Legacy media showing signs of life

By Christopher B. Daly

David Carr has a worthwhile column today in the New York Times, making the point that many of the brand-name “legacy media” that were so recently written off are quietly staging a comeback. According to Carr, the dinosaurs are learning to dance. (In the final chapter of my book, COVERING AMERICA, I used a slightly different metaphor: I said the dinosaurs had to learn to ice skate!)

Here’s an excerpt:

In the last year, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up 13.4 percent, which was a significant advance, but legacy media giants like Comcast, News Corporation and Time Warner absolutely surpassed it in terms of share price.

Viacom, which has had serious ratings trouble with MTV and Nickelodeon, still managed to be up 16.1 percent on the year. We keep hearing how traditional networks are getting clobbered, but Viacom’s sibling, CBS, was up a whopping 40.2 percent.

News Corporation, despite being racked by scandal, was up 43 percent, and fellow global media conglomerates like Disney and Time Warner were up more than 32 percent. And Comcast, which has both the pipes and programming — cable and NBCUniversal — soared 57.6 percent.

One piece of data that Carr did not cite is the recent history of the market fortunes of his own employer, the New York Times Co. So, here it is:

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 12.18.06 PM


Turns out, the value of Times Co. stock has been on a roller-coaster track over the past 12 months. The company had a terrific six months, from May to October, during which the value of a share of NYTCo stock almost doubled. Somewhere around Halloween, the stock cratered, and it has been basically crawling sideways since then. So, the Times Co. experience does not fit Carr’s trend story. I would say that would be a good subject for him to take up next: why doesn’t the Times‘ journalistic excellence translate into financial success?

It’s an important question to answer, because without making money, the Times will not long be able to dance or ice skate. Like other dinosaurs, it will die out.



1 Comment

Filed under Journalism, New York Times

One response to “Legacy media showing signs of life

  1. I think it’s got a lot to do with monetization. I am not sure what the sales force structure is at The Times (in Canada they are actually unionized employees of the newspapers) — but you MUST HAVE a good sales team to communicate this sort of value proposition to advertisers (OK, I realize I’m drinking the marketing Kool-Aid, here). However, in the same way that a Burberry jacket or a BMW is a premium product, so too is The Times – and its readership. Agencies buy media on metrics but also on ‘brand compatibility.’ Now that I would love to see Carr write about.


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