll cover business and technology, and it’s hiring both outside and inside the paper to do it. The model, said Mr. Ingrassia, the former Journal guy who tried to chase down Mr. Brauchli at the Ritz-Carlton, is like DealBook, the site edited by Andrew Ross Sorkin that is a combination of aggregation and original reporting. And, unlike most of WSJ.com, it’s free without a subscription.
“We are looking for opportunities where we think areas of coverage we can beef up,” said Mr. Ingrassia on April 21, hours before Mr. Brauchli’s last supper. “Bring it on, bring on the competition!” he said.
“Is Murdoch’s strategy to become some version of the NYT?” asked Mr. Keller in his email. “I don’t really know. He’s sure welcome to try. But if I were him I’d be checking to see what WSJ readers think of that. His readers will determine whether he has made the Journal more or less valuable. And they will judge success based on what he delivers rather than PR spin.
“While we are muscling up in some areas of business coverage where we have had competitive success, especially on the Web, our strategy was never, and won’t be, to become the WSJ,” he added.
But: “I try not to underestimate any adversary, especially one who doesn’t mind if his properties lose money hand over fist.”
Mr. Sulzberger, by way of trumpeting the newspaper’s growth, said in an offhand comment that “NYTimes.com also ranked No. 1 in coverage of the greater N.Y. market, reaching 28 percent of adults. Our closest competitor, Newsday, reaches 16 percent.”
At press time, there were no further reports of Mr. Murdoch’s progress in the purchase of Newsday.
Additional reporting by Irina Aleksander, Matt Haber and Choire Sicha.