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The New York Times is a daily newspaper published in New York City and generally regarded as the United States’ leading national newspaper.
The Times was the third-largest newspaper in the U.S. by circulation as of 2014, with 2.1 million combined print and digital subscribers, though it is by far the most-visited newspaper website. In April 2011, the Times’ website, per comScore, was the fifth-most-popular news site on the web.
The Times is primarily a national newspaper, appealing to largely upscale, educated readers throughout the country. It is among the most influential news organizations in America, playing a distinct role in setting the nation’s agenda. It has also consistently been recognized as one of its best, having won more than 100 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. It also has a significant international reach, which it has attempted to expand online by launching a Chinese-language site (which was blocked in 2012 by the Chinese government) and planning to launch a Portuguese-language edition in Brazil.
The Times has developed a reputation as one of the top innovators within web journalism. It launched a website in 1996 and a continuous news desk in 2000. The paper began merging its print and web newsrooms in 2005. The paper is particularly known for its innovations in multimedia and interactive data. The work is led by the Times’ Interactive News Technology Team, a group of developer-journalists formed in 2007 by Aron Pilhofer and Matt Ericson. (Pilhofer left the organization in 2014.) In 2012, the Times Co. formally built much of its strategy around its technological innovation, focusing on mobile, video, and social innovation, along with increasing its global reach. A 2014 internal report was generally critical of the Times’ digital journalism efforts, saying it needed to more fully integrate its initiatives into the entire news organization.
The Times was among the first major publishers to incorporate RSS. More recently, it has opened numerous APIs to developers since 2008, including its archive of 2.8 million articles dating back to 1981, allowing readers to create visualizations of Times data.
The Times has generally embraced a “fail fast” approach to innovation. In 2006, it created an e-reader app called the Times Reader, which is free for subscribers and $15 per month for nonsubscribers. In 2008, it launched Times Extra, which aggregated coverage from other online news sources on breaking news issues and was discontinued the following year. In 2010, it launched a daily video series called TimesCast, which initially received mediocre reviews.
The Times has also experimented in open-source document journalism, social recommendation, global photo crowdsourcing, online video, a continually updated news feed, syndicating news app content, news games. It created its own content management system called Scoop.
The Times was relatively late to implement blogging, launching its first blogs in 2005. Since then, though, it has become a leader among newspapers in blogging, with blogs like Bits, DealBook, ArtsBeat, and FiveThirtyEight (which the Times acquired in 2010 and which left for ESPN in 2013) among the most popular in their fields. Several of its blogs went dormant and were eliminated in 2012 and 2013 as the company re-evaluated its blogs as part of a redesign. It peaked at about 60 blogs in 2012, about half of which had been closed or merged by 2014.
The Times also moved into hyperlocal blogging in early 2009, focusing on neighborhoods in Brooklyn and northern New Jersey. By 2010, however, it had scrapped the effort, handing responsibility for the Brooklyn neighborhoods to CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism and for the New Jersey areas to the independent hyperlocal site Baristanet. In February of 2010, the paper announced a partnership with New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute to create the neighborhood site The Local East Village. That partnership ended in 2012.
Despite its relatively forward-thinking approach to social media, the Times has occasionally been criticized for a lack of external links in its online stories, as well as for a general insularity in its news coverage. Some of its blogs, though, have also been praised for their link journalism.
After concerns about staff members tweeting internal information, the Times hired Jennifer Preston as its first social media editor in May 2009. (The Times has also conducted extensive Facebook-centered marketing campaigns.) In December of 2010, it announced that it would be folding responsibility for its social media strategy into an expanded Interactive News division under Pilhofer. (Preston returned to reporting in the shift, and currently covers the interplay between politics and social media for the paper.) In early 2011, Times journalists Lexi Mainland and Liz Heron took over social media editor responsibilities at the paper. For a week in May 2011, the team experimented with fully human — not automated — updating of @nytimes, the paper’s primary Twitter feed. The Times has also been measured as the top news organization on Google+ in popularity and user engagement.
