Henry Blodget on the New York Times

Remember Henry Blodget?  Back in the day, he was one of the chief internet stock pimps for Merrill Lynch.   In what might have been the biggest favor anyone ever did for him, the SEC took a dim view of some of his practices and granted him a non-optional, lifetime furlough from the stock research trade. 

Blodget is now a freelance writer.  The byline of his I read most recently was a terrifically long and shallow analysis (complete with entirely irrelevant biographical insertions) of the Wall Street meltdown in The Atlantic a couple of weeks ago.

Anyhow, Blodget most recently showed up on Silicon Alley Insider, offering sage advice to the NYTimes Co. management that they should cut 40% of their newsroom costs.  No friends, that’s not a misprint.

The problem is, Blodget is likely right–in approximately the way General Gradenko was “right” when he cut off his own arm in the sixth season of 24′”.   (Ironically, the General drowned rather than bleeding to death; the latter presumbably would have taken too long).   The Times has probably already squeezed all it can from its  production and distribution costs, at least all they can without emulating the Detroit Free Press by placing  their print paper in what is effectively orderly liquidation.  No, the  Times newsroom–which has suffered cuts already–is almost certainly due for another round, with or without the advice of Mr. Blodget.

But back to Blodget nonetheless.  If you didn’t like my tv metaphor, how ’bout one from dance?    Blodget is much like a pro bono management consultant who walks into NY City Ballet and says, “you make a lot of money on Swan Lake and The Nutcracker–you should only run those.  I never could follow those Balanchine things anyway–where’s the plot, for chrissake?  There, that was easy; what time is lunch?”   (Stuff like this actually happens in real life; ask any executive director whose board chairman has asked McKinsey to come over and help, “as a favor.”)

An open plea to the Sulzbergers:  although the NYT is an indispensable public institution, it’s a shitty business that will get nothing but shittier.  The fact that it used to be a great business with plenty of shekels left to go around for doing the public good–that, not the destruction of your advertising and subscriber bases by the interent–was a historical anomoly.  As I’ve been whining for some time or, in this space at least,  since this morning,  the NYTimes needs to be a non-profit 501c3, run exclusively for the public good.   And it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.


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