Being a marketer by trade, I tend to see everything through the prism of marketing. To me, the recent article by the New York Times that revealed classified details about our efforts to uncover the banking connections that sustain global terrorism can only be explained as a marketing effort.
If you haven't seen it yet, Hugh Hewitt, Powerline, the National Review and Instapundit all have excellent summaries of the subject.
The New York Times is in a steep dive. Its circulation is dropping, its stock price is dropping, its gross income is flat and its net profits are declining 5-10% per year. All of this in the middle of an economic boom.
On its surface, the most recent article uncovering classified information doesn't make any sense at all. For one thing, it's an article about banking. Other than business types like myself, banking articles are MEGO articles. (My Eyes Glazed Over.) It doesn't break any new ground at all. The administration said repeatedly that it was working to roll up Al Qaeda's financial network. There is no question that it is legal to do so. The NYT article simply publicisized the classified details of a legal program that was known to exist.
In exchange for this, the risk of government court action is very real. Knowingly revealing classified information is a crime, plain and simple. The fact that the NYT was repeatedly requested by the government not to reveal these secrets condemns it further. Why would you print such an article?
I suggest that the NYT is hoping, praying, begging the Bush administration to take them to court. That stock price drop is no fluke. The NYT is an uncompetitive product. Unless they change consumers' attitudes, their revenue will continue to drop.
People who see all sources of information as equally good will, in time, drop those that cost money. I no longer subscribe to any newspapers at all. I can get everything I want on the Internet for free. The NYT has to make clear it's value proposition to the consumer. My bet is that they are positioning themselves as being the only news media large enough to uncover government scandals. They are appealing to the fear that in their absence, government agencies will run wild with corruption and deceit. The San Diego Union is currently running just such an ad campaign.
The New York Times does not have an efficient advertising channel to get this concept in front of the public quickly and easily. If the Bush administration takes them to court, the entire country will have it propped up in front of them day and night until well after the trial is over. All of the usual suspects will rally to their defense. The ACLU, the MSM news channels, other newspapers and the Democratic Party will broadcast that concept morning, noon and night. In one fell swoop, the NYT will execute a marketing campaign that it hopes will change consumer sentiment.
In order for the NYT and the other newspapers to survive, they have to change the public's perception from this:
"If I don't support big media, I will still be able to get my information from other sources without cost"
"If I don't support big media, there will be no one left to watch the government and all of my civil liberties will slowly erode away."
I can't think of any other reason to have printed that article.
Update: Thanks for the link, Anchoress! For those of you stopping by, please have a click around. I've had a really fun week blogging and I think you might like some of it.
Update 2: Zounds! An Instalanche and a Powerlinelanche! I'm not worthy! Thank you both. If you're visiting for the first time, please have a click around. We do posts on business, religion, cats, humor and politics. If you have a sudden twitch in your hand and accidentally click on the left hand column, I won't hold it against you. :-)
Update 6/26/06: Follow up post here.
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