In an effort to connect more people with digital news, The New York Times is creating the widely discussed “audience development department," Executive Editor Dean Baquet wrote this week in a lengthy note to newsroom staff.
Plans for the department first surfaced early last year, when an internal report on digital innovation at the Times was leaked to the public. Since then, the news organization has been hiring for the new department.
This strong focus on audience is among a list of ways Baquet plans to make “a better, even more ambitious and creative New York Times” this year. With nearly 2 million paying readers and thriving print and digital products, the Times is “a highly profitable institution.” But Baquet's plans are to ensure the outlet’s “continued vitality and profitability” in a range of areas--from content to advertising.
Here are the areas that will take precedence at The New York Times this year, according to Baquet’s letter:
Coverage priorities: Culture and sports reports will get “new faces and energy,” according to Baquet. The Times will also build up a strong political team, as well as continue with big investigative projects.
Audience growth: The department’s purpose is “not to chase clicks,” Baquet wrote, “but to expose as many people as possible to our finest work, and to connect us to readers in new and deeper ways.” Drawing new subscribers will come from making the journalism both widely available and unmatched. Since the outlet "began a sustained effort" in this area two months ago, the Times has already seen a 20 percent increase in readers who discovered the Times' journalism.
More mobile: More and more people are reading the Times on their phones, with mobile users surpassing desktop users last year. So the paper will unveil “major changes in [its] mobile products within a few months, allowing [for] greater ability to mold what readers see.”
More specialized coverage: According to Baquet, the Times’ Cooking app has been a huge success--downloaded more than 300,000 times and with over 8 million users on the web. Due to its success, Baquet suggests the app might even “be a template for the digital future of our features.”
Grow international audience: The Times is currently trying to decide “which markets to jump into first, and how to go about doing it.”
More accessible video: With improved video quality in recent years, now the key is to make those videos more widely accessible. This, Baquet says, “will also be appealing to advertisers who want to be on [the] videos.”
Enhanced print products: Besides redesigning its Sunday magazine, which has already begun, Baquet says the Times has already begun some initiatives to enhance the print newspaper.
Explore sponsored content options: Baquet is working with the business side to explore possibilities for having sponsored content--such as an advertiser who sponsors a regular feature--on the site, in a way that doesn’t compromise “the line between news and advertising.”
Image courtesy of Flickr user Alex Torrenegra under a Creative Commons license.