Blood mixes well with ink

City Talk | Siu Sai-wo 16 Apr 2019

New York Times chief executive Mark Thompson stopped over in Hong Kong last week, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce invited him to be a lunch speaker at the China Club.

Thompson talked on a wide range of subjects, from Donald Trump to the UK's Brexit predicament. He touted too that The New York Times is paying a lot of attention to global warming and to 5G - two issues that might be among those that dominate the agenda of world development.

As an authoritative conventional media, the most-talked-about aspect of The New York Times is not its point of view on public affairs but how it has been rated as one of the most successful news organizations in adapting to the digital age.

Media scholars hailed its paywall as an industry standard, and since Thompson took the helm the firm's share price has surged from about US$8 (HK$62.40) to over US$30 this year.

After his speech on the newspaper's proud transformation, Thompson exchanged views with newspaper chiefs off stage.

Seven years ago, he said, the group was struggling with declines on all fronts - revenue, readership and circulation. It took a "bloody revolution" to turn the situation around.

Just how bloody was this revolution? To illustrate that point, he cited the basic figure that over 80 percent of the staff was replaced, with the sales and marketing section suffering the heaviest casualties.

To adapt to the new mode of operation, even editorial, considered the less impacted section of the company, underwent a 40-percent staff change.

Siu Sai-wo is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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