Time’s running out for The Times says Murdoch after 30 years of huge losses

Actually it was Times editor James Harding who communicated the above message – via email sadly – but his admission that The Times and the Sunday Times between them are losing £240,000 a day (and the ST always used to make a handsome profit) and therefore need to cut staff and slash ten per cent off budgets is long overdue.

Since News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch bought The Times in the mid-1980s it has bled money, losing far more than even its quality rivals the Guardian and the Independent have managed while the Daily Telegraph, its main rival, has made money as often as not.

Quite how The Times has managed to lose money on such an epic scale is a bit of a mystery. Clearly it spends too much and earns too little, but it’s quite a good paper and appears to have a fair amount of advertising.

Murdoch spent even more millions in the Conrad Black era at the Telegraph by discounting The Times in the belief that, if he could take the Telegraph out of the market, The Times would turn round. But he didn’t and it didn’t.

So it’s been glug, glug, glug down the drain ever since for the paper that used to be known as ‘The Thunderer’ when it fulminated against the Crimean War and the like. So why is Rupert changing his tune?

Well it just might be that the man who made his first tranche of money from tacky tabloids like the News of the World and the Sun doesn’t need a posh paper like The Times any more. He’s got enough political influence by now and he’s getting old.

And, one suspects, he’s rather lost interest in the UK.

A couple of years ago he bought himself an even posher paper in the Wall Street Journal which, against the odds, is proving to be a good and profitable buy.

Why spend £80m a year on The Times in London when some of that money can help the WSJ progress even faster to world domination?

If Alexander Lebedev, the Russian former KGB agent who’s just bought the Independent, offered to take The Times off Rupert’s hands he’d probably say ‘yes.’

An irony of sorts. what would Palmerston have made of it?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.