Times editor pans US press ahead of launch

Times editor Robert Thomson believes the newspaper's US edition can provide superior arts and sport coverage to American papers.

Thomson spoke to Press Gazette as he revealed plans to launch a US edition of The Times in New York on 6 June.

Citing differences in the US and UK newspaper markets, he explained how the front page of the forthcoming US edition would be more subtle than the UK paper.

"The American newsstand is very different to the British newsstand," said Thomson. "Here you have to turn up the volume a little bit in the quest to attract attention; there you need to be a little more subtle. On the front page, we need to find a way of highlighting — as we do on the continent — the various bits of the paper that'll be of particular interest to an international audience.

So we use three photographs, on average, which point to different parts of the paper because it won't just be the news coverage that will be of interest.

"Part of what you're doing is introducing people to a paper they're unfamiliar with, therefore navigation is the key and that's why the front is different."

Thomson said the US edition would be aimed at both international expats living in New York and Americans. He added: "In a sense, nationality is no barrier to a common interest in global affairs.

"The audience that we're most interested in is Americans who have an international interest and internationals who happen to be living in America, and there is no better place for that audience than Manhattan."

Presses that used by News Corp stablemate the New York Post will print an initial run of a few thousand copies of The Times — distributed across the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Thomson said that until a few years ago, the New York Times was a monopoly that "had all the complacency, and to a certain extent, mediocrity, of a monopoly."

He added: "One of the things that competition in Britain brings out in papers is that British papers have to be very, very good at what they do, so the quality of arts writing, for example, is certainly superior. The quality of sports writing here is definitely better than that of the New York Times.

"What surprised me when I arrived here in 1998 was how poor the business coverage was on the New York Times.

Perhaps it's got a little better, but at the same time there are openings for other providers."

Thomson said the Times's US edition would follow a different structure at 64 pages compared with the UK version.

"You're boiling down as many as 150 pages to 64 pages and highlighting material that's most relevant to readers in the US."

He added: "There's a great concentration of investment funds in Connecticut. They're the readers that we'll obviously be interested in. Beyond that, it will be easier to get the paper — a little later, obviously — to places like LA and San Francisco.

"The beauty in the arrangement is the Post connection. It enables us to embark on the project far more cheaply than would be the case if we were a greenfield site.

"The print presence will complement our growing web profile and you might find a businesswoman from Boise, Idaho visits Manhattan, picks up The Times, reads it, is unlikely to be a subscriber of the print version, but thinks: ‘This is interesting' and becomes something of a regular web user."

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