Did The New York Times Leak Jettison All Publishing Forward?

Last week, as the buzz about the firing of Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times, consumed most social and broadcast media outlets, another coup from The New York Times was also taking place. BuzzFeed first broke the story, and then Mashable picked up some details previously left out. If you haven’t read the leaked New York Times Innovation Report, you should at least scan through it. (You can download it here.)

The report provided a 96-page in-depth look at how The New York Times has been impacted over the past few years as interest and popularity in digital media and digital distribution has grown. The report very specifically outlines the NYT‘s obstacles, prior failings, and possibly some poor decisions, and the key areas where it needs to introduce immediate change in order to survive.

I won’t be the spoiler of the report (in case you haven’t read it), but I found myself very interested in reading some of the “opportunities for improvement.” Specifically, I found myself very interested in a story about one new competitor who was able take some high-quality content created by the NYT, re-organize it, and republish it in a way that was so much more relevant that it drove significantly more views than the original story.

As I got to the end of the report I found myself in agreement with many of the recommendations made by the team, and wondered how much of this could be applicable to any publisher out there. Whether you are a small start-up with a disruptive solution, or a large powerhouse traditional publisher, this report offered two key takeaways worth sharing.

  • Disruptive technology follows an interesting cycle. Many companies ignore the warning signs of new competitors, when in fact they should be on the alert. Disruptive companies produce more, faster, and in different ways. Typically with lesser quality that improves over time. The killer here is that most established companies will see the low-quality effort and discard the potential competition. The case study on digital photography in the report is a good one for everyone to read.
  • Generations adopt media differently. Yes, your loyal customer is most likely still loyal to you in the way they were 10 or even 15 years ago, but the new customer is younger and adopting to different modes of communication. When you reach out to a different generation, you must adjust to their modes of thinking and not try to force yours. While this is one of those “duh” statements, it is another one that will kill you if you don’t stay on top of it.

The leak of this report means that every publisher now has an opportunity to improve, or at least to be aware of the state of publishing. I see this as a great gift from The New York Times to all of us. Let’s use it wisely.

Image via Shutterstock.

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