Mark Thompson’s big unknown as NYT CEO: Revenue-building

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One of the biggest questions about the selection of Mark Thompson as CEO of The New York Times Co. is how he’ll help the company make money and build new revenue streams.

The main source of revenue at the BBC, where Thompson was director general, is an annual “license fee” of £145.50 per household. The New York Times’ sources of revenue are, well, voluntary. That’s going to be a big change for Thompson, according to The Daily Beast’s Peter Jukes:

Though he spent two years as the head of Channel 4, which relies on advertising for income, the channel is actually protected by legislation and has a public-service remit. No such protection is afforded to The New York Times, and all Thompson’s experiments will be tested by the hard metrics of the bottom line. Though his managerial and political skills will stand him in good stead with the paper’s empire and the Sulzberger family, it won’t necessarily generate new readers willing to fork out money for digital versions of the paper.

GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram is skeptical that Thompson will reinvent the Times’ business model, which he believes is necessary rather than “pinning all its hopes on a paywall.”

Could the NYT acquire something like Flipboard as a way of jump-starting its transition from being an information gatekeeper to being a digital curation machine? Possibly. But Mark Thompson doesn’t seem like the kind of CEO who would make that sort of bet. … The legendary paper doesn’t need someone to manage its business; it needs someone to reinvent it on a fairly fundamental level.

In an interview with WNYC, Ken Doctor said the Times opted for someone who knows what it’s like to change the culture of one of the most trusted news brands in the world.

But more than one person has noted that the BBC’s digital innovations resulted from others in the organization. That’s not necessarily a knock against Thompson, PaidContent’s Robert Andrews says.

Thompson is more a curator than a creator. He has been blessed to benefit from a natural pipeline of creativity, and has channeled that pipeline’s output effectively to tick all the policy boxes of the public institution he led. If Thompson can rely on similar digital throughput at NYT Co., he could repeat the trick.

Many leaders of large organisations occupy similar roles; such is the lot of a strategic CEO. It would just be misleading to cast Thompson as NYT Co.’s digital guru.

However, Doctor believes Thompson could help the Times expand its digital audience:

The global imperative is basic math. In Britain, Thompson served 1% of the world’s population. In the U.S., the Times serves 5%. The growth potential of both — especially in a world where close to a billion people can understand English — is huge. Out-of-country expansion, to gain new readers and advertisers, isn’t easy, but Thompson is one of the few potential CEOs who has it.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds disagrees:

This has historically been a money-losing area for both the Times (with the International Herald Tribune) and the Journal. Quality newspaper organizations in London and other European capitals typically lose serious amounts of money, even if they’re ahead of the curve on digital transformation like the Guardian.

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  • Wake up America!!

    Reuters, is this the same BBC Mark Thompson that was involved in a HUGE SCANDAL at the BBC in Feb. 2007? YOU BET IT IS, that’s the same dude that lied and deceived the public, a first for the once proud and mostly unbiased BBC! Now he’s taking over at the NYT as CEO, YIKES! More scum rises to the surface, funny how the lefty lib MSM trolls can conveniently ‘forget’ to mention this little tidbit of relevent information as to the direction the NYT will follow!?

  • Anonymous

    Stan Carey blogged a few months ago re ‘Scary quotes’……[re the BBC propensity to use scare quotes in headlines on its website. Does that mean Mark Thompson will bring this idea over to NYT? stay tuned. and be very very "scared"!]
    ”You’ve probably heard of scare quotes, well here’s scary quotes.
    [This] is an image from the BBC news website today. Note the scary phrases in quotation marks, aka inverted commas:
    Scary quotes commonly appear in headlines and subheadings. Some indicate reported speech or text, a common function of quotation marks; others paraphrase. They are a subset of claim quotes, an unofficial journalistic term for what Martyn Cornell describes as
    ”a shorthand way of saying “someone is making this claim and we neither give it authority nor dismiss it, we’re just reporting it”. Frequently what is inside these sorts of claim quotes is a paraphrase of what was actually said, to make it fit inside the headline space”
    Bombers, memory holes, vomiting and screaming: the defining feature of scary quotes is that their contents are scary. Visit BBC news any day, at any hour, and you might take fright. [Edit: On a visit an hour later, I saw 'rape', 'recession', and 'rhino gang' in scary quotes – and that's just the Rs, on the front page.]

  • Anonymous

    Geo Conger wrote: ”In my experience, the BBC does not “get religion”. I am not speaking of the reporters assigned to cover religion stories — they are a professional crew and are always worth reading. I find the problem with the BBC’s coverage arises when a religion angle appears in a non-religion story. More often than not the BBC is at sea when it comes to the faith. You can see this confusion in the BBC’s coverage of the death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya.
    The BBC story entitled “Cuba dissident ‘forced off road’ to death, says family” . re SCARE QUOTES in BBC headlines meme

  • Anonymous

    BBC ”bias” from Cuba
    GetReligion blog
    The BBC is notorious for using the meaningless and ill-coined scare quotes term and using scare quotes in its BBC headlines. Language Log …

  • Anonymous

    Serious question for students of “scare quotes” (scare quotes intended. The BBC website is known and has been known even over at Language Log where linguistics battle against such things, the BBC website is known as the worst place for showing off “scare quotes ” in HEADLINES, as in for example, POPE ‘APOLOGIZES’ FOR APOLOGY, etc etc, and with Mark now coming over to the NYT in November, does that mean that the front page of the NYT will now be grace by SCARE QUOTES galore? Wait and see….

  • Anonymous