The New York Times announced today that it had finally managed to unload the Boston Globe and its New England Media Group to the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry, for the not-so-princely sum of $70 million. Considering that the Times paid $1.1 billion for the Globe in 1993 and that analysts were expecting the Globe to fetch as much as $180 million, this is pretty much a fire sale price.A critical detail glossed over in the Times‘ own coverage but helpfully highlighted by the FT:
Under Mr Henry’s deal for the Globe and other assets, he will not assume the newspaper’s pension liabilities, The New York Times reported. Those liabilities are reportedly estimated at about $110m.“Without that concession, the sales price would be significantly lower,” said Ken Doctor, a media industry analyst.
The NYT story briefly mentions that it would hold on to the pensions liabilities, but doesn’t state the amount of the burden explicitly—a nice bit of cocoon-spinning by its staff for its readers. Nothing to see here!The truth is that Times staffers are experiencing the break up of the blue social model in their own lives. Already a lot of jobs have been lost, and it is likely that more will have to go before a smaller and leaner company finally emerges.The good news for the Times is that with this sale behind it, it can focus on what is working for it. Their online product has become much stronger, and their circulation and online revenues are up (though by not enough to offset the ad revenue decline, yet).Still, with Newsweek disappearing off newsstands, the Globe having lost more than 90% of its value since its purchase, the LA Times on the auction block and the NYT scrounging under the couch pillows for change, CBS off Time Warner in New York to little public concern (inconceivable in the days of Walter Cronkite), the most obvious fact today about the MSM is that it is shrinking. It may have a good ways to go yet before it’s down to a workable size.[Erika Cross / Shutterstock.com]