Jan 18, 2024 - Business

The news business faces a reckoning in 2024

Illustration of a person retrieving a newspaper titled "State of Play" from a mailbox.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

A new report saying billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has sunk hundreds of millions of his own money into an unprofitable Los Angeles Times underscores how desperate the news industry is to chart a plan for survival in the digital era.

Why it matters: If billionaire owners can't make the L.A. Times or the Washington Post profitable, then the news industry has to ask itself: What can?

Driving the news: A former top editor estimates the L.A. Times is losing $50 million a year, The Wrap reports.

  • Soon-Shiong has said in meetings that he had put nearly $1 billion into the L.A. Times: He paid $500 million for the paper and related assets, and has had to spend an estimated $300 million in additional cash over the last five years, according to The Wrap.
  • The Washington Post was set to lose $100 million last year.

The big picture: Every news company is trying to dig out of this hole — even ones that are still minting money.

  • That includes CNN, where new CEO Mark Thompson unveiled his strategy in a memo Wednesday that carried the rallying cry: "We need to organize around the future not the past. We need to recapture some of the swagger and innovation of the early CNN."
  • "CNN of today is no longer that buccaneering outsider but a tenured incumbent," Thompson acknowledged.
  • "Like so many other news players with a broadcast heritage, CNN's linear services and even its website can sometimes have an old-fashioned and unadventurous feel as if the world has changed and they haven't."

Be smart: "Only legacy media organizations use the word 'digital,'" Thompson added.

  • "In start-ups and in Silicon Valley it doesn't need to be said because it's so central and so obvious. At CNN we also want to move as quickly as possible to a point where it becomes redundant."

Go deeper: Shock firings signal new era for cable news

Disclosure: The author of this story is a paid contributor for CNN.

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