Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The New York Times wins the battle of the web

A few days ago, Jim Roberts, the editor in charge of Internet in the newsroom of the NYT went to Paris. With a few colleagues, we discussed with him the main topics concerning the Web policy of the Grey Lady.

Jim admitted that the conversion of the print journalists to digital reporting was not an easy job and took some time. According to him, no more than 200 out of the 1000 that works in the newsroom are really involved in writing for the Web.

Still most people agree with the new rythm of 24hrs a day that is implied by the merger of print and Internet. Articles are put on the site as soon as they are ready,without ever waiting for the print edition. Moreover, journalists are invited to use the social networks, Facebook and Twitter to dispatch pieces of information. Clearly, the social networks are a way to promote the image of the Times, a big PR device. Also, a team of 20 collects video news.

Concerning the new paying wall, it seems to be successful, even if it admits some holes ie the use of Google or Facebook to have a free access to the news. Figures look good: 700 000 subscribers from the print edition, 320 000 digital only. The total amount is one million. However, the income from the subscriptions and advertising are still much lower than the receipts of the print edition but Jim refused to give more figures.

Asked about the recent creation of a community of trusted commentators, Jim said that it was both a way to reduce the cost of moderation and a mean to recruit experts who would contribute to the content of the print and the Web. The combination of this community and the development of curation would allow the Times to play a central role on the information market, to be a "Google of the news".

Speaking of the future, Jim admitted that three big issues remained: the working of the paywall, the applications on the mobile tablets and the use of the social networks. The Times keeps testing these issues.