Media columnist Michael Wolff certainly knows an attention-getting quote. Appearing with Air America CEO Bennett Zier and CraigsList’s Craig Newmark in a panel discussion sponsored by Gotham Media Ventures, the head of aggregation site Newser, predicted that big media, whether it’s newspapers or conglomerates, are just months away from the dustbin of history. “About 18 months from now, 80 percent of newspapers will be gone. The Washington Post is supported by Kaplan’s testing business. The testing business will still be around in 18 months, and they will probably continue to support the newspaper. But that’ll be an exception.”
Later on, Wolff was challenged by a devoted, if vehement, NYT reader over some criticisms he didn’t make, he was pressed on whether the NYT would survive. He conceded that he was being a bit hyperbolic, but was dead serious when he said, “The NYT will not be owned by the same company 18 months from now. I stand by that.”
As many before him have done, Wolff pinned the cause of newspapers’ impending death on CraigsList, which took away newspapers’ auto, jobs and real estate ads. Newmark shook his head at that, saying that newspapers did not fulfill the public’s trust. “They failed on that weapons of mass destruction thing. And they failed on that financial collapse thing,” Newmark protested. Wolff: “CraigsList did it by taking away the ads. And they did it for good or bad, I would say for the better. They distribute ads more efficiently. But that’s what supported newspapers for 100 years. People don’t want to pay for content. And you could argue newspapers haven’t done their jobs. But that’s separate from the real story. They were supported by those three legs and they have gone to Craig’s List. 18 months from now, 80 percent of newspapers will be gone. “
The panel, which took place at the back of the Samsung Experience store in the Time Warner Center, Wolff also forecast that in another 18 months, the media and entertainment company’s home—which houses a mall filled with luxury retailers—would also fade from the scene.