The iPad Might Destroy the New York Times

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Forget the iPad as savior of the media industry; The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT  ) will be lucky if Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) newest toy doesn't destroy it.

Yesterday afternoon, Valleywag, a blog owned by Nick Denton's Gawker, reported infighting at Times Co.'s signature newspaper, The New York Times.

"On one side, a Times source explains, you have print circulation, which thinks it should control the iPad since it's just another way to distribute the paper. They'd like to charge $20 to $30 per month for the Times' forthcoming iPad app," Valleywag's Ryan Tate writes.

Hoo boy.

I'd love for the Times to be able to charge this much for a digital edition, given the widespread assault on ad revenue that's plagued not only New York Times Co. but also McClatchy (NYSE: MNI  ) , Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) , and magazine publishers such as TIME Inc., whose parent is Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) .

Trouble is, News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWS  ) , arguably the most effective company in the world at charging for digital editions, gets only $150 a year from me -- $12.50 per month -- for Web access to The Wall Street Journal and Barron's. I can't envision paying the Times twice that much, no matter how glossy the iPad's screen is.

Of course, we don't know for certain that there's infighting at The Times, but no one has denied Valleywag's report. My own calls and emails to New York Times Co. seeking comment on the accuracy of Valleywag's reporting hadn't been returned as of this writing.

Newspapers and magazines have only one responsible choice here. And Apple knows it, too. Here's hoping CEO Steve Jobs can talk some sense into executives who can't see the opportunity, and the threat, of failing to recognize the iPad for what it is: an enormous lifeboat. Because the only alternative is for these so-called media elite to jump overboard, conceding the digital advertising market to a horde of loosely connected blogs that lack their brand power. If that's the path they choose, I'll be there to short their downfall.

Should New York Times Co. bet its future on the iPad? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy wags Wall Street, not the other way around.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (10)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 5:20 PM, jnm47 wrote:

    the New York Times has no choice but betting its future on the iPad as it does not really have a future right now.

    I am a big fan of the NYT and thinks it is the best newspaper in America, but with both circulation and advertising revenue on a downtrend the NYT must do something radical or else might well disappear sooner or later. An iPad subscription around $15 a month, similar to the WSJ would be OK. Ipad edition should be free for any current subscriber as it will offer the NYT a chance to increase advertising revenues.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 5:28 PM, fchain911 wrote:

    the business of nyt is not the suscription rate, paper or digital, it's the advertising revenue....and that's the key issue...HOW the advertising currently placed on paper version will be placed digitally and WHO will charge for it...

    "that are the questions..."

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 5:36 PM, marv08 wrote:

    Print publications (the majority of them at least) will die. We know that since over 10 years. The NYT has failed for more than ten years to find a valid strategy, and now it is the iPad that is destroying it? Performing extreme unction is normally not considered the cause of death...

    I do not mind paying $20 or $30 per month myself. And if the WSJ/Barrons charges $12.50 then even $50 would be more than justified. Just, I am member of a minority in this scenario and denying that is pointless. I think they should offer custom packages (politics, sports, culture, international) and even single article downloads in addition to full subscriptions. People have to get a chance to re-develop the idea that content has a value, something the Internet has destroyed. If the paper is any good (and the NYT normally is), then people will see that a lot of individual cheap purchases, which made them happy, amount to something that will make $20-$30 seem more reasonable. Throwing a monolithic $30 offer into a sea of 99 Cent apps will fail.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2010, at 4:43 PM, ecommweb wrote:

    who really cares if a business that is really just about selling advertising space goes bust just because they blundered into a logical cul-de-sac.

    NYT and all the similar bloated and wasteful dinosaur media Co spewing gallons of ink onto acres of wood pulp and shoving at us the dozens of pages of words and opinions (and adverts) we don't want, bundled with the nuggets we do, deserve to become extinct. Let them go.

    The journos and opinion formers are the right scale for apps, not businesses the size of the NYT.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2010, at 8:46 PM, Bloefeld wrote:

    The NYT needs to get out of Manhatten if it want's to be a digital success.

    It needs to first be a paper that more people are interested in reading and secondly cut its costs to the point where people outside of Manhatten will be willing to pay anything at all for the digital edition.



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