All my life I wanted to own a newspaper. I thought it was a fabulous way to reach people and make a lot of money. I was wrong.
In this morning's
New York Times
, there is an amazing article about
The New York Daily News
and the troubles it is facing.
I wouldn't wish those troubles on my worst enemy. The problem is not the newsroom, where the people at the
seem as good, if not better, than any other newsroom. The problem is getting that newspaper to you. First, presses cost a fortune. The paper needed to print costs a fortune. The ability to print color costs a fortune. The trucks needed to take the paper to the depots costs a fortune. The people who print it, bundle it, stuff it and drive it to the delivery people cost a fortune, and the people who put it on your driveway cost a fortune.
Is there any wonder why the stock market values the dot-coms so highly and the Old World Printing and Delivering Companies (that is what they are, basically) so lowly? How much would you pay for Old World Printing and Scribing Company post
? Not much, I am afraid.
It gets worse. If the people who own the
were listening to Meg Whitman's
conference call last week they would be shaking. The most lucrative part of a daily newspaper is the classifieds. Right now the big drawback to Web classifieds -- which is what eBay is -- remains the inability to match up buyers and sellers of bigger items. I don't feel like bidding on that '65 Mustang in Encino when I live in New Jersey. I can't get it. I can't go pick it up. The owner isn't going to mail it to me.
That's why the
Los Angeles Times
still gets that '65 Mustang classified. But now eBay is going to do regional editions of its classifieds. That means I would rather list my Mustang with eBay than with the
. There goes that business.
There will still be display ads and they can be lucrative for newspapers. But how much longer will they stay with these shrinking companies? I can't believe, when everyone is online and checking with
has agreed to buy, that we won't see a wholesale shift of movie ads from newspapers to Web sites.
There goes that business.
Sports and financial news, we already know, go better on line because it can be updated more timely. Do you really think that once the execs of the ad agencies wake up and get online that those who advertise against sports and business will stick with the dailies? Is there really that much ad money around that it will stay with these dinosaurs? So what is left? There is the front section. That always has a few advertisers in it. Some metro news and the obituaries.
Hey, great business.
Right now my musings may seem nuts to you. But believe me, when I read about the problems the
has, I think, talk about nuts, I mean, what kind of business spends all of its money trying to get the product to you instead of making the product better for you?
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long America Online and eBay, although positions can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at