In 2014, The Times announced a partnership with Mozilla and The Washington Post to create tools to improve online commenting systems. The program was funded by a $3.89 million grant from the Knight Foundation.
The Times has been among the early adopters of e-reader and tablet technologies. It has a paid Kindle edition with at least 30,000 subscribers. In 2010, it introduced a free iPad app, Editors’ Choice, that had intentionally limited features. The app was represented onstage at the iPad’s launch, and its partnership with Apple drew some concerns about Apple’s control over content. The Times has also released a location-based city guide iPhone app called The Scoop, a marathon-training app, a real estate app, and an English instruction app. In October 2012, the paper launched an HTML5 iPad web app alongside its iPad native apps. The paper currently offers its content across seven mobile platforms.
Additionally, the Times has been an early leader in online video, and as of 2014, produced 430 videos per month. Beyond TimesCast, the paper has also experimented with producing more fully-reported video content. (The paper currently produces more than a hundred videos each month for its website and other digital platforms.) In May 2011, the Times announced that it would begin experimenting with user-generated wedding announcement videos as a supplement to its weekly Vows column. Later that month, the paper announced the launch of a weekly TV show, NYTV, a New York City-centric lifestyle show featuring videos produced by Times journalists. It also launched a daily series of minute-long videos of top stories in 2013. The Times partnered with the viral media site BuzzFeed to produce video coverage of the 2012 U.S. political conventions, and with the nonprofit organization Retro Report for a series of web-only documentaries in 2013. It also reached a content-sharing partnership with Hulu in 2012 to allow its videos to be hosted there.
In 2012, the Times published “Snow Fall,” an elaborate integrated multimedia feature story that earned praise for its innovative format and became influential in longform multimedia journalism. It won a Pulitzer for feature writing.
The Times also experiments with more explicitly technological innovation. The paper’s Research and Development Group works on transitioning news onto new devices, focused on areas like touch-screen technology, augmented reality, television screens, semantic search, and advertising, including in trending stories. In 2010, the Times announced the development of a beta site for its experiments — “a place to test products without disrupting the main site.” In mid-2011, it opened the site, beta620, to the public. In 2013, it opened timeSpace, an incubator for media startups. It briefly ran R&D Ventures, a spinoff meant to commercialize the projects of its R&D Group, from 2012 to 2013.
The Times redesigned its website in 2014 for the first time since 2006, incorporating responsive design and a much sparer look. As part of the redesign, the Times also introduced a native advertising platform, though it pledged that the ads would be clearly labeled and would not involve the newsroom in any way.
The Times licensed Nate Silver’s political analysis blog, FiveThirtyEight, from 2010 to 2013, during which time Silver rose to prominence for his accurate predictions of the 2012 presidential election. His statistically driven style irked some veteran Times political journalists, and he left the Times for ESPN in 2013. The Times launched a new data-driven, explanatory journalism venture called The Upshot shortly after Silver left.
The Times’ first major foray into paid online content came in 2005 with the launch of TimesSelect, which charged readers for access to some of the newspapers’ columnists and features. TimesSelect ultimately gained about 227,000 subscribers and generated $10 million per year in revenue, but it was ended in 2007 after subscriber growth had slowed. The Times has also experimented with offline revenue streams, including a wine club, adult-education classes, and branded pre-movie cinema shows.
In January 2010, the Times announced it would begin charging for its website in 2011, adopting a metered model based on the Financial Times’ site that would include the Times’ blogs. The Times spent a reported $25 million developing the plan.
In March 2011 the Times unveiled its digital subscription plan, which offered three tiers of access for readers: smartphone, tablet, or an all-access package, with prices ranging from $15-$35 per four week period. (All packages include access to nytimes.com.) Under the plan, nonsubscribers are able to view 10 articles per month (originally 20) before being asked to subscribe to the Times. Non-subscribers who come to the Times through a social media or search link are not asked to subscribe, but pieces they read count toward their 10-article limits.
