September 29, 2014

The New York Times has promoted Tony Brancato to executive director of Web products and audience development as part of an ongoing effort to “make the Innovation Report a reality,” according to a memo from The Times.

“A central recommendation of the team was to name leads in the newsroom and in product to oversee our audience-building efforts,” Denise Warren, executive vice president of the Times’ digital products services group, and Paul Smurl, general manager of the Times’ core digital products, write in the memo, which is below. “Dean’s and Andy’s recent promotion of Alex MacCallum was the first step. And Tony’s is the second.”

In August, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet appointed MacCallum assistant editor for outreach, a masthead position created to address the Times’ need to reach a broader audience. Brancato was formerly head of product for the Web at The Times.

The move comes in response to the problems outlined in The Times’ Innovation Report, which became public after BuzzFeed published a leaked copy in May.

RELATED — Steve Buttry asks: Why keep the report a secret in the first place?

In a keynote at the Online News Association conference last week, New York Times deputy digital operations editor Amy O’Leary said the newspaper’s staff has embraced the results of the report, with investigative reporter David Barstow commenting that it was loaded with “holy shit reporting.”

Since the report, staff members at The Times have become more comfortable with the use of audience metrics, including the use of a/b testing, O’Leary said.

Here’s the memo:

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Tony Brancato, currently our head of product for the Web, to the expanded role of Executive Director, Web Products and Audience Development.

As most of you know, a team has been hard at work over the summer figuring out how to create a companywide audience growth capability. The mission was “simple:” make the Innovation Report a reality. To do that, it soon became clear, would require tight coordination between the newsroom and many departments beyond it.

A central recommendation of the team was to name leads in the newsroom and in product to oversee our audience-building efforts. Dean’s and Andy’s recent promotion of Alex MacCallum was the first step. And Tony’s is the second. Together they will lead one of our most important initiatives.

In this broader capacity, Tony, with Alex, will be responsible for defining our audience growth objectives and charting a course to get us there. He will spearhead the work of various teams and resources within product, technology, marketing, and business development to grow our audience reach and engagement in the following ways:

* be more search engine-friendly
* create a more social, shareable reading experience across Web and mobile
* increase newsletters’ prominence and their ties back to the site and apps
* message and notify readers in targeted ways to increase visit frequency and depth
* adapt the article page experience based on referrer, i.e. search and social
* personalize the cross-platform reading experience
* market ourselves using paid promotion channels
* forge partnerships that help us extend and track our reach

Tony will also be working closely with Jason Sylva, who manages an audience development team in marketing, and othercolleagues responsible for advertising and subscriptions to supply advertising impressions in the right places and to get more readers to subscribe.

Since joining the company just a year ago, Tony has been a champion of audience growth. He created the audience playbook concept and introduced it to the newsroom, most notably in a pilot to expand the impact of our World Cup coverage. When it comes to Tony, Dean Baquet probably puts it best: “The guy just comes down here, fit right in and blew our socks off! I don’t need to tell you how rare that is.”

This is obviously a major undertaking, one that is critical to our future. Tony will depend on all of our support in the days and months ahead, and we know he can count on that. Please join us in congratulating him on his expanded role.

Denise & Paul

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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