10 things we can learn from The New York Times digital report

The leaked internal report on the state of digital publishing at the New York Times shows a sad state of lost opportunities

Go to the profile of Audrey Scarff
May 27, 2014
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The leaked internal report about digital publishing at The New York Times shows a sad state of lost opportunities to capitalize on their own content and expert insights.

Here’s ten things they could have handled differently, that we can learn from:

  1. Don’t waste your expert insights. Original NYT content on Nelson Mandela’s death, that more than one reporter has probably spent days researching and contributing value-add insights to, was “outperformed” by news aggregators instead of driving people to the NYT website.
  2. Share your content on social media. The NYT spent a year producing the series “Invisible Child”, a documentary story about homelessness, only to fail to promote it in a timely way on social media channels. All it would have taken was one person hitting a ‘Share’ button next to the articles.
  3. Make the most of your content. When footballer Michael Sam came out (the Times was one of two media outlets to originally receive the story), digitally minded competitors milked more traffic from the story than the NYT. The report comes up with a content strategy retrospectively at least.
  4. Think of new ways to use your proprietary content before competitors do. As the report laments, even their 161 year old historical content that was used as the basis for the movie “12 Years a Slave” (they have an enviable collection of content they have a perpetual license to), was refashioned by competitor Gawker, stealing away precious audience traffic.
  5. Allow comments. The report admits that only a fraction of stories are open for comments. Yep, that’s another lost opportunity for audience engagement!
  6. Don't publish at people; create community. The report asks NYT staff to imagine Science Times becoming “a lively platform for expert debate”. Hmm, that reminds me of something starting with “Z”.
  7. Make your content easily readable and shareable on mobile. The report shows that most traffic to social networks comes from smartphones, so having a responsive platform with posts that resize to suit your device, is crucial.
  8. Offline events need to complement online communities and vice versa. Offline events are created “without much newsroom input” missing a valuable opportunity to drive content and conversations in their online communities.
  9. Provide an easy way to create more expert video blogs. The NYT Op-Ed (opinion pieces from experts) apparently languish due to print space restrictions but interestingly their Op-Doc videos are some of their most popular content.
  10. Take back ownership of leaked information. This story could have had a whole different ending. As Forbes points out The New York Times failed to make the most of their own report after it had gone public on Buzzfeed. Another lost opportunity to drive traffic to their website.

If you haven’t seen Buzzfeed’s scoop’s scoop of The New York Times leaked digital report you need to. The full version of the report in colour is also viewable on Mashable.

Contact Zapnito to discuss how to avoid similar pitfalls in your own digital strategy, via expert knowledge networks.

Go to the profile of Audrey Scarff

Audrey Scarff

Director, Digital Channels, Thomson Reuters

Communications consultant, advisor to Zapnito and Editor-in-Chief of the digital workspace at Thomson Reuters. Holds an MA in Virtual Communication. Interested in the use of emerging technologies to facilitate engagement, knowledge sharing and collaboration. Author of 'Intranet Strategy & Governance', Ark Group Publishing. Previously Director of Communications, IABC Europe & Middle East, Co-chair of the Simply Summit 2010 on social media and employee engagement. Speaker at 2013 Intra.net Reloaded World Cafe, 2015 IntraTeam conference. Published in The Business Communicator (Smart Practice), Knowledge Management Review, Intranets Today, Communication World. Occasional contributor to Zapnito's network.


Go to the profile of Victoria Ophield
Victoria Ophield about 4 years ago

Great & useful piece - thanks Audrey.