Columbia Journalism School


The Future of Media, Publishing and Paid Content

April 11, 2011

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company, and Janet Robinson, president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, discussed the Times' new plan for charging readers on Tuesday, April 5 before a crowded Lecture Hall at Columbia Journalism School.

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Photo/John Smock

After an introduction from Dean Nicholas Lemann, Dean of Academic Affairs Bill Grueskin moderated the conversation with Sulzberger and Robinson. Grueskin began by asking how many people had signed up for full access to The New York Times' content behind their new pay wall – or, as Sulzberger and Robinson preferred to characterize it, their "digital pricing plan." Sulzberger declined to provide a figure, saying, "This is not about what's happening over the next month, or the next quarter, or even the next year… this is a longer term bet about where we think the digital world is going, because it's changing so fast."

Sulzberger and Robinson discussed the importance of creating a revenue stream from the growing digital reach of their content, while acknowledging that print is, and is expected to remain, a key element of The New York Times' business plan.

"The print product is continuing to be very strong and contributes a great deal to our profitability," Robinson said, "but as you see us now charge for digital subscription, and the advertising and the digital side increase, it is becoming a bigger part of what our business is and will be… We didn't make this decision to bolster print. We made this decision to create a new revenue stream that provides us with the opportunity to continue to invest in the journalism we produce each and every day."

Sulzberger and Robinson also addressed the debate around original reporting versus content aggregation, which recently made headlines when the Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, criticized the Huffington Post for doing so much aggregating. While acknowledging that the Times does some "curation" at times, Sulzberger said, "We believe at the core of what we do is original journalism, original reporting… Our commitment is to actually do journalism, to report things, to get sources, to check the sources, and when we make mistakes to own that and to correct them."

Read coverage of this event from The Daily Beast, Columbia Journalism Review and The New York Observer.

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