What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
With rendition switcher


Question: What has the New York Times become? 

Michael Wolff: Well I think that's a different question whether they're irrelevant or out of business. I think, and they certainly admit this also, that they're in a deeply, deeply problematic and perhaps intractable business environment for newspapers. The Times is on one level different from all other newspapers but on another level absolutely the same. The economics of the newspaper business are not different for the New York Times than they are for the Chicago Tribune, which is in bankruptcy as are so many big city newspapers. So I think the New York Times has a sort of a Hail Mary strategy, which is that they will somehow leave their physical body and they will migrate in an act of transubstantiation to this new electronic world. The problem with this new electronic world is that it doesn't support what it costs to support the New York Times. And, again, here they are in the Hail Mary mode of basically saying, "Well, maybe at some point in the future it will support." Now there's no evidence to indicate that and no sense of how long it will take to get to that point, when it might support a news gathering budget of $300 million a year. 

So this is nothing less for the Times... not just the business crisis, but an existential crisis being in nothingness with nothingness a very real possibility. 

Question: What will the impending pay wall do for the publication? 

Michael Wolff: I think it will reduce readership online by something on the order of 90 or 95 or 99 percent. So, it's another existential moment. What does the New York Times become without its readers? And I think that you can say, "Well, yes, but there's still a million people who read the paper every day in paper form," but that's an odd rationale because then it sort of cancels out that other view that we would of transubstantiation into this new electronic world. 

You know, again, I think it's another one of the Hail Mary process at the Times: "We were going to morph into this electronic product and we sort of have but that's not doing it for us either, so now we'll suddenly try to charge for it and maybe that will work." It's a position that... it's in a non-business-like position. It's just at this point wishfulness. 

Question: Where will people get their news? 

Michael Wolff: It's very clear where people are getting their news. They're getting it online. I mean, in the last number of years we've been witness to and participated in the profoundest change possibly in the history of the news business. That news consumers have largely abandoned a traditional news outlets for electronic delivery, either on a PC or on a digital device, a handheld device or through the myriad of new delivery forms and mechanisms. So, people are not getting less news; quite the opposite. I think they're getting more news. I think this is for a news consumer rather a golden age. You get more, you get it quicker, you get it cheaper. So what could be bad? And I would argue that for the consumer, nothing is bad. For the producer, it's much less of an optimistic time. 

Recorded on May 19, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

More from the Big Idea for Friday, June 25 2010


The New York Times' Pay Wal...

Newsletter: Share: