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NYTimes Not Sweating Wall Street Journal Fight, Reports NYTimes Reporter

Today, The New York Times published a story about the upcoming newspaper war between The Wall Street Journal and, uh, itself. The Journal is reportedly spending $15 million to develop a New York metro section to combat the Times. Can you guess who Times reporter Richard Perez Pena is betting on?

Basically everyone Pena talked to for his article, “Wall Street Journal Aims to Win Over The New York Times’s Local Audience,” thinks the Journal — and its parent company, Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp. — is crazy for picking a fight with the Times on New York metro coverage. Witness:

Sure enough, in the News Corporation’s planning discussions about the local New York section, the talk has been less about what The Journal would gain than about “killing The New York Times,” according to several people with direct knowledge of the preparations, who asked for anonymity to discuss what are supposed to be secret matters. “It’s not an economic decision,” one of them said.

“These guys could conceivably siphon off 10, 20 percent of the local retail ads The Times gets,” said a former executive of Dow Jones, the News Corporation unit that includes The Journal. “It’s not enough to kill The Times, but in this environment, every little bit hurts.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Times general manager downplayed any potential threat from the Journal, saying that the new section “presents a little short-term pressure.” Executive Editor Bill Keller also said he wasn’t sweating it.

TargetCast President Audrey Siegel, a media expert of sorts, said the Times might have to offer discounts and incentives but would not be forced to do anything drastic. Pena also quotes newsosaur Alan Mutter, who called Murdoch’s move into the Times’ space “an expensive ego trip.” Apparently Pena couldn’t find anyone who thinks the Journal‘s move is a smart one.

The article points out that Murdoch has been willing to lose tons of money in his efforts to bankrupt the competition. His New York Post famously loses an estimated $70 million a year as it battles against rival tabloid the Daily News.

For all of Pena’s indications that war with the Journal won’t be a problem, the Times sure has gone to notable lengths to remind everyone who the big dog is.

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