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Sept. 6, 2013, 1:28 p.m.

New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson was back in his native U.K. today to give an address at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which is celebrating an anniversary of its fellowship program. Here’s the full text (pdf) of his prepared remarks. Here are a few of the items I thought were most worth highlighting:

Classified evaporation

One statistic that is still startling even if, by now, it’s hardly surprising: In 2000, The New York Times generated $204 million in help-wanted advertising. In 2012? $13 million, a decline of 94 percent.

Nothing Compares 2 Times

Thompson shares a bit more about the Times’ project-in-progress Need 2 Know. (I sincerely hope that that his prepared remarks are mistaken and it’s actually “Need To Know” — or else he’s been listening to a lot of Prince slow jams.)

One of the new ideas is a project with the working title of Need 2 Know. Though it will be available on all digital platforms, we’re developing it for mobile, and particularly smart-phone first, and it’s intended to offer users the perfect briefing not just on the news that’s already happened but on the events and stories up ahead that our editors have already got their eye on, and to it with its own voice and its own flavour. If you’ve caught the ‘New York Today’ feature in the Metro section of our website, you’ll have an idea of what that flavour could be.

I do like the idea of more and better summarization products — but I wonder how easy they’ll be to monetize. (A roundup of news links, service-y news-you-can-use, and some editorial flavor can be great — but it’s also not that hard to duplicate.)

Passing the controls overseas

Control of NYTimes.com and related digital products will no longer rest solely in midtown Manhattan:

Our newsrooms around the world are already working far more closely together than before and editorial control of the global edition of the Web site will be handed over, for the first time, to Jill and Andy’s teams in London, Paris and Hong Kong.

Aiming high with video

Some interesting details on video strategy: Thompson doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of the two-journalists-talking-about-a-story model for newspaper video:

Newsroom or studio-based video talk — which The Times has experimented with over the years and which both the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post are spending heavily on at the moment — can work well when there’s a big and real-time event to talk about. I thought that The Times’s video coverage of last autumn’s election, combining news feeds of some of the key moments with cogent analysis, worked very well — and it certainly drove impressions. But, as the twenty-four hour TV news teams discovered many years ago, there’s nothing quite as dull as journalists talking to each other on video when nothing is happening.

He promotes high-end productions like Op-Docs — which would seem to indicate the Times will treat video like text and keep aiming at the high end of the market, leaving the HuffPost Lives of the world to generate thousands of hours of cheap-to-produce talk-show-style video a year.

Also: “We are currently leaving money on the table because we don’t yet have enough video-advertising opportunities to sell.”

Play on

Interesting: The Times will expand into “smart games, building out from our crossword franchise and its remarkable success as an independent digital subscription play.”

We’re not Twitter

Here’s Thompson on the Times’ differentiation from Twitter as a news provider:

Once, and not so long ago, different papers, TV channels and news websites competed for who was going to be first with the really big breaking story. Now we know in advance where that story’s almost certainly going to appear first – Twitter and sites like it. They usually beat us all.

And yet the problem with Twitter is you don’t just get the news, you get everything else as well: uncorroborated but potentially precious eye-witness testimony and citizen journalism, but also rumour, speculation, disinformation, propaganda, lies and general nuttiness. Just a few years ago, it was sometimes suggested that the world’s professional journalists might well soon be replaced by a kind of Wikipedia of news, reported and curated by a global army of publicly spirited amateurs. But quite apart from issues of political and cultural bias and objectivity, it turns out that what we face in a major unfolding hard news story is a vast, roiling sea of actuality, with fresh breakers crashing in every few seconds and with both truth and narrative often fiendishly hard to pick out.

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LINK: medium.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   September 30, 2014

Today De Correspondent, the crowdfunded Dutch news site, celebrates its one-year anniversary. (We’ve covered De Correspondent a few times since the site began fundraising last year.) Ernst-Jan Pfauth, the site’s publisher, published a piece on Medium sharing what they’ve accomplished and some lessons they’ve learned since they published their first stories a year ago today.

A subscription to De Correspondent costs €60 ($76) annually, and Pfauth wrote that about 60 percent of the site’s original 18,933 funders have already renewed their subscriptions. As of Sept. 23, De Correspondent had 37,057 members — multiply that by the €60 cost of a membership and you get €2.2 million ($2.77 million). It says it’s received 4.5 million unique visitors in its first year. (Including two from North Korea!)

DeCorrespondentMembership

To try and incentivize members to renew their subscriptions, De Correspondent put together two reports detailing the site’s finances and also the impact of its journalism in the past year. (They’re both in Dutch.)

DeCorrespondentChart

About 53 percent of every €60 membership was spent on salaries for De Correspondent’s 15 full-time staffers and its network of freelancers. The next largest expenditure: taxes, accounting for 17.4 percent of its costs.

The level of detail De Correspondent provides its members in explaining how it spends their money and the projects it undertakes — one of the site’s journalists, for example, wrote a book that originated with stories written for the site and that De Correspondent published — is part of its philosophy for what a crowdfunded news organization should look like. Pfauth summarized that philosophy on Medium:

1. Explain how you spend your members’ money;
2. Encourage journalists to work together with members;
3. Your members are your best ambassadors;
4. Reach out to people who already like you;
5. Think beyond your platform when it comes to publishing your stories.

