New York Times sets out global ambitions

New York Times sets out global ambitions

The US has its own national newspaper, USA Today, but the Gannett-owned title struggles to wield any kind of influence.

The real opinion-formers are a handful of regional titles with a reputation that stretches far beyond the cities in which they are published. They include The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Of those, The New York Times is the only one with
genuinely national distribution - the only one, apart from the more niche financial title the Wall Street Journal, that you can pick up anywhere from Idaho to Indiana. It began the push outside of its home state a decade ago.

Editorially, the product is on a roll and is already very outward-looking - surprisingly so to anyone with preconceptions of the insularity of the average American. But The New York Times last week showed just how far beyond the limits of the city's five boroughs its ambitions really lie.

After several months of bitter negotiations, The New York Times has nailed down a deal to acquire the 50%
of the International Herald Tribune that it didn't
already own.

This agreement ended a partnership with the Washington Post stretching back to 1967, which saw the two newspapers each contributing copy to the title.

The Tribune was launched in 1887 as a means for
Americans abroad to keep up with events back home and currently has a circulation of about 264,000, spread across dozens of countries. Some 40% of those sales are bulks to hotels or airlines. More Europeans than ex-pat Americans read the title, which is put together in Paris.

The sale gained much coverage in the US, where the Tribune is still viewed in the same romantic fashion as the French capital.

The commercial prospects of the title, venerable though it is, are hardly awe-inspiring - the paper currently loses $5m (£3.2m) a year. And yet The New York Times played hardball.

The deal was said to have been the result of some
brutal negotiations. The Washington Post didn't want to sell and made that apparent when the transaction was announced - it described the sale in bitter terms.

"This decision was made with great reluctance and
little choice,"  said an e-mail to staff from Don Graham, who runs the Post.

The New York Times had offered to buy the 50%, but the Post didn't want to sell.

In response, The New York Times threatened to launch a competing international edition and cut off funding to the loss-making Tribune.

The deal raises questions of what next for the Washington Post, best known for breaking the Watergate scandal. Editorially, it has a broad influence, but commercially it is still wedged into the District of Columbia.

The New York Times paid around $75m (£48m) for the remaining stake in the Tribune and will not be happy to let the title just bubble along. "Now, more than ever, the International Herald Tribune becomes our international print voice," said the Times. For that, read "the International Herald Tribune is not long for this world".

Welcome to the International New York Times.

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