61 Key Quotes from the Leaked New York Times Innovation Report

Buzzfeed obtained a copy of a leaked report written for top executives at the New York Times. The report gives a very detailed description of the challenges facing the the New York Times and print news.

Below we have listed some of the most interesting quotes from the report.

Not only is audience on our website shrinking but our audience on our smartphone apps has dipped, an extremely worrying sign on a growing platform. (Page 1)

We are falling behind in..the art and science of getting our journalism to readers. (Page 1)

The difficulties we face in audience development are symptomatic of our need to become a more nimble, digitally focused newsroom that can thrive in a landscape of constant change (Page 3)

That means taking more time to assess the landscape and chart the road ahead, rethink print-centric traditions, use experiments and data to inform decisions, hire and empower the right digital talent and work hand-in-hand with reader-focused departments on the business side. (Page 3)

The few new roles we have proposed are not focused on creating new journalism; their goal is to get more out of the journalism we are already creating. (Page 4)

…the hard work of growing our audience falls squarely on the newsroom. (Page 5)

But it is essential to begin the work of questioning our print-centric traditions, conducting a comprehensive assessment of our digital needs, and imagining the newsroom of the future. (Page 6)

Focusing on the core is harder than starting something new because every proposal threatens tradition and turf (Page 7)

The realities of a cluttered Internet and distracted mobile world now require us to make even more of an effort to get our journalism to readers. (Page 18)

…we are putting less effort into reaching readers’ digital doorsteps than we ever did in reaching their physical doorsteps. (Page 18)

This effort to reach more readers – known as Audience Development – is where our competitors are pushing ahead of us. (Page 18)

Our home page has been our main tool for getting our journalism to readers, but its impact is waning. Only a third of our readers ever visit it. (Page 19)

More readers expect us to find them on Twitter and Facebook, and through email and phone alerts. (Page 19)

…BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and USA Today are not succeeding simply because of lists, quizzes, celebrity photos and sports coverage. They are succeeding because of their sophisticated social, search and community-building tools and strategies, and often in spite of their content. (Page 19)

…at The Times, discovery, promotion and engagement have been pushed to the margins.. (Page 20)

We need to think more about resurfacing evergreen content, organizing and packaging our work in more useful ways and pushing relevant content to readers. And to power these efforts we should invest more in the unglamorous but essential work of tagging and structuring data. (Page 21)

…we must take the process of optimization, for search and social, more seriously and ensure we are updating our tools and workflow… (Page 21)

..the newsroom as a whole must take the reins in pursuing user-generated content, events and other forms of engagement in a way that reflects our standards and values. (Page 21)

…we have 12,723,933 articles, dating back to 1851, that can be resurfaced in useful or timely ways. (Page 23)

We must push back agains our perfectionist impulses. Though our journalism always needs to be polished, our other efforts can have some rough edges as we look for new ways to reach our readers (Page 26)

Currently, the risk of failing greatly outweighs the reward of succeeding at The Times (Page 27)

..even old content can generate significant traffic without ever appearing on the home page (Page 29)

We greatly undervalue replicability. (Page 31)

We also need to prioritize sustainable solutions over time-consuming hacks, short-term fixes and work arounds to problems that emerge repeatedly, sometimes daily. (Page 31)

…personalization offers countless opportunities to surface content in smarter ways. (Page 32)

Readers have come to expect smart personalization online. But our current recommendation engine…uses an algorithm to serve up content that leaves many readers puzzled about our judgement. (Page 33)

We could create a “follow” button that offers readers a variety of ways to curate and receive their own news feeds… (Page 34)

Without better tagging, we are hamstrung in our ability to allow readers to follow developing stories, discover nearby restaurants that we have reviewed or even have our photos show up on search engines. (Page 36)

The percentage of readers who visit BuzzFeed through social…is more than six times greater than at The Times. They have learned…that a great Facebook post has become a better promotional device than a headline and that the impact of social is even greater on mobile. (Page 38)

Even though audience development is the kind of work that should be shared across the company, it instead falls into silos, with marketing, public relations, search and social all answering to different bosses and rarely collaborating. (Page 40)

At The Times, the social team collects less data and is less integrated with the rest of the newsroom than at our competitors, hampering our efforts to identify and spread best practices. (Page 40)

