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May 11, 2017, 2:08 p.m.
Reporting & Production

The New York Times continues to experiment with the Sunday paper, this time with a special kids’ section

“We do so many amazing things digitally with things like 360 video and VR and interactives and animation. The idea with this was to do something for print that felt equally special.”

With the print newspaper facing an uncertain future, what’s the role of the Sunday New York Times? The paper has some ideas.

Along with its May 14 edition this Sunday, The New York Times will publish a special print-only section devoted to young readers. The magazine-inspired section, which will feature articles, illustrations, and photography, will cover topics including sports, art, food, and science. There will be a focus on how-to, teaching kids how to make their own slime, how to design a superhero, and even how to write a newspaper article. (Another notable feature of the section is a kids-focused adaptation of the Times’ “Truth is Hard” campaign.)

The feature is the third special print-only section of the Times, which started experimenting last August when it published a excerpt from Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad. The Times followed up on that effort a few months later with a crossword puzzle-themed section of its December 16th paper. (The section featured the largest crossword puzzle The New York Times has ever published.) The Times plans to publish more special print sections throughout the year.

The Times has experimented with the print paper in other ways, redesigning its A2 and A3 pages as magazine-like news roundups that include journalists’ tweetstorms and, in one case, publishing a one-word article.

News of the special kids section come just a few days after NPR announced Wow in the World, its first-ever kids-focused podcast.

For The New York Times, these special print sections are part of an ongoing effort to find new ways to “create delightful print-only gifts” for its readers, explained Caitlin Roper, special projects editor at the Times. “As an organization we do so many amazing things digitally with things like 360 video and VR and interactives and animation. The idea with this was to do something for print that felt equally special.”

While the section’s articles are written largely by freelancers, Roper brought in Times staffers like food editor Margaux Laskey and magazine editor Aaron Retica, who helped out with the food and opinion sections of the paper, respectively. Roper said the team built the feature around evergreen content because publishing simplified versions of new stories “didn’t seem right for the Times.”

While there’s an understandable temptation to analyze the kids section (which at this point is a one-off effort) as a strategic offshoot of the Times’ audience development efforts on, say, Snapchat, the reality was more simple, said Roper. “I would love to say that it was part of some bigger strategy, but truly the idea was just to do something really fun.”

POSTED     May 11, 2017, 2:08 p.m.
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