In June 2012, the Times expanded its pay plan to include full access to its content on the news aggregation app Flipboard for subscribers. The Times announced plans in 2013 for additional lower- and higher-price online subscription plans. The first of those was NYT Now, a mobile-oriented news digest available for $2 per week, and Times Premier, a subscription with additional content for $45 per four weeks. NYT Now launched in April 2014 with at least 10 editors selecting and organizing content for the app. The second was NYT Opinion, an opinion app for $1.50 per week launched in June 2014. The Times also launched a cooking app the same month.
Reaction to the Times’ pay plan was mixed, with some applauding the Times for creating a system to pay for news online, while others wondered whether the plan had too many flaws. The future of the plan was also called into question after several methods of subverting the digital subscription plan were uncovered. Three months after the plan launched, the Times reported 227,000 paid subscribers; that number grew to 831,000 by 2014. The paper’s circulation revenue (from both print and online combined) surpassed its advertising revenue in 2012. Six months after launch, the Times reported that 12 percent of its online subscriptions were international and announced a paywall at the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times). The paper also reported a slight increase in its number of annual visitors in the fall of 2011.
By 2013, Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson was publicly calling the pay plan “the most important and most successful business decision made by The New York Times in many years.”
In 2013, the Times extended its metered paywall to mobile apps. The paper dropped its paywall for video content in 2013. It had also temporarily dropped its entire paywall four times as of February 2013: For Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 presidential election, and the winter storm of February 2013.
The Times has incorporated several popular blogs into its site. In addition to political statistics blog FiveThirtyEight, the paper also hosted the economics blog Freakonomics until January of 2011. In 2007, the paper also hired the TVNewser blogger Brian Stelter as a media reporter. He left for CNN in 2013 after reaching considerable prominence with The Times.
During the leadup to the 2012 U.S. elections, the Times began working with The Washington Post to develop a database of election results.
The Times has collaborated with Google on at least two major projects: its Fast Flip news browser and its Living Stories project, which went open-source in early 2010. The paper has also partnered with the professional social network LinkedIn to put its business news on that site.
The Times receives regular local content from the nonprofit Chicago News Cooperative for a Chicago edition as well as from the nonprofit Bay Citizen for a San Francisco Bay Area edition. (The Times is planning local editions in a total of 10 to 15 cities.) The paper also publishes material from The Texas Tribune. In 2009, the paper ran a story on the Pacific garbage patch financed by the crowdfunding site Spot.Us. And the Times Magazine has collaborated with ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative-journalism organization, to produce a Pulitzer-winning story on abuses in a New Orleans hospital.
The Times was founded in 1851 and was bought in 1896 by Adolph Ochs. The paper is currently owned by the publicly traded New York Times Co., which is still run by Ochs’ descendants in the Sulzberger family.
The Times Co. owns the Paris-based International New York Times, formerly known as the International Herald Tribune. The Times folded the Herald Tribune’s website into its main site with a global edition in 2009. The Times Co. sold its 16-newspaper Regional Media Group to the Halifax Media Group in early 2012 and the online content network About.com to IAC/Interactive later that year, and agreed to sell The Boston Globe to John Henry in 2013. The Times also published an award-winning but money-losing quarterly sports magazine called Play from 2006 through 2008.
The Times Co. struggled financially during the late 2000s, suffering under advertising declines and $1 billion in debt. It teetered in and out of profitability, and in 2009 took a $250 million loan from Mexican investor Carlos Slim Helú.
In November 2012, former BBC director general Mark Thompson began work as the Times Co. CEO as the BBC faced a sexual abuse scandal that took place, in part, under his leadership there.
The Nieman Journalism Lab’s visit to the Times’ R&D group
The trailer to Page One, the 2011 documentary about the Times’ media desk
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