Dear Mortimer Zuckerman:
When we here at Gawker Media learned that you were considering selling the New York Daily News, the venerable New York City tabloid newspaper you've owned since 1993, we immediately recognized a wonderful opportunity. I'll cut to the chase, Mort (can I call you Mort?): Gawker wants to buy your newspaper. And just to show you we're serious, here's five thousand dollars cash. Say the word, Mort, and the money's yours.
First, we'll explain how we decided on this sum. When you successfully purchased the New York Daily News in 1993 (whereupon you promptly fired a third of the staff, including every single black male in the newsroom), it cost you $36 million, but most of that was assumed liabilities and outstanding bills. Only $18 million was spent for the paper itself.
And circulation declines aren't the only woes to have befallen newspapers since you purchased yours. After rising through the nineties and the first few years of this century, ad revenues have fallen off a cliff, and digital ad revenues aren't growing anywhere near fast enough to make up the difference. Ad revenue is down around 35 percent, compared to 1993, for newspapers nationwide. So, adjusting for inflation, we're now down to around about $7 million.
But we can't determine the worth of a newspaper by past performance and revenue alone. Those trend lines aren't looking good, unfortunately. I don't have to tell you, a successful investor, that buying a paper is like buying any other asset: it has to be a good bet. And unfortunately, newspapers aren't the most attractive investment these days. Still, we love New York and we want the Daily News to be the feisty, populist paper of the people that this city needs. So even though we don't expect to make much money on this, we do want to give you a fair price.
For a barometer of what the Daily News is worth, we'd have to examine a newspaper that was purchased at around the same time, and then sold recently. As it happens, The New York Times Company bought the Boston Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993, and sold it for $70 million in 2013. So it turns out that newspapers are worth around 94 percent less now than they were in 1993. Which would mean the News is now worth about $1 million.
What a steal!
As a hopeful media mogul-to-be, I will be honest with you, Mort: We don't have $1 million in cash ready to hand over. And unfortunately, Gawker Media Operations wouldn't allow me to withdraw cash as a "prop." So here's our offer: We will pay you $1,000,000 for the New York Daily News, in $1,000 monthly increments, sent directly to you via Venmo. Or—and this is a serious but time-limited offer—we will give you this $5,000 in cash, which some of us Gawker staffers withdrew from our own accounts and will expense, right now. You can come pick it up at our office, if you like. Or we can even bring it directly to you, free of charge. I know that's less money overall, but it's available immediately, and maybe you have a big credit card bill or you need to pay the deposit on a new apartment or something?
That's not all. If you act now and take the cash, Mort, you will also receive—again, completely free of charge—a limited-edition Gawker Media hoodie and hat. (We only had XL left for the hoodie, but it will shrink in the wash.) We'll even throw in two Amazon gift cards worth $75 each — enough for a year of Amazon Prime and an Amazon Fire TV Stick — and two "scratch-off" lottery tickets worth two dollars each.
So, Mort, it's your call: lump sum—plus the entire gift package, valued at roughly $224—or installment plan? We'll be waiting for your response. Let's save journalism.
Special Projects Editor, Gawker Media
Photo: Nicholas Stango