Monday, May 08, 2006

NY Times ditches daily stock quotes

The decision by the New York Times (implemented in early April 2006) to eliminate daily stock quotes is another indication of the tough space daily newspapers find themselves in these days. Coming out once a day is not often enough to break news or provide the kind of up-to-the-minute information many news junkies (and investors) now require and can get from electronic media. But coming out once a day is too frequent to give readers the kind of analysis and perspective -- and fact-checking and accuracy -- they expect from newspapers.

The NY Times is not the first to make this move. The LA Times and several other big-city dailies have already made the adjustment, because few people now read the end-of-the-day quotes delivered to their homes at a time too late to do them any good. By the time most serious investors see the morning paper, their computers have already given them closing quotes on the stocks they care about. And broadcast media are already reporting overseas market numbers -- including Dow futures contracts, which are a relatively reliable indicator for how the market will open in the coming day.

James Cramer, in the April 10, 2006 New York Magazine, said that the entire paper should go on-line. He believes that for the amount of money the Times spends to print and distribute the paper, they could build a world-class portal -- to compete with Yahoo! and Google -- and still retain their new-gathering franchise. It's an interesting idea, and that day may come, but it's also important to remember that Cramer made his money running a hedge fund, not running a media company.

For now, I think we won't see daily papers go away, but we will see their importance -- and their revenue and profit numbers -- diminish for the next decade or so.