I can’t imagine many people were transfixed by the news last week that The New York Times bought out The Washington Post’s interest in the International Herald Tribune. But Peter Preston, a long-time editor of The Guardian and a perceptive observer of newspapers in general, reckons it seplls the death knell for the IHT.
Should anyone care? I’ve generally been in a minority in the circles in which I run in thinking the IHT is a poor excuse for a newspaper. In Switzerland, home of the World Economic Forum, a lot of bright people take it seriously and read it each morning in preference to the other English-language choices, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal Europe.
Before the easy availability of The New York Times (and The Washington Post) on the Web, this made some sort of sense. It was useful to keep up with Tom Friedman, and where else could you find the baseball scores? The punishingly early deadlines of the IHT meant Friedman, for example, was always a day after his NY appearance, and the box scores also usually lagged a day. Now, what’s the point?
Although Preston describes the circulation of 260,000 as vibrant, split across scores of countries it means that the IHT has little impact (from an advertiser’s perspective) in any particular market. The poor results demonstrate the problem: annual losses of $5 million on revenues 20 times that. I’ll be curious to see what happens to the paper under the sole ownership of the Times. I think they’ve missed the boat if they hope to build an international edition. But I’d be glad to be proved wrong.