The Times, it is a-changing

By , 7 September, 2008, 2 Comments

Today’s NYTimes announces that as of next month, the paper will eliminate some sections to cut production costs. The Times presses print four sections at a time, so the new model will fold New York regional news into the front National/International section and (from Tuesday to Friday), sports news into the Business section.

Such cost-cutting is hardly a strategy to revive a business, and the Times–like all newspapers in the digital age–is a struggling entity. Cutting costs creates short term advantages, sure, but it doesn’t protect those advantages: imagine if tomorrow, the Wall Street Journal found a way to go down from four to three sections? (Hint: split the Personal Finance content between the Investing and Marketplace departments).

Still the Times’ decision is a smart way to reduce costs. After all, the New York Times is a global paper of record, and the favorite of elites: its core expertise and brand power are in international and national coverage, and high-cultural commentary, not in folksy local news or sports coverage (which is most enjoyable when it’s written for a local audience anyway). With three regular sections (the front political/breaking news, Business and Arts) and some daily specials (like Science on Tuesdays and Dining on Wednesdays), the new New York Times feels about right.

As a reader who often chucks everything except the front, Business and Arts sections, I want the Times to take this policy a bit further. Other cuts I recommend:

-the asinine Thursday Styles section.Fold the better stories into the Sunday Styles section. Like local folksy news, fashion and entertainment news is out of sync with the Times’ cerebral brand, but on Sundays, even nerds like a little fluff.
–the Thursday House and Home design section. The Times is not Good Housekeeping.
–the Friday Escapes section, which can fold into Sunday Travel.
–the Friday Weekend Arts section, devoted to movie, theater and concert listings. We all get our listings online anyway.
–The weekend sports sections can fold into Business: just keep a separate sports edition on Monday, which is when most water cooler chatter happens anyway.
–the Sunday Automobile and Real Estate sections, which are spinoffs of the Business section. Fold them back in.

Anything else you guys would recommend?

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