Saturday, January 04, 2003

Here's an article from Slate about the New York Times's buying the Washington Post's share of the International Herald Tribune. Those of us who have lived in Europe for a long time have a soft spot in our hearts for the old IHT. Until we all got computers between '95 and '97, we depended on the IHT for news from America. We got all the big news filtered through the Spanish perspective from La Vanguardia, El País, and either Spanish or Catalan TV. We didn't get the little news, though; if it wasn't something related to international affaris, a very important political initiative, or something sensational, the Spanish media didn't pick it up. So we depended on the IHT, which cost about four times what a local paper cost (so it was a fairly serious investment; Spanish daily papers have always cost the equivalent of a buck, two bucks if you consider purchasing-power parity. When I got here in '87 the Vanguardia cost 60 pesetas. Now it's a euro, 166 pesetas), for the baseball scores, what was up in Congress, the last thing the president said, the comic strips, the latest fads and trends, the reviews of whatever books were coming out, and what a lot of people bought it every day for, the market quotes.

I remember budgeting myself to buy it twice a week, back when I had a really crappy job. I also remember that, if you had one, you didn't toss it, you gave it to someone else when you were through. I distinctly remember rather pushily asking people if I could have theirs when they were finished--I've always been pretty generous but also pretty demanding, and I'm especially demanding for reading material. If you knew me personally, you'd always be lending me books. You'd always get them back, but sometimes not for like six months.

Anyway, though, when you got a computer you didn't need the IHT anymore. You got all that stuff and more off the Internet. Even when Internet was expensive, which it was over here in 1997, it was a lot cheaper than buying the IHT every day--and if what you were interested in was the stock quotes, the Internet could give them to you minute-by-minute. Suddenly we didn't need the IHT anymore. Now that hotels have Internet connections for their guests, you won't even have to buy it if you travel to another non-American city. I haven't bought the Herald Tribune since the very day I got my Internet connection.

The article from Slate said that the Times paid $70 million for the Post's share, and speculates that Howell Raines is going to put big money into the IHT. I think it's a rotten idea and that the Times is going to lose a ton of money, because the Net is going to knock the IHT out of business sooner or later. Why buy the IHT when you can get the Kansas City Star, Time, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Fox News, the Telegraph, the Washington Times, the New Republic, and everything else you want for free? And now that there are Internet cafés everywhere in the world, even in the fifth pine tree, even in Assboink, Idaho, where an hour of Internet surfing costs a dollar or two, who needs a thin sixteen-page paper with five or six pages of it taken up by ads and the market quotes? Sad day for the Times...wait, I hate the Times! And Howell Raines! And the whole Times staff except William Safire! Good. I hope they go broke on this big-time loser of an acquisition.

No comments: