A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged new york times

The New York Times has redesigned the opening spread of the print edition to make it more of a digest of everything the outlet is doing across all media. So, yes, that include capturing the best of its journalists’ tweetstorms on there. Laura Hazard Owen interviewed Jake Siverstein who led the design work:

But we also recognized that there were some important functions this page could play — not only warming people up but offering a dashboard of the huge scope of activity that’s going on in the world of The New York Times on any given day. That scope has expanded in recent years to take in not only what’s happening in the print paper and videos and podcasts and various institutional social media accounts, but also our live journalism, and all of our journalists’ own social media accounts.

This is a tentative step in the direction pint newspapers will need to move if they are to survive, in the era of 24/7 online news. Once you acknowledge that the print edition is no longer the “breaking news” vehicle, but, essentially, a daily summary of what you need to know, then you can design outwards from that idea.

Why newspapers should take design cues from magazines

Interestingly, Silverstein comes from the New York Times Magazine (he’s editor-in-chief) – and this is much more magazine thinking than newspaper thinking. Silverstein again:

Part of the goal was to create something that was entirely visible in one open spread of the newspaper, that used some of the rhythm and pacing and design of a magazine front-of-book — the difference being that the whole front-of-book is laid out before you turn any pages, so your eyes can wander around small content and small features, latch on to one thing and then drift over to the next thing. There’s something leisurely and pleasurable about that. It’s kind of an appetizer course before you get to the rest of the paper.

And that’s what print newspapers are becoming: daily magazines.

Alexandra Ma, one of my current crop of Interactive Journalism students, looks at how the New York Times live covered its meeting with Trump:

But out of all the ways the Times covered the event, Twitter was by far the most effective.

The Times’ social media strategy editor, Michael Gold, created a public Twitter list of the journalists who had attended so people could follow — and instantly react to — direct quotes from the president-elect.

But that, in itself, brings some problems:

The Times’ journalists mostly tweeted direct quotes from Trump, some of which — such as his suggestion that Stephen Bannon, his chief strategist and former editor of Breitbart News, was neither racist nor alt-right — seemed factually dubious and would be best accompanied with fact checking after the event.

The danger of immediacy is clearly lack of contextualisation – and that needs to be there.

Fake New York Times story gets over 50,000 views

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need to teach critical thinking:

A webpage that masqueraded as a New York Times article and claimed that Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president circulated widely on social media on Monday.

The fake news article, which mimicked The Times’s typefaces and design and included the bylines of two of the newspaper’s political reporters, appeared with the headline “Warren Endorses Sanders, Breaking With Colleagues.”

And by “circulated widely” they mean “50,000 views and 15,000 shares”. We’re so programmed to take something easily mimicked – a site design – as a mark of authority, that we can be fooled.

(I wonder how many hastily-deleted “aggregation” rewrites of it there are?)

Mobile not snails

Possibly the most depressing paragraph I’ve read in a long time:

Speaking on the panel at the launch of the report in London, the Guardian’s executive editor of digital Aron Pilhofer said “mobile has snuck up” on publishers and it is a platform that they “have only recently started to take seriously.”

While I understand that many of them were burnt by the WAP era of phones, where people desperately tried to persuade us that this was the future of the internet – and it very clearly wasn’t – there’s little excuse for not realising by 2010 that the iPhone and Android were transformative mobile experiences that were rapidly building traffic share. This is the web all over again – publishers miss a transformation, and struggle to catch up.

We keep getting attacked by the snails

The original sin of mobile

If there’s an original sin of mobile, it was the assumption that mobile was what people did when they were away from their desks. I can’t count the number of meetings or workshops where I’ve been confronted by that idea. And it was always false, it’s just becoming ever more provably so.

But, for a while, it completely distracted corporate decision makers, who did most of their reading on desktop screens, and whose sense of the mobile internet was defined by their corporate BlackBerry – a status symbol for many that blinded them to the revolution their less prestigious staff were experiencing.

Now, of course, most are aware that that BlackBerry is in pretty serious trouble, and that the mobile web is closing in on – or exceeding – 50% of publisher site traffic. We’re in a mobile-dominant world. They can’t ignore it any more.

And, indeed, finally, some publishers are taking the transition really seriously:

Starting Monday, The New York Times will temporarily bar employees inside its Manhattan headquarters from accessing the desktop homepage in an effort to emphasize the importance of mobile devices.

Excellent move – force staff who’ve got too accustomed to sitting at their desk at their desktop computer to experience the site as the majority (or close to it) of their users do.

Buzzfeed competes for your precious notification attention

The importance of the mobile web is without question; what remains more open to challenge is the role of mobile apps in news. Buzzfeed are taking a serious punt at making an app that works – but are relying heavily on notifications to make that vision come true. One of the two buttons on the app’s home screen is devoted to configuring them:

Buzzfeed news

This addresses the major issue of news apps to date: nobody bloody opens them. We install them, play with them, and then forget about them. We just go back to getting our news via social networks instead.

Because the Buzzfeed app really encourages you to go look at the Notification settings, turn them on, and choose the news you want (in a pretty US-centric way right now), it has a fair chance of actually holding people’s attention. The trick will be in creating the right frequency and interest level within those notifications to keep people coming back to the app without annoying them enough that they uninstall it.

This is a nuance that many publishers will probably miss – it’s not just being on a device that matters, it’s finding a way of competing with the video apps and the games and the social media apps to actually spend some time open and in use. And that’s a tough fight. Notifications are the next platform – and the battle for news attention will probably be fought on them.

