The Sulzberger family has had control of The New York Times for over a century and seems to always be in the middle of one controversy or another, and the financial troubles of the last ten years have threatened to take the famous publication out of existence. New York Magazine‘s Seth Mnookin did a full coverage history of Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and his legacy at the paper. The financial troubles began with the Internet and freedom of information, which suddenly begged for free news. This left magazines and newspapers in a complicated situation with revenue structure for their businesses.
Soon, the Times was seeing a double-digit decline on ad pages and circulation, and many predicted that the paper would fail. However, most of the lost revenue was made up for by changing the newsstand price from $1 to $2, and in March the paper launched its digital pay wall, which now seems to be working better than anyone had guessed it would.
Mnookin gives a lot of the credit to Sulzberger Jr. for keeping the paper afloat in tough times. He was signed on as publisher of the Times in 1992, at age 40, and followed in his dad’s footsteps. At the beginning, he was followed by skepticism about his qualifications for the position. Now that Sulzberger has survived, it seems as though he is surrounded by the death of one famous publication after the next. Sulzberger’s first priority, to transform the Times from a local paper with a national focus to a national paper with a local focus, was a good instinct.
The Times had to deal with the Internet, but Sulzberger caught on quick, and said to Mnookin that he wanted to reach all of the, “people we think have an affinity for the Times’ news organization who currently don’t read the Times, either because they can’t get access to it or they may not read it because they don’t read newspapers and they want to access that information [some other way].”
Though this was a decent goal, it did not help the relationships between the paper’s print and online staffs, which were still existing as separate entities since the founding of Times Company Digital in 1995 by Martin Nisenholtz. From early on, the site published great content and by 1999 the website had a database of more than 10 million registered users. Through all of the difficulties, Sulzberger still poured money into the web operation, and by 2008, nytimes.com, “had become one of the most impressive news sites on the planet.”