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Outgoing NY Times CEO would be 'surprised' if newspaper still offered print version in 20 years

Outgoing NY Times CEO would be 'surprised' if newspaper still offered print version in 20 years
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Outgoing New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said he would be "surprised" if the newspaper still offered a print edition in 20 years, adding that he's skeptical if advertising will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I believe the Times will definitely be printed for another 10 years and quite possibly another 15 years — maybe even slightly more than that,” Thompson told CNBC’s "A View from the Top" on Monday. “I would be very surprised if it’s printed in 20 years’ time.”

Last week, the Times said its digital revenue exceeded print revenue for the first time in the second quarter amid the pandemic. The publication generated $185.5 million in revenue for digital subscriptions and ads, while print revenue taking in $175.4 million, per a quarterly earnings report, with Thompson calling it a "key milestone" at the time. Overall, print revenue was down 50 percent when compared to the same quarter last year.

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“I’m skeptical about whether it will recover to where it was during 2019 levels,” Thompson told CNBC, referring to advertising revenue. “It was already in year-over-year decline for many years. I think that decline is probably inexorable.”

The Times's executive editor, Dean Baquet, predicted last year that "most local newspapers are going to die in the next five years."

"The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news," Baquet said in May 2019. "I don't know what the answer is. Their economic model is gone. I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire."

"I’m not worried about Los Angeles and New York. I don’t know what the model is for covering the school boards in Newark, N.J. That makes me nervous,” he added.

The local newspaper industry has been plagued by layoffs in the digital era and several struggling publications have been sold to hedge fund-led entities.

Financial concerns have been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Times announced in July that Chief Operating Officer Meredith Kopit Levien would succeed Thompson as the company's new CEO.

She will begin as chief executive on Sept. 8.