Politico is a niche publication––as is this one, although their niche is probably a lot larger and more lucrative than mine. Nonetheless, the way Politico succeeds is that they focus on the niche market, the niche beat, and they report the hell out of it. Their stories have edge, they're sexy. Take a look:

Ostensibly, the story is the same in all three, but which would you rather read?

And that's the thing, the business model matters. Monetization matters. But clearly the problem goes deeper than that. It seems that they just don't get that they are now competing with the likes of Politico, HuffPo, etc. and that they need to change not just their business model but how they tell stories.

Let's be honest here: the old guard is getting their asses kicked by a bunch of startups.

Here's what Bill Keller, the NYT's top dog, said about the Most Emailed List:

I admit that I started out somewhat prudish about the Most-E-Mailed
list. I worried that important, original, in-depth work that happened
not to be buzzy would become wallflowers at the prom, that popularity
would become a substitute for quality. I've lightened up a little. The
list is still not the ultimate measure of good journalism, but it's
I think it sometimes directs people to great stories they might
otherwise have missed. And — perhaps in a reflection of the seriously
curious readers of this paper — a lot of important work, including
long investigative projects, makes the list.

Now let's compare this with what the head honchos at Politico wrote:

Stories need to be both illuminating and interesting––we don't have the luxury of running stories folks won't click on or spend several minutes with in the paper.

a)    Would this be a "most emailed" story?

b)    Would I read this story if I hadn't written it?

c)    Would my mother read this story?

d)    Would a blogger be inspired to post on this story?


Hmm. If this was all you knew about these news organizations, whose news would you rather consume?

Storytelling matters. Competition matters. Not convinced? See the New York Times Co.'s share price:

As the folks at Politico so aptly put it:

This is a Darwinian business. People are not looking for MORE to read. They need to NEED and WANT each individual story in Politico. If they don't, we will not capture the eyeballs and mindshare that we must have to thrive in this brutal environment.

That, my friends, is the essence of what you call marketing. It's not a journalism precept or something they teach at Columbia, but perhaps the first principle of all business: The customer is always right.

As my man Peter Drucker explained:

The greatest danger of the new venture is to "know better" than the customer what the product is or should be, how it should be bought, or what it should be used for…

Businesses are not paid to reform customers. They are paid to satisfy customers.

Oh, how many newspapers, how many journos still need to learn this most basic of lessons! But at least one outfit seems to have taken it to heart.