A report card on New York Times innovation report one year later

June 12, 2015
Category: Uncategorized

Digiday

It’s the end of the school year so maybe it’s fitting that The New York Times is receiving at least one report card.

Digiday offers one on five aspects related to the newspaper’s much-chronicled innovation report of last year.

The report was generally commended as a candid self-examination on a variety of topics, including culture and digital talent. Digiday offers its own progress report in these areas:

Traffic. It gives the paper a B-plus, noting that multiplatform traffic (Web plus app) grew 28 percent to 59 million uniques in April, compared to a year ago (“not bad for a mature publication”). Desktop traffic was basically flat, it said, while mobile grew 52 percent to 35.8 million uniques.

But, in what is a recurring newspaper industry story, challenges remain in monetizing the growth as subscription increases flatten. For sure, the sheer numbers of readers is clearly impressive for an old-line publication.

Digital hiring. It gets an A. “It has moved fast” to heed the report’s recommendations.

Homepage traffic. The grade is B-minus. The original internal report noted that only one-third of the paper’s readers visit the homepage and, as time passes, spend less time with it. It’s not a stirring tale but, the report says, the paper has at least stabilized the decline.

Grow engagement. The grade is B. It’s increasingly targeting readers by age and interests, including via the recently disclosed deal with Facebook’s Instant Articles. “The Times is just getting going on some of these efforts, but it has shown some success,” the report asserts. Given stumbling by many of its peers, this could be deemed a tough grade.

Digital workflow. The final grade of the report is a C. “Hiring is one thing, but changing longstanding work processes at an institution hidebound by print traditions like the Times is perhaps the hardest to do. That has started to change.”

Digiday noted the embedding of growth editors with newsroom desks and the increasingly digital-orientation of Page One meetings.

By and large, it would appear to constitute pretty good progress after just a year.