Nieman Foundation at Harvard
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May 23, 2016, 10:01 a.m.
Business Models

With NYTEducation, The New York Times is taking its expertise and access to the classroom

“People come to learn with us because they want something that feels Times-ean in the experience.”

The dual challenges of sinking print readership and contracting digital ad revenue are forcing legacy publishers to ponder new ways of making money. For The New York Times, one of those new ways is opening a summer camp.

This summer, a few hundred high school students will trade some of their vacations to spend a couple of weeks at the NYC Summer Academy, a set of courses designed to give students a comprehensive, cross-sectional look at some of the big areas within the Times’ wheelhouse. Offerings go beyond journalism. “Sports Management and Media,” for example, will dig into various aspects of the sports industry, from the business of teams to the business of covering them, while “Writing for Television: Inside the Writers’ Room” and “The Future of Fashion” will take similarly deep looks at their respective industries. The New York Times has offered similar weekend courses since last fall.

“The goal here is to get the students out of the classroom and into the intersection of ideas and careers,” said Raymond Ravaglia, director of the precollege division at The School of The New York Times. “They spend a lot of their time studying and getting new ideas, but they don’t have a sense of how these ideas get operationalized in the world in terms of careers.”

Ray, who is the former associate dean and director of the pre-collegiate program at Stanford University, said that the courses are designed to take advantage of not only the Times’ expertise and access, but New York City as a whole. Students who take the television writing class, for example, will attend a live taping of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, visit working sets around the city, and sit in on writers’ room sessions. A course about cooking and eating in New York City will take students to local farms and restaurants such as Locanda Verde and The Dutch.

Such access doesn’t come cheap, however. The Times charges nearly $4,000 for the two-week summer courses, and $5,000 for students who opt to stay in residence halls at Lincoln Center. Despite the cost, there have been been respectable levels of interest from students: The Times has run around 24 courses since last Fall, with an average of 20 students signing up for each.

The pre-college courses are just a part of the Times’ education efforts. Last month, the school launched its first set of online courses, which are aimed at continuing education students and professionals. The school has, for example, tapped content strategists and creative directors from T Brand Studio, the Times’ branded content unit, to teach classes on how to create branded content and transition from journalism to content marketing. These sources were created in partnership with academic Cambridge Information Group, which also helped create courses with the art auctioneer Sotheby’s. The Times also plans to launch English-language learning courses and for-credit classes in the future.

The the idea of a media brand venturing into education isn’t new. Condé Nast, for example, launched The Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design in London in 2013, and, a year later teamed up with The University of Southern California to create a Wired-branded master’s degree. Inc. magazine launched a set of online courses last summer.

The Times says its own courses are set apart by the intimacy of the the school and its newsroom. Students will take classes on the fifteenth floor of the Times’ NYC headquarters, and Times reporters are involved as well. Music industry reporter Ben Sisario, for example, will teach a course of music and business. (That idea isn’t new to the Times: it already ropes in some of its science and travel reporters to lead its Times Journeys travel tours in countries like Iran and Italy.)

“Unless it’s clear to the students what the ‘Times-ness’ of these classes are, people will get very critical very fast,” said Ravaglia. “People come to learn with us because they want something that feels Times-ean in the experience. We have to give them that.”

Photo of New York Times building by Sam Chillsused under a Creative Commons license.

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