Digital Value

The following item is reproduced from the NMDC Newsletter June 2014:

Leaked New York Times digital plan ‘key document of this media age’

The New York Times’ often anxious-sounding assessment of its digital strengths and weaknesses, and the marketplace it operates in, has been leaked and widely discussed in the US media. Neilson Journalism Lab described it as the ‘key document of this media age’. While some of the document discusses problems unique to the shift of newspapers from print to online, there are wider resonances for any cultural organisation with a significant online presence. The leaked report says:

  • Homepages on larger sites are increasingly unimportant, with users more often entering the site on subpages that reflect their interests. Despite this, it is hard to resist pouring resources into the homepage.
  • Curating and repackaging old content, tied to specific events is effective. The New York Times has an archive stretching back to 1851, but it was another outlet, Gawker, who generated readership from relevant NYT archive content following the release of the film 12 Years A Slave. The paper did score a huge hit by repackaging love-related material for Valentine’s Day. [In this respect the NYT echoes the Collections Trust point that ‘creating value is the new digitisation’]
  • Tagging is important – allowing users with a specific interest to follow a theme over time – but often neglected.
  • It argues for ‘valuing replicability’ – innovating technically in ways that can be continually used for new content, not just one big prestige project – as Buzzfeed has done with its ‘quizzes’ technology.
  • The paper wants to position itself as supplying ‘long view’ content of museums, books and theatre – topics where the market is not yet commercially saturated elsewhere.
  • It highlights the dangers of a gulf between content producers who do not understand digital and an undervalued digital team.