The announcement of The New York Times' acquisition of Baseline StudioSystems is raising some eyebrows, as reflected in a piece at Motley Fool today (subscription). Brian Gorman points out in the article that it seems odd that the NYT would take on a company primarily oriented towards B2B business intelligence. Yet that in and of itself may be a key component of the deal, not to mention the rich licensing of entertainment profiles and other industry data to consumer portals such as Yahoo!. and more. On the B2B side the entertainment industry's bizintel infrastructure is has been tooling up significantly in recent years as the industry finds itself having to respond to more real-time marketing and image management issues prompted by Web distribution and commentary. So if the NYT is looking for a good foundation of revenues the B2B side of this deal makes sense, much as About.com's solid revenues made for a good starting point.
But it's just a starting point. Beyond solid B2B potential is the ability to syndicate entertainment content to the explosion of movie and video outlets on the Web and to solidify its own solid entertainment content with rich data on the premium side of the online fence. While their Times Select premium online content offering has not been a failure it's had limited success with consumers: adding more solid sector-specific rich data to add to business coverage is perhaps another angle by which NYT can go more toe to toe with the Wall Street Journal over time in business sectors where it already offers significant strength.
Another interesting property of Baseline StudioSystems is their Script Log 2.0 system, an online service that allows scripts and materials to be tracked and submitted online and assigns material to readers along with a host of reports and management features. In a world of journalism that is becoming increasingly virtual this may be infrastructure that could help an organization like the NYT could use to manage independent authors more effectively. Call that one pure spec, but it's a tool with intriguing possibilities.
All in all this is not a deal that your average columnist can chop into digestible sound bites easily but in sum it seems to make sense from a revenue and strategy standpoint when you look at the details. Since fewer people go to newspapers any more to get entertainment listings this important information needs to be ready to travel with audiences to the entertainment venues that matter most to them - and along with that will come the Times brand. Think of this as but one step along the path towards The New York Times embracing The New Aggregation in a bigger way.