N.Y. Times May Start a Daily Webcast. Watch Your Backs, Networks?

Print doesn't seem to have much of a future, even for an august brand like The New York Times. In fact, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has said he doesn't know how much longer a printed version of the paper will exist and likened the medium to the Titanic.

Might the Times (NYT) have a brighter future as a purveyor of video news? That's one option the company is exploring. Later this spring, the paper will launch a daily webcast, according to sources familiar with the planning. The show, which could debut as soon as a month from now, will be produced on the fourth floor of the Times's offices and air around lunchtime EST, when consumption of online video peaks.

Plenty of details remain to be determined, including who will be the primary face, or faces, of the webcast. "There's a feeling that our current person, Jane Bornemeier, isn't necessarily the best solution," says a reporter. (Bornemeier is a senior editor who produces TV and radio segments for nytimes.com.) The idea is to replace her with someone from the newsroom, but a candidate hasn't been chosen.

And there are bigger issues as well. "There's a great deal of tension about what kinds of video, if any, the Times should be producing," says the reporter. "I mean, should we be doing TV-style newscast things? Should we be doing reporter talking heads explaining their stories? Will anyone watch that? Should we be doing lengthy, expensive taped pieces that hardly anyone watches? It's quite a riddle."

Filling a Vacuum?

But it might also be quite an opportunity. One critic, Marion Meneker of The Big Money, believes the Times could step into the vacuum being created as traditional TV news operations like ABC News dramatically downsize their staffs. (The Wall Street Journal has been doing a twice-daily online newscast of its own, called The News Hub, since September.) Wrote Maneker:

The Times' 1,200 reporters turn up a lot of great people and stories. In the past, most television news -- and especially television talk shows -- have been booked after the producers read through the morning papers. If the Times were to create a news show, they'd cut out the middle man and book straight from their reporters' notebooks or their own op-ed pages.

Asked about the webcast plans, a Times spokeswoman responded: "We are exploring a variety of ways to build on our success in Web video but we don't have anything to announce or discuss now."
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