Dec 3, 2008

Business - Murdoch Eyes N.Y. Times as its Website Thrives

David Weir

According to his biographer, Rupert Murdoch isn’t satisfied with owning the Wall Street Journal. He also has his eye on the struggling New York Times. Numerous sources have started covering the financial troubles at the Times in the past few days, so I’ll just leave it at this: Its stock price closed at $7.19/share today and its market cap sits at $1.03 billion.

It might be bought at a bargain price, because consider some of the upside. Unlike most major American dailies, the Times has moved aggressively this year to optimize its web operation (though the recent loss of its lead online exec, who left to take over NPR, may create an untimely void there.)

The results are impressive. According to NielsenOnline, the continued to lead all newspaper sites with 20.4 million uniques for October. That’s more than twice the traffic reaching Murdoch’s, for example. One sour note: the Times’ rate of growth in traffic is slower than for its four nearest competitors.

In addition, although time on site (TOS) for the industry as a whole declined in October (year over year), at the Times it increased 14.3 percent to ~40 minutes average TOS per person.

Clearly, with print advertising revenue declining rapidly, the Times, like other papers, needs to implement radical structural changes, including many more layoffs, in the short term. But, once it restructures, and focuses its efforts around its website, the company could well be the crown jewel in any media mogul’s treasure chest.

Here are the uniques for the top five newspaper websites in October. 20,348,000 12,375,000 11,381,000
LA 9,644,000 8,910,000

(Source: Nielsen Online.)

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