Digital First is crucial but what truly matters for the NYT is quality

Joe Kahn, managing editor of the New York Times. You need a great newsroom to charge for content

For Joe Kahn, managing editor of the New York Times, the newspaper of today and tomorrow is "Digital First” but will always have at its heart a high quality newsroom. "Few can offer analytical, skeptical, investigative journalism, in English or other languages. The bet is thus that of being more and more relevant and available everywhere. A commitment in terms of product and distribution to become an increasingly digital and audience-conscious news organization.” In order to reach this goal “a lot of work remains to be done to understand today’s and tomorrow’s public,” he adds. One thing is and will remain certain, regardless of the technology and the formats developed and adopted: “Whatever the change, the newsroom will remain the heart.”

Kahn thinks that newspapers like the NYT are capable of staying up to pace with technological advancements and will be able to capture an audience that is “willing to pay for content” or rather for “accuracy, breadth, depth, the quality of information.” Kahn remembers how his newspaper already changed in the face of the digital revolution, which the NYT embraced starting in 2014 with its Innovation Strategy. “Total revenues from subscriptions are now much higher than advertising, 65% against 35%. And the fastest growing segment is digital subscriptions,” he said. A trend that has been accompanied by an adjustment in the type of work done at the newspaper and by the journalists.

"We found that an organization characterized by the primacy of digital subscriptions required more transformation than we had imagined,” Kahn said. A clear example of this is the separation of the production of the traditional print newspaper from the news desk. “Most newsrooms have always produced their respective section in the newspaper,” he adds noting that this is no longer true. "We have separated the sections from the news desks. They are no longer responsible for the print edition, but rather for the digital report. Another team creates the section in the print edition, but only after the stories are published on digital platforms. And what appears in the print edition does not necessarily reflect the digital report,” he said. "We have simplified the editing structure, concentrating it in the desk where the report originated rather than in a separate desks. It was a thorough system but it was too slow for digital.”


Marco Valsania @valsaniam
Corrispondente Il Sole 24 Ore da New York