So the New York Times is coming to Australia. This is part of a global drive to increase digital revenue to $800 million by 2020, in 2014 it was half that number. The New York Times has 1.2 million digital subscribers with combined digital and print subscriptions totaling 2.5 million. Its fastest growth is coming from outside of the United States.
And what will they offer Australia? To quote from Damien Cave, the Times’ Bureau Chief here:
“The New York Times is not planning to compete on local coverage, but to do the kind of in-depth reportage of issues that the New York Times does well. The reporters will be focusing on stories around immigration, multiculturalism, climate change and nature, popularism, global trade, arts and culture.“
So…… you’ll be Fairfax with the words ‘New York Times’ at the top then?
And herein lies the real problem with the Times’ expansion drive into Australia. Their ideological chums are already here and just about anyone who’s willing to pay for that ideology to be reinforced is already paying for it. But it gets worse. Over this entire mix is the 1.22 billion dollar ABC gorilla that ideologically dominates the media landscape. Anyone who wants to believe the biased drivel based ideology that the Times and Fairfax publish can get it all at my expense.
The early signs of what sort of contributions they’ll be after aren’t encouraging either. In October 2016 the Times ran an Opinion Piece by Waleed Aly who is probably the main candidate for the ‘Most Out of Touch Man in Australia’ award. Waleed’s opinion was about one of his favourite topics, how Australia is mean and nasty and treats asylum seekers meanly and nastily. He also complained about how most Australians don’t support his views on the subject and are mean and nasty. He relied on a ‘report’, from Amnesty International, the worlds leading bastion of fairness and impartiality when it comes to western liberal democracies. The report found that Australia was mean and nasty which was a total surprise I must say.
The whole affair was a perfect trinity of harmony, melody and pure ideology. The Times gave a platform to Waleed who stood on the shoulders of Amnesty International who all agreed. It was akin to a trio of burglars all agreeing that crime is a good thing, or a mob of bankers all agreeing that people being in debt is just dandy. World view reinforced, readership pandered to, pages filled, job done. Oh, and since Waleed is such an avid reader of Amnesty International reports I’ll look forward to his analysis of the ones they’ve produced about Saudi Arabia. Cue tumbleweed………
The New York Times generates more revenue from it’s subscribers than it does from advertising and ninety percent of its digital revenue comes from just 12 percent of its readers. That’s the Pareto Principle on steroids. This is a complete contradiction of the Times’ public facade and actual reach-reality. If you’re the newspaper of record and setting the standard, why is only a tiny fraction of the global public willing to actually pay for what you produce? Why is the domestic revenue stream so poor that your chosen option for growth is scouring the planet for ideology partners?
The answer is simply. When your focus is ideology rather than news, pandering rather than reporting, your options begin to narrow because your audience narrows until all you’re left with is true believers. And given the Times’ attempts at global expansion it looks like there’s precious few of them in the US. Briefly, here are two examples of how sad the levels of bias can go in the Times’ publishing.
On Jan 31 they posted one of the most ludicrous and pouty opinion pieces I’ve read in a long time. It was over the top even for them and made all the more ridiculous as it was from the Editorial Board which is essentially the voice and view of the organisation. In the most somber tones possible they elaborated on how the Republicans had “taken a Supreme Court seat hostage”! “For over a year” no less!
The faux outrage! Politicians are engaging in politics! Well I’ll be. Pathetic as this opening was it degenerates from there into bed wetting and essentially says nothing more than President Trump isn’t doing what they want and they don’t like it! So there! ‘Put in the nominee we want or else we’ll publish critical things about you!’
Then just when you think they can’t get any worse you see an opinion piece from David Brooks published this month that just takes it to a whole new level. Dave is kindly hoping for the President the gift of prudence and then fraternity which is great since the New York Times has those qualities in such large measure. But hey, Dave needs to pay the bills, so telling your target audience exactly what they want to hear in fancy french clothes is a living I suppose. His writings are an unsubstantiated piece of reasoning that exposes how David would like the world to be rather than how it really is, which kinda sums up the Times’ approach. For example in relation to the gift of prudence he writes:
“My basic thought was that a prudent President Trump wouldn’t spend his mornings angrily tweeting out his resentments. A prudent Trump wouldn’t spend his afternoons barking at foreign leaders and risking nuclear war”.
Of course nothing of the sort is the case, President Trump tweets directly to people since it allows him to bypass exactly the type of editing and revisionism that Brooks is indulging in. Risking nuclear war? What is this, the Daisy Girl ad? The Times’ really needs to find a new record to play, this one’s getting old and the music isn’t moving anyone anymore.
David Brooks’ commentary, like most of the New York Times’ political work, reminds me of the hilarious subtitling efforts by Clarkson on The Grand Tour. For those who haven’t seen it, Clarkson takes an idiotic car he made and shows it to members of Chelsea FC and asks them their opinion. In real life they’re commenting on what a piece of rubbish it is but Clarkson’s subtitles show how much they love it and would trade everything they have to own it. With Clarkson it’s side splitting, from the Times it’s excruciating.
With performances like these and having Waleed on board they’re sure to make a great impact in the Fairfax market, meet the expectations of the converted and impact precisely no one beyond that.