At a whopping 96 pages I’ve been putting off reading the recently leaked New York Time’s (NYT) new ideas task force on how they can maintain their relevance in the current age of media.
Like many traditional publishers, they are struggling to maintain an audience, never mind growing one. The NYT’s is a massive and historic institution that’s knee deep in a battle with countless news providers that are more nimble, innovative and socially savvy than themselves.
I peeled it open this past weekend and here are my 10 observations.
- It’s all about digital content for them now.
- The days of focusing on door to door delivery are over for them. They know their current website revolves around the print version and this UI/UX needs to quickly change for online.
- They know they are too focused on page-one content. They are trying to break because most of their content is beyond page 1 and digital readers are having a hard time easily accessing this.
- They are very behind on tagging their content. This stops them from organizing and delivering content in a strategic manner as highlighted in the following quote: “At a time when nearly 60% of their readers access us via mobile devices, we are missing an opportunity to serve up content that’s relevant to their locations because we are not tagging stories with geographic locations”.
- Their Content Management System is weak. Even industry giants can have technology holding them back at times. There were several references in this report of the very manual work needed to push content onto the sections of their website.
- Surprisingly they lack significant reader data which makes knowing their audience extremely difficult.
- They are struggling to connect the production and promotion of content as the following quotes show: “After we spend more than a year on a signature piece of journalism…we alerted our marketing and PR colleagues too late to do any promotion ahead of time. The reporter didn’t tweet about it for 2 days”.........“At the New York Times, far too often…the story is done when you hit publish” said Paul Berry, who helped found the Huffington Post. “At the Huffington Post, the article begins its life when you hit publish”.
- They want to heavily leverage Social Media as a primary content delivery tool going forward. However their Twitter account was recently managed by the news team while the business side manages the Facebook account. They will need a solid approach for this to social strategy to work.
- They aim to integrate the Design, Tech, Analytics, R+D, Product teams and newsroom together. Up to now they have been a very separate in how they work with one another. They have observed many successful competitors breaking down the traditional department boundaries to build an efficient content pipeline.
- They have almost 15 million articles to use for evergreen content (the earliest dated back to 1851). This is an awesome advantage they have over pretty much every one of their competitors.
The main theme throughout this report focused on much better ways they deliver their content to their audience. They realize that they are competing with publishers that have inferior content but superior ways of targeting and supplying the content. This is making the battle for readers harder than needed.
Everything to do with engaging your audience starts with high quality content. The NYT's know they have tons of great, well written content. Once they build better ways to smartly distribute content they can dominate again.
Overall there was a truthfulness in the tone of this memo indicating they know they have a problem that cannot be brushed aside anymore. It shall be extremely interesting to see what actions come from this report.