Shakespeare coined the phrase "Much Ado About Nothing," which traders have reinterpreted today as "Much Ado About About."
The market has reacted in celebration, driving Times stock higher. Before it's driven straight off the lip of a cliff, though, let's back up for a moment.
To reappropriate Shakespeare again, the original claim that the Times' 2005 acquisition of the content farm was going to help save the Grey Lady was, of course, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Now they are unloading it at a big loss, if for a few thin dimes more than expected. This is all part of a larger process, in which the Times -- and other newspapers, from Gannett (GCI) to Washington Post (WPO) -- are in the process of selling off all their assets, essentially shutting themselves down on the installment plan. It is also part of a larger lesson when analyzing companies -- like Dell (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) -- which are trying to reinvent themselves, as they alternately buy and sell companies that are (or were) supposed to help.
Never take a million today for millions in losses tomorrow.
In the case of the Times, print advertising is freefalling and online efforts have provided nothing but false hope. With top line growth in the anemic low teens after a only year, the Times' latest pay wall efforts are mimicking the last one, Times Select, and will end in the same failed heap. With all that going on long-term, should traders really be falling for the prospect of a few million more in the short-run?
"Ambition," as Shakespeare once wrote, "should be made of sterner stuff."