The New York Times and Timelessness of The "Cat Pictures" Strategy

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The global fascination with cats, and the profit potential from it via the light-speed circulation of information will never cease nor lessen. Cat videos! LOL Cats! Cats being cute! Cats doing silly things! Cats being weird! Cats that look like they're smoking a bong! Cats that look like Hitler! Etc. If felines can be distilled to a singular purpose on this planet, it's to entertain humans with their precious ways, especially now, in "Teh" Information Age. This is not new news, and the New York Times has known this for a long time.

Librado Romero writes for the Times Lens blog about a cat picture that was once taken by the paper by then-staff photographer Carl T. Gossett Jr. -- a 40-year vet of the paper - in 1970. It was a cold January morning, a bunch of kitties were huddling together from the cold:

....though The Times was not accustomed to publishing pictures like this one, an editor must have found the image irresistibly illustrative of the bone-chilling weather, and ran it two columns wide with the continuation of a front-page story about the cold.

Letters poured in, which led Carl to remark, "If you want to improve circulation, run cat pictures."

The picture in question:

itty bitty witty kitties in teh coldz.jpg

Incidentally, Ben Huh -- who owns the CHEEZEBURGUR NETWORK -- is stupid-rich because of cat photos. Gossett probably wasn't. Cat pictures continue to make money, and the New York Times continues to exist with massive amounts of debt. The universe is packed with absurd ironies.

[via Maura Johnston.]

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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