I was skimming the business section of the NYT yesterday to see what the banksters and other malefactors of great wealth were up to, when I came across this piece analyzing the wages of American workers. It said they were out of balance. In what way? Turns out that American wages are out of balance with the rest of the world because they are way too high.
The big trade deficit is another sign of excessive pay for Americans. One explanation for the attractive prices of imported goods is that American workers are paid too much relative to their foreign peers.Say what?
Global wage convergence is great for the poor but tough on the overpaid. It's possible to run the numbers to show that American manufacturing workers should take average real wage cuts of as much as 20 percent to get into global balance.
It wasn't the analysis that startled me. It was standard blame-the-victim, race-to-the-bottom, free-market rhetoric about how American workers (not Wall Street financiers, mind you, but workers) need to learn to live on the same ample wages as their counterparts in China and other parts of the developing world.
No, what startled me wasn't what I read, but where I read it. This isn't the way the New York Times usually talks about working people, at least not openly, on its news pages (granted, in the business section, the boundaries between news, analysis and opinion are somewhat fuzzy). That's when I took another look at what I was reading. I had assumed "breakingviews.com," punny title and all, was just another of their new business sections. Yes and no. It's a relatively new department that started this year, but it's not produced by the NYT.
Breakingviews.com is a London-based subscription-based financial analysis service that's now a media partner of the NYT and certain other major news organizations around the globe. The NYT runs free content from breakingviews.com in the business section under its own heading, and is also starting to syndicate the content to other news organizations through the New York Times News Service.
These kinds of content partnership are springing up throughout American journalism, replacing some of the editorial staff news organizations are shedding as they strive to cope with their various financial disasters. In trade publishing, where content partnerships have been going on longer and are even more widespread, the resulting content has often been mediocre and/or has a hidden agenda. In addition, brands get eroded, as readers become confused about who's actually providing the news they read.
The downside to content partnership is you get what you pay for, and if you're determined to pay less, you'll generally get less. So do your readers. Eventually they may get tired of it, find you irrelevant and simply walk away. It's not as if there aren't a lot of new media competing for their attention with their own distinctive voices.