Some of the News That's Fit to Print

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Because The New York Times' ( NYT) business is cataclysmically bad in two obvious areas, newspapers and rudderlessness, it's easy for the media to ignore two additional areas of concern. And ignore, they did.

First off, the reeling company trumpeted the prospect of a full-throttled comeback in the fading About.com division. Considering the competiveness of the field and other issues including changes in Google's search formula, the chance of a meaningful turnaround seems tenuous at best. Meanwhile, the Times is pouring money into the division, at a pace that will only increase as the year wears on. This is a big risk, but one all but ignored by most of the media.

In New York Times coverage of New York Times Company earnings, for example, they failed to make a single mention of About.com, much less touch upon its possible standing as a trapdoor. Instead, they stuck to the obvious: weakness in newspaper advertising and the current lack of a CEO.

Just as bad, The Wall Street Journal ( NWS), and most other media outlets, failed to offer up a caveat to the paid subscriber numbers the Times touted. The Times currently has well over 300,000 digital subscribers. Digital subscriptions have served the company well in that they have stemmed the pace of circulation cancellations. But how much good will it do past that? Traders can't be certain, because the Times does not tell us how many of those subscribers basically pay nothing (the 99 cent promotional rate) or have the digital subscription free, thanks to getting the paper delivered.

If they are adding new readers willing to pay decent rates, that's good. If not, it's not so good. That the Times refuses to breakdown the numbers is not a good sign, especially because they pulled just the same stunt more than a half decade ago to mask the poor condition of its Times Select paid-subscription policy. Those who ignore history are bound to--eh, you know the rest.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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