Times to Sell Globe, or Are They Just Crying Wolf, Again?
The New York Times Co. said Wednesday it is looking to sell the country's 23rd largest newspaper, The Boston Globe, as well as "other New England properties." In addition to the Globe, which the Times bought in 1993 for $1.1 billion, the Times owns BostonGlobe.com, Boston.com, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Telegram.com and direct mail firm GlobeDirect. The Times also owns a 49 percent stake in Metro Boston, which is also up for sale.
The Times last said it would sell the Grey Lady in 2009, and had several suitors, but as all interested parties were uninterested in paying the Times' asking price (rumored to be $1.1 billion, ironically) the paper was taken off the block.
So, can we, or should we, believe them this time? Yes.
The Times has been aggressively cutting costs at the Globe since 2009, when it restructured many unions' contracts under the threat of closing the newspaper. Most recently (within the last two months) the Times sought an unlimited number of voluntary buyouts throughout its many managerial layers within the Boston offices.
Understanding the shrinking advertising opportunities in print advertising, the Times is looking to consolidate and pay closer attention to the media empire the company is building in New York, even though the Globe's circulation grew 12 percent since 2011.
In a statement, New York Times' CEO Mark Thompson said, the plan to sell the Globe "demonstrates our commitment to concentrate our strategic focus and investment on The New York Times brand and its journalism. Given the differences between these businesses and The New York Times, we believe that a sale is in the best long-term interests of these properties and the employees who work for them."
If you're reading into that statement, is the Times saying the Globe and other New England Media Group assets aren't up to par with the Times' exacting standards? Or is it saying the New England Media Group is too diverse and the Times is looking to simplify? As a former employee of the Globe, with many friends still working inside the Morrissey Boulevard plant, I'd hedge my bets on the Times thinking they're a step above.
In the two decades the Times has owned the Globe, the company has run the newspaper in a very uncharacteristically New England way. This has led to clashes with local and national advertisers, as well as alienating the paper's subscribers throughout New England.
Only time will tell who shows interest in buying the Globe, and ultimately ponies up the money to purchase it. Two of the three suitors in 2009 were invested heavily in New England. Hopefully, those parties are still around and still interested in taking ownership of one of the legendary newspapers of its time.
Sure it needs to be polished to restore the luster it once had, and it wouldn't be a bad thing to see the Herald and Globe get into an old-fashioned newspaper war again, even if it's through cyber journalism warfare. Competition is a good thing, and Boston is a better city with two competing newspapers.
Eventually the Times will take the deal that puts the most money back in its pockets, and understandably so, but the hope here is that they also consider an ownership group that wants to restore the publication to what it once was, a hard-hitting and vocal newpaper that had its finger on the pulse of this region.