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LINK: next.theguardian.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   September 29, 2014

The Guardian has a new setup for its liveblogs that aims to fix some of their eternal problems — chief among them that they’re great for in-the-moment following along, but cryptic and unnavigable after the fact:

Paul Owen, who is responsible for the Guardian’s UK live blogs, said: “Once live blogs have been going for more than an hour or two, it becomes difficult for a new reader to start reading; by that point the live blog has often become rather long and unwieldy.

“For a while we have asked the live bloggers to periodically add bullet-point summaries of key events – say at the beginning of the blog, half way through the day, and when wrapping up. But these only really help if the new reader starts reading the blog soon after a summary has been published.

“So we hope pulling up key events into a clickable list at the top or top left of each live blog will now help readers navigate through a live blog at whatever point they choose to join it. Summaries will remain too, though.”

You can see an example of the new look here. I rather like it; the commenters under that post don’t.

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Capital New York give us a look at The New York Times’ native advertising business in a profile of Meredith Kopit Levien, its executive vice president for advertising, and it appears to be growing. Since launching earlier this year, it’s struck deals with 32 different brands — from Netflix to Thomson Reuters — to create ads that cost from $25,000 to more than $200,000 just to create.

And the Times’ in-house content studio, T Brand Studio, is up to a staff of 16 — up from nine when my colleague Justin Ellis wrote about the Times’ approach native advertising in June.

The build up of the Times’ native advertising capacity is part of a larger overhaul of its advertising department that began when Levien took over as the executive vice president for advertising in July 2013. She’s replaced about one-third of the current staff with new hires, bringing on more than 80 staffers. Of those who left, about half were offered buyouts or early retirement, “a move that some interpreted as a way of nudging older employees out the door,” Capital writes.

Print continues to generate most of the Times’ advertising revenue, but with its continued emphasis on native and digital advertising, especially video, Levian said she’s optimistic: “We’re certainly not going to put up a victory banner yet, but we are beginning to find our way into what feels like a sustainable path toward growing the digital business.”

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LINK: speakerdeck.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   September 23, 2014

Page speed is an underrated part of user experience. A fast website is a website readers will return to more often and feel better about using. (Add WPO to SEO and SMO in your mental acronym storage case.)

We’ve shared before about efforts at The Guardian and The New York Times to get faster, and now we’ve got a new slide deck from Times developer Eitan Koningsburg on the sometimes counterintuitive things they’ve done to speed up NYTimes.com (including the earlier [thanks, Allen] strange-sounding-to-me use of an intentional blocking script to load ads better):

The current mantra in performance thinking is “Tools not Rules.” The premise is simple: The path to faster websites is not only about fast requests, but how they interact with paints, animations, and script execution. But tools are only part of the solution. What The New York Times discovered is that performance is about truly understanding your product and users, and the sum total of your site. Following this approach can lead to surprising results.

The New York Times underwent a major redesign that involved a rewrite of the entire technology stack. The Product team not only bought into the idea that performance should be a goal, but mandated that it be part of the product’s success. While we implemented many of the community’s best practices, our biggest wins were a little surprising, and at first glance, counter to community best practices. Front-end software architect Eitan Koningsburg covers those changes, what worked, what didn’t, and how we got there.

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Is Aaron Kushner thinking of getting out of L.A.? The owner and publisher of the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Register told an audience at the Portada Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference he’ll be considering the paper’s future:

Aaron Kushner, CEO of Freedom Communications, said that he will evaluate “in the next few weeks” whether the Los Angeles Register has a viable future as a daily. The Los Angeles Register was launched in April of this year in the Los Angeles, CA market, where it competes with other dailies including the Los Angeles Times. Kushner’s comments, which were made during an on-stage interview conducted by Portada publisher Marcos Baer during Portada’s 8th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference, are the first explicit references by Freedom Communications CEO about the possibility of discontinuing daily publication of the Los Angeles Register.

The paper’s had a rocky existence so far, and the timing of Kushner’s remarks will probably only fuel rumors about the fate of the paper. The Los Angeles Register debuted in April, but by June Freedom had instituted a company-wide furlough program and was offering voluntary buyout packages.

Of course, evaluating can mean a lot of things. But that Kushner would say he’s evaluating the status of the L.A. paper, rather than praising the investment, chastising critics, or trying to stoke an old-fashioned newspaper war, is no small sign. Kushner also told the crowd Freedom Communications’ weekly papers, along with dailies like the OC Register and The Press Enterprise are responsible for “low single-digit revenue growth rate” at the company.

Update, 9/23: Well, that was quick:

The Los Angeles Register, which launched in April as part Aaron Kushner’s bold bet on print newspapers, will cease publication, effective immediately.

Orange County Register co-owner Aaron Kushner announced the decision Monday night in a memo sent to employees.

“Pundits and local competitors who have closely followed our entry into Los Angeles will be quick to criticize our decision to launch a new newspaper and they will say that we failed,” said the memo, signed by Kushner and his Freedom Communications co-owner Eric Spitz.

“We believe, the true definition of failure is not taking bold steps toward growth.”

The memo hints at layoffs, but provided no specific details.

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