Why are some people so eager to write The New York Times's (NYT) obituary?
Michael Wolff is positively kvelling today over Michael Hirschorn's declaration in The Atlantic Monthly that the Times could -- almost certainly won't, but just barely possibly could -- go out of business in four months' time.
"For so long, mine was the lonely and vilified voice saying that the New York Times was doomed -- vilified most hotly by people at the Times," he writes. "But the end of the New York Times has now become a conventional forecast....I don't know of anyone now -- at least anyone who isn't employed by the Times -- who believes that the business, as currently organized and managed, can survive."
Michael, meet Felix Salmon. Here's Felix's less dire prognosis: "I think it's pretty safe to say that the NYT is going to continue to exist in its present form for quite a long time yet."
While Wolff laces up his grave-dancing shoes, Felix and Poynter's Rick Edmonds point out some considerable flaws in Hirschorn's analysis. For one thing, while Hirschorn imagines that someone could come along and snap up the Times for a paltry $1 billion -- the bargain of the century compared to the $5 billion Rupert Murdoch (NWS) had to lay out for The Wall Street Journal -- that number is illusory: Notes Felix, "The NYT has two classes of stock, as Hirschorn knows full well: the secondary-market price of the non-voting stock can't simply be extrapolated to get the amount that someone would need to pay for voting control."
As for the idea of a May shut-down date, it's based on the expiration of one of the Times Co.'s two revolving $400 million credit lines. But, again, that fact has less significance than it might seem to on first blush, since the company to date has only drawn a total of $400 million between the two. And that's even before considering the cash it can raise by borrowing against its building and selling properties in Boston (albeit at depressed prices.)