NYT homepage traffic

Talking of homepage traffic, Zachary Seward has actually looked into the NYT homepage traffic for Quartz:

Traffic to the New York Times homepage fell by half in the last two years, according to the newspaper’s internal review of its digital strategy.

Is that indicative of an overall fall?

Overall traffic to the Times isn’t falling; it’s just coming in through the “side door” more often.

So, no, then.

As the report itself says:

Traffic to the home page has been declining, month after month, for years. Traffic to section fronts is negligible.

Yet, how much time and effort is going into producing that homepage and those section fronts? An amount massively out of proportion to the traffic, I’d suggest.

This is absolutely symptomatic of the problems with traditional publishers moving online. They bring the habits of print with them, they don’t use metrics intelligently to understand how traffic actually moves across and around the site, and they end up wasting time and effort in pointless pursuits.

We cannot afford this moronic head-in-the-sand attitude to how our readers actually use our sites.

The river Adur

Dave Winer on innovation at the New York Times:

Let’s remake the NYT home page as a river. It will work a lot better than the current home page, and it will also attract interest from the world. And it can be iterated in so many ways. Not just technically but with content. Rivers should be seen as editorial products. A news organization should create a river just like they create an editorial workflow. It’s the equivalent of that, but on the visible side of the curtain.

(This is in light of Buzzfeed exposing an internal report on innovation.)

The homepage as a river of news? It’s worked for others. And yet… in a well operated web site, relatively little traffic will be coming to the home page, but instead coming straight to the individual pages, via search, social, e-mail and so on.

We do need to rethink our obsession with website front pages, and rivers are one answer to be sure.

My grandparents' wedding

The internet has suddenly opened up new opportunities in archive content. Here’s a few examples I’ve collected over the last few months:

Around a decade or so ago, a new editor on a magazine I was working on pretty much binned the whole archive of photos the magazine had. Anything over three years old? Gone. Decades of built environments images swept away.

That’s the sort of short-sighted, now-focused thinking that’s crippling so many publishing organisations. For all our obsession with news and the latest thing, people have both a passion and, often, good business reasons for being interested in the past of an industry.

What value lies in your archives?

Liz Heron

Liz Heron of the New York Times wants to talk about the new social media landscape we find ourselves in – and it’s very different than it was a year ago. There are burgeoning amounts of social networks, and Obama is using hangouts on Google+, driving by requests from ordinary people.

400+ NYT journos on Twitter, 50+ using Facebook Subscribe.

2011 was an incredibly newsy year, and brought social media into the new mainstream. The arab spring, natural disasters and the occupy movement all played our on social media. The NYT is using a huge range of social media to push our quality content, while remaining sceptical in their reporting. Slew of training, best practices and worked on social media verification. She’s not the only one with platform fatigue… The question is no longer “wether to engage” on social media, but how to distinguish themselves from  others doing it. And how do they scale as new platforms emerge?

The US Presidential Elections are driving this. Livetweeting the debates and primaries is no longer enough. Everyone is doing it. There’s noise from other journalists, from everyone else. Instead, they’re trying to report in real time. They have a real time fact-checking team, for example. She has a dozen (!) interactive developers on her team. They’ve built their liveblogs into a one-stop shop for news on the debates as they happen. Tweets are curated from a pre-defined list of people close to the debate. They also pull out the best readers’ tweets on the homepage. The media cacophony also deserves its own coverage. Two reporters analyse the media coverage and Storify it – a liveblog of liveblogs. They are using both Facebook and Google+ to gee the readers direct access to the candidates. They also enable genuine two-way conversation between their readers and their journalists.

As the November election approaches, they know they have to keep innovating.

The iEconomy investigative series that looked at the human cost of Apple’s manufacturing practices. The name was chosen because it would make a good hashtag – they call this “hashtag science”. For this story, they put material out on Chinese networks, and them reverse translated the responses for the US audience.

The key with emerging platforms? Be strategic.

  • What are the strengths of the platform?
  • What are the big topics?
  • How can we distinguish ourselves?

Facebook is a larger network than Twitter – that’s why they have been experimenting with Facebook Subscribe, especially foreign correspondents, and the “how you live” desk. The foreign correspondents have a wide audience who are grateful for the chance to interact. One Facebook query on Liz’s account garnered 500 responses for a story on depression.

Google+? Its strengths are deep discussion and Hangouts. They’re pretty excited about the Hangouts in particular. They’re also being strategic on Tumblr and Quora.

Three pieces of advice:

  1. Be stragetic
  2. Be different
  3. Strive for meaningful interactions.


Using a tool called Mass Relevance – plugin what you want, and out comes a beautiful queue of Tweets. Haven’t really looked heavily at archiving.

Lots of debate about measurement of success.  The NYT has journalistic measures and referral measure. And the pay”fence” is designed to be social media-friendly, so all links from social media go straight through. And digital subscriptions are exceeding expectations.

Time spent on social media? It should be integrated into your process, not in addition to it.

I haven’t said much about the New York Times payment structure (it’s not a paywall), because, well, it looks OK. Not a bad way to address the issues of monetising the commodity we call general news. But one thing has been bugging me about it, and it was neatly summed up by John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

If you want to pay the New York Times to read the news using both their iPhone and iPad apps, in theory, you should be their ideal customer — you’re willing to pay, and you’re looking forward, technology-wise. But you’ll save money by getting several pounds of paper that you don’t want delivered to your doorstep every week.

Using online access to prop up paper subscriptions does not suggest a huge amount of confidence in the online revenue model being viable in its own right.