The Deal: Print Media Misses the Target

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Newspapers have been the target of so many potshots in recent years it hurts to see the best of them shoot themselves in the foot. Yet it has already happened now that All Things D, rather than cut a new deal with the newspaper that birthed it, The Wall Street Journal, has been cut loose not only from the Journal but from its News Corp. parent. And with All Things D forced to find new and most likely better sponsorship, what's to keep The New York Times' Dealbook from seeking the same?

Both niche but high-profile websites began more than a decade ago as journalistic versions of brands within brands. Or, in the parlance of Madison Avenue, they began as ingredient brands of the sort "Intel Inside" popularized. Only these one-time ingredients of America's premier newspapers have since earned such authority, identity and prosperity that neither remains beholden to its benefactor.

Even before given the boot by the Journal on Thursday, All Things D had taken to flaunting a sense of free agentry by retaining boutique bank Code Advisors. The bank's brief, according to Fortune, was "to find outside investors at an enterprise value that could exceed the $25 million that AOL Inc. reportedly paid in 2010 for rival site TechCrunch."

News Corp., for its part, continued to deny the wholly owned site it acquired through its 2007 acquisition of Dow Jones was even for sale. This speaks to how confident or arrogant (or both) the creators and leaders of "All Things D" -- Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher -- had become. And it confers similar status, if only by extension, on Dealbook creator Andrew Ross Sorkin, whose ingredient brand in the Times preceded All Things D by a couple of years.

But don't hold these journalists accountable for attempting to better their lots. They've simply been reaching for the brass ring -- or at least contemplating as much -- because, well, they can. Of import here is the role played by the Journal and the Times as enablers.

Harken back to last month, when Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million. The sale that took the media completely by surprise nonetheless produced a torrent of media coverage, little of which was memorable. A rare insight that did stick appeared, not surprisingly, in the Times.