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Comments: Week of August 8, 2011


1. Readers of Seth Mnookin’s story on the New York Times (The Kingdom and the Paywall,” August 1) were mostly relieved to read that the paper of record was bouncing back from financial troubles. “The good news here is that it appears the Times is getting back on track,” wrote one commenter. “Their news organization and output are not in question. It’s still the best.” Other Times readers were heartened by the report, too, including Felix Salmon at Reuters. “My fingers are crossed: I was very much a skeptic with regard to the paywall experiment, but I’m extremely happy that it’s working, I’m a big fan of the NYT, and I sincerely hope it has found a predictable and dependable new revenue stream in the volatile and treacherous media business,” he wrote. “I’m particularly glad that the NYT has proved that a very porous paywall can work—one in which just about anybody online can read just about any NYT article for free very easily.” One reader compared the story favorably to a recent documentary about the newspaper: “This is what Page One should have been—a comprehensive, thorough look at the financial woes that recently plagued our nation’s newspaper of ­record.” Not everyone agreed that the newspaper was a success story, however. “If the NYT is in such great shape, why are its revenues sinking?” asked Jim Edwards at BNET, calling Mnookin’s enthusiastic account “premature”: “There is nothing in the NYT’s finances to suggest that the company is grappling successfully with the declines in its advertiser base, its paper circulation, or the macroeconomic switch to digital news publishing.” At Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, Don Irvine and Michael Watson agreed, noting the declining value of New York Times Company stock in 2011 and writing that the Times’ early repayment of its loans had less to do with the digital paywall than the sale of bonds and a portion of its shares of the Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox. “New York Magazine might prefer the Ochs-­Sulzberger monarchy and might think The Wall Street ­Journal, no longer owned by the Bancroft ­family, ‘has gone to seed,’ ” they write. ­“Unfortunately for Sulzberger, the ­markets are not nearly as convinced as New York is of the ­success of the Times’ new business model.”

2. Readers thought Jessica Pressler’s profile of Lloyd Blankfein, the embattled CEO of Goldman Sachs (“ ‘It’s Too Bad. And I Don’t Mean It’s Too Bad Like ‘Screw ’Em,’ ” August 1), was an entertaining read—not the usual response to a business profile. “If you haven’t already read it, this week’s New York Magazine profile of ‘misunderstood creature’ and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein by Jessica Pressler is many things, but most prominently: weirdly fun,” wrote Foster Kamer at the New York Observer website. At Business Insider, Katya Wachtel and Vincent Trivett chortled over the “previously unknown golden nuggets” about Blankfein contained in the piece. “We’re not big users of this acronym, but LOL,” Wachtel typed gleefully. Those less inclined to mock Goldman found the profile curious for other reasons. “For a firm which is notorious for its secrecy, offering time with your chief executive to a magazine whose previous parodies of the man [on] include superimposing his head on Julia Roberts and creating a fake Facebook feed—complete with a ­SuperPoke for journalist Matt Taibbi—might appear an odd choice,” wrote Matt Turner at the Financial News website. At his Economic Policy Journal blog, Robert Wenzel wrote that “the bigger story here is that the Blankfein profile was done at all. Blankfein isn’t the kind of guy that wants to waste time on nonsense like this. He must really think there is a chance he is going to lose his job. This was a ­desperate attempt to make Blankfein look human to the masses.”

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