Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Slimmer CC Sabathia Means Business in 2011

Despite being the best pitcher on the most successful franchise in sports, CC Sabathia is underrated. The New York Yankees ace has won an American League-leading 40 baseball games the last two years while helping his team win the 2009 World Series. But each time, he got snubbed by voters for the Cy Young Award, which goes to the best pitcher in each major league. Cy Young voters seem to prefer pitchers who excel on lesser teams, as Sabathia did in 2007 when he won the award as a Cleveland Indian. The Yankees, with their major league-high $221 million payroll, are hardly underdogs. But Carsten Charles Sabathia — who prefers to be known as CC without the periods - seems determined to be more dominant in 2011 and beyond, whether he wins awards or not. During the winter break, the 6-foot-7 left-hander shed 25 pounds, from 315 to 290, he said, "by not eating Cap’n Crunch every day. I could eat a box at a time." Dropping that bad habit was smart. According to the product’s nutritional information, one box of the cereal contains 1,400 calories. Eating a boxful is equivalent to 10 tablespoons of sugar. Sabathia, 30, has also begun working with a personal trainer and a nutritionist. "This was just something to try to extend my career," he said. Sabathia, a four-time all-star, said he intends to lose more weight, which is fine with the Yankees because he has shown in two starts this season that he’s lost nothing off a fastball that consistently tops 90 miles per hour.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

NY Times Travels Pay-to-Read Route...Again

As an increasing number of people visit newspaper websites for their daily dose of information, they are forcing publishers to grapple with the metaphorical question, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times, is hopeful that his influential daily has found the solution to making money from the unique visitors to the newspaper's website who no longer buy the print product.

On March 17, the Times launched a metered pay-to-read system for its online readers in Canada. Eleven days later, the system went into effect for the rest of the Times's 20 million unique online readers worldwide.

The journalism industry and business analysts are watching closely. Newspapers sorely need to find a new revenue stream to compensate for advertising dollars lost to the Internet. Consumers can advertise goods and services for free on websites like Craigslist and eBay. That has had a devastating effect on print media. Since 2002, U.S. newspapers have suffered a 70 percent drop in advertising revenue--from $19.6 billion to $6 billion, according to Bloomberg Television.

The Times's pay-to-read system works as follows: A visitor to can access up to 20 articles, slideshows and videos for free each month. After that, the visitor will be charged on a sliding scale: $15 per month for web access and an iPad application; $20 per month for web access and an application for an iPad and other tablets; and $35 per month for access to all three platforms.

In a letter to Times readers, Sulzberger called the pay-to-read system "an investment in our future. It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to strengthen our ability to continue our journalistic mission as well as undertake digital innovations that will enable us to provide you with high-quality journalism on whatever device you choose."

This is not the Times's first attempt at a pay-to-read model for its online visitors. Several years ago, the Times discontinued a program called TimesSelect, which offered most online content free but asked readers to pay to read its popular columnists such as Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman.

TimesSelect led to a significant decline in the online readership of Dowd and Friedman, both Pulitzer Prize winner. Friedman, who specializes in global economic issues, told New York magazine, TimesSelect cost him virtually all his readers in China, and he rarely traveled to any country outside the U.S. without hearing from people who stopped reading him after the TimesSelect pay wall was erected.

The Wall Street Journal, a staunch competitor of the Times owned by News Corporation, offers readers some of its online content for free while charging a subscription fee for other content. But the Times's metered pay-to-read system closely mirrors that of the Financial Times.

If the Times's new model succeeds, surely other U.S. newspapers will follow the lead of the daily known as "The Gray Lady."

The New York Times Media Group owns more than a dozen other daily newspapers, including two of the three largest-circulation dailies in New England: The Boston Globe and The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester. The Times Media Group also owns 17 percent of New England Sports Ventures, whose holdings include the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park and New England Sports Network.

Perhaps the greatest risk to the Times' pay-to-read policy is readers could limit their use of Times content to 20 exposures a month and then go to other online news outlets that will remain free such as USA Today, Gannett's flagship newspaper, or such international news sources as Reuters, BBC, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and Al-Jazeera.

However, The Times is banking on reader loyalty toward its brand. Sulzberger believes readers who don't consider other news sources as accurate, authoritative or reliable as the Times will not object to paying for the online version.

"As you have seen during this recent period of extraordinary global news, the Times is uniquely positioned to keep you informed," Sulzberger wrote to his readers. "The launching of our digital subscription model will help ensure that we can provide you with the high-quality journalism and substantive analysis that you have come to expect from the Times."

Time as well as Times readers will tell if he is right.