The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are now in a full-blown pissing match over circulation. The name calling must be more comfortable for the newspapers than grappling with their real problems.
It all started Wednesday, when the Journal's managing editor, full of the sort of swagger Rupert Murdoch encourages at News Corp., took a victory lap for gains in copies sold to individuals ("the truest measure of readership") and in what people pay to read the Journal. In the process, he insinuated that some Times subscribers have suffered "brain death."
The Times blasted back that the Journal's growth has been due to discounted bundles of print and online subscriptions ($10 for the paper with an $89 online sign-up) and due to online-only sales. So the Journal's braggadocio was "strange," said a Times spokeswoman.
Now the Journal has sent us an email response (below) effectively stating — quite correctly — that if it has convinced people to send in money to read Journal content, the breakdown between print and online is unimportant (in this day and age especially). Besides, the Times is trying to sell digital subscriptions too, it just hasn't been nearly as successful.
Newspaper wars are an old tradition; they are one of the few types of competition the present generation of publishers have experience with. So this sort of petty feuding must be comforting, on some level, to both the Times and the Journal.
But the real threat is still online, in various corners of the internet. Name calling doesn't work so well there. These salty old media companies had better focus their aggression on innovation. No more circ memos!