Will Google Buy The New York Times?

Real Clear Markets is speculating that Google may purchase the New York Times. Although the odds of the Sulzbergers selling the publication are slim, their thesis caught our eye:

But as everyone knows, and the Sulzbergers know better than most, the game has changed. Classified advertising has been gutted by Craig’s List (and a thousand other web-sites). Department stores have consolidated and newspaper advertising budgets have consequently declined. The way people access information has fundamentally changed, thanks to the Internet. On and on it goes.

But perhaps the biggest change is that The New York Times is squarely in the cross-hairs of the aforementioned Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch recently acquired Dow Jones for $6 billion. He did not buy Dow Jones because of its growth potential. It’s a mature business, to say the least. He did not buy Dow Jones because he sees limitless growth opportunities in financial news and business information. It’s a crowded field. He bought Dow Jones so that he could own The Wall Street Journal. He intends to use The Wall Street Journal as a precision-targeted weapon. And the target he has locked onto is The New York Times.

The Sulzbergers understand this. The question they have to ask themselves, knowing that Mr. Murdoch intends to bleed them to death, is this: Can they afford to engage in this battle without a very deep-pocketed partner or do they sell the New England properties (The Boston Globe, NESN, The Boston Red Sox stake and the Worcester Star-Telegram) and use the proceeds to fund the counter-offensive? Given “young Arthur’s” tenure as Chairman and CEO of the enterprise, is there any evidence that he would deploy the proceeds from the sale of the New England properties in a manner that would thwart Mr. Murdoch’s siege.

Meanwhile, a writer at brother publication RealClearPolitics is exploring Murdoch’s likely strategy for challenging the Times:

Murdoch’s goal is to transform the Journal into a rival of the Times, and then surpass it, making the Journal the nation’s preeminent general interest newspaper. Given Murdoch’s history, zeal, resources and talents — all qualities sadly lacking in the fourth generation of Sulzbergers, as symbolized by Pinch — the Times will be toppled.

The downfall of the Times was almost pre-ordained once family members placed Pinch Sulzberger in control of the paper. He had no real world experience to prepare him to lead the Times. He had two brief sinecures working for other companies (he was a reporter with the Raleigh Times and the London correspondent for the Associated Press) before joining the family paper. Once he was “promoted” to be both the publisher and Chairman of the Board (duties that many believe should be divided between two people for ethical as well as business reasons), he was uniquely positioned to do double the damage to the paper. And damage he has done. Indeed, his greatest “accomplishment” seems to be his ability to drive the paper and his extended family fortune into the ground.

Although we feel that the RealClearPolitics analysis far undervalues Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and spends too much time focusing on the left-wing leanings of the paper’s op-ed pages, it does contain some interesting points in regard to Murdoch’s behavior patterns and the various behind-the-scenes factions at the Times. For that alone, it’s well worth reading.