Not that it’s anything we think the New York Times Company should do, but we thought it was worth pointing out that it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.
Here’s how we did the math: According to the Times’s Q308 10-Q, the company spends $63 million per quarter on raw materials and $148 million on wages and benefits. We’ve heard the wages and benefits for just the newsroom are about $200 million per year. After multiplying the quarterly costs by four and subtracting that $200 million out, a rough estimate for the Times’s delivery costs would be $644 million per year.
The Kindle retails for $359. In a recent open letter, Times spokesperson Catherine Mathis wrote: “We have 830,000 loyal readers who have subscribed to The New York Times for more than two years.” Multiply those numbers together and you get $297 million — a little less than half as much as $644 million.
And here’s the thing: a source with knowledge of the real numbers tells us we’re so low in our estimate of the Times’s printing costs that we’re not even in the ballpark. Are we trying to say the the New York Times should force all its print subscribers onto the Kindle or else? No. That would kill ad revenues and also, not everyone loves the Kindle. What we’re trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn’t just expensive and inefficient; it’s laughably so.