Michael Winerip announced today that the New York Times' 18-month-old blog/section devoted to Boomers was being shut down so that the Times could "free up resources for other new ventures." Needless to say, the loyal readership was unanimously and loudly disappointed.
So what do we think? First, let's address the irony that the Boomer generation, at 70+ million, a large chunk of the market for content in general, and for the NYT in particular, has been essentially flipped-off by the NYT editors. One would think that the last generation to want to read a printed newspaper (and pay for it) would be the one core audience that the Times would want to court. When the Boomer section first appeared, it seemed to be an acknowledgment that yes, in fact, we were a demographic with particular needs, issues, viewpoints and opportunities, and by focusing on us, the Times was smartly aggregating content, discourse and opinion that they could successfully monetize.
What occurred to me, though, in reading Winerip's wistful little sign-off, after my first knee-jerk feelings of rejection and abandonment -- lol -- was that this wasn't about Boomers at all. No. It's really just about the ongoing malaise of print/publishing/journalism that continues to roil our culture. Today, the Booming section, tomorrow, something else. Clearly, nothing is working -- or working for too long -- to make the Times secure in its ability to generate revenues. I think Winerip's bland apologia is telling: "free up resources for other new ventures." The Times is on a shrinking budget to produce more and better content that resonates with the core demographics that their marketers tell them they have to reach. Clearly, we ain't that demo, despite what we all believe to be our strength and value in the overall marketplace. So on to the next. Stuff the good content elsewhere and go back to the drawing board to come up with some new "product" that can make a bigger splash.
I don't have the stats to back this up, but I would think that given what we've been through over the past 10 years, and what we're likely expecting to happen over the next 10 (more downsizing, pensions getting pulled, static/shrinking job market), we Boomers are probably a demographic that is perceived as in decline. Whatever discretionary spending we do make will take place after we've shored up our sagging 401(k)s, trying to survive the extended lifespans we're' apparently destined for.
Booming section readers picked up on one small editorial detail that is worth mentioning: Booming had two ongoing series about marriage in mid-life: Making It Last," about couples who had figured out how to stay together, and "Unhitched," about couples whose relationships finally ran aground. Guess which one survives this "putsch?" Right: "Unhitched." Even the Times has fallen prey to the tabloidization of everything -- ditching the positive/feel-good in favor of the negative/schadenfreude.
If the Times can't keep its head above the yellow water, then we truly are in a new and different age.