We need to explicitly urge reporters and editors to promote their work and we need to thank those who make the extra effort. (Page 42)

Only a fraction of stories are opened for comments, only one percent o readers write comments and only three percent of readers read comments. (Page 44)

…our offline efforts to connect with readers, like conferences and cruises, are largely outdated replicas of competitors’ work…” (page 44)

Our reporters and columnists are eager to connect with readers in this way bu many are going to other platforms to talk about the process behind their work. (Page 45)

User-generated content, which has provided our competitors with a low-cost way to expand their sites and deepen loyalty, has proved to be a difficult challenge at the times. (Page 46)

We should experiment with expanding our Op-Ed offerings to include specific sections and verticals, opening up our report to leaders in fields such as politics, business and culture. (Page 47)

There is no reason that the space filled by TED Talks, with tickets costing $7,500, could not have been created by The Times. (Page 48)

Currently, our capabilities for collecting reader data are limited. The information is dispersed haphazardly..and rarely put to use for purposes other than marketing. (Page 49)

..the newspaper sets the gold standard not just because we employ world-class journalists but because we also empower them with a world-class support system. But we have not yet modernized that support system for our digital journalism. ( Page 52)

..the many business-side departments and roles that are focused on readers…need to work more closely with the newsroom, instead of being kept at arm’s length, so that we can benefit from their expertise. (page 55)

[There] should be a deliberate push to abandon our current metaphors of choice – “The Wall” and “Church and State” – which project an enduring need for division. Increased collaboration, done right, does not present any threat to our values of journalistic independence. (Page 56)

Indeed, a central reason that digital-first organizations like Huffington Post and BuzzFeed have succeeded with lackluster content is because of their excellent product and technology operations, which are critical parts of their newsrooms. (page 57)

…we heard repeatedly from designers who said they were treated as outsiders. They said newsroom editors needed to be more engage when designers are wrestling with major questions about our digital future, like experimenting with personalization, rethinking how we organize our content and even changing the architecture of stories to meet new needs.” (Page 57)

…there is widespread concern that it is inappropriate to speak with colleagues on the business side’s payroll. (Page 59)

This sense of division has prompted the departure of some of our best developers, exacerbating a talent deficit in Technology that slows down projects. (Page 62)

Again and again, we found that the most forward-thinking approach to some of our pressing problems were coming from Design and Product. (Page 63)

But strategy is such a pressing need at this juncture that it should become a permanent newsroom function, with dedicated staff. (Page 66)

Our aversion to failure can also lead to wasted resources and prevent us from learning valuable lessons. (Page 70)

…news desks particularly web producers, lack the opportunity to experiment digitally on their own. (Page 72)

…it has become increasingly clear that we are not moving with enough urgency. (Page 76)

More than three quarters of our advertising and subscription revenue still comes from the newspaper, and most of our employees have spent their careers building skills to succeed in print. But the huge majority of our readers are digital, and this represents our single biggest opportunity for growth. (Page 76)

That means aggressively questioning many of our print-based traditions and their demands on our time and determining which can be abandoned to free up resources for digital work. (Page 77)

Some of our competitors have ruthlessly reorganized in the last two years around digital and grown significantly. (Page 78)

Our mindset is to perfect, then release. This should always be the case for our journalism. But we must question whether everything needs to meet this standard. (Page 81)

Newsroom leaders spend a lot of time reading other outlets’ stories. Few are studying their digital strategies – presentation, social presence, search optimization, navigation and mobile strategy. Fewer still are spending enough time looking at digital media outlets that we don’t consider competitors. (Page 82)

We need more reporters and editors with an intuitive sense of how to write for the web, an interest in experimenting with mobile and social storytelling, a proficiency with data, a desire to engage with readers on and off our site, and a nuanced understanding of the shifting competitive landscape. (page 84)

There is no single newsroom owner of our content-management system…(Page 89)

We are not aggressive enough about promoting our work so that our content reaches its maximum natural audience. (Page 89)

Our content needs a newsroom-driven promotion strategy ahead of and just after publication. (Page 89)

We don’t regularly use data to inform our decisions in the newsroom, which means we are missing out on an opportunity to better understand reader behavior, adjust to trends and drive traffic to our journalism. (Page 89)

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