Research for the report was conducted at the request of Executive Editor, Jill Abramson and its aim was to extend the reach and impact of the newspaper and to make recommendations about where their digital landscape could be improved.
The report recommends that the newspaper focus on attributes such as audience development, social engagement, page optimisation, user experience and content management systems.
The five recommendations include:
1) Creating an audience development team
2) Creating an analytics team
3) Creating newsroom strategy team
4) More collaboration with reader-focused departments on the business side of the newspaper
5) Digital media professionals to assist with the digital transition.
While the newspaper has offered readers a successful home-delivery operation, the report’s authors are encouraging the same approach with readers “digital doorsteps”. In the past, the newspaper’s main strategy has been to focus solely on producing quality journalism but now their focus is also on developing tools and tactics to meet the needs of contemporary readers.
These include a stronger social media presence, optimising search engines and engaging with readers directly through email and comments. The main aim of this approach is to develop quick data gathering and analysis capacities in order to enable new ways of linking and surfacing stories.
The report acknowledges that while the newspaper produces “an average of 300 URLs a day, which are added to the 15 million articles already in the archive,” it still has a long way to go. It queries factors such as how often news content should be refreshed, how deeply readers engage with multimedia packages and whether regular features and columns have developed a loyal digital following.
Collaboration between the newsroom editorial and business departments was encouraged in order for the newsroom to collective focus on building, rethinking and studying the digital experience of their readers. It also recommends that the newsroom invests in nurturing its digital talent and does a better job of recruiting, empowering and promoting these employees.
The report concludes that the Times must continue to evolve in the digital world over the coming decades in order to maintain their status as “the greatest journalistic institution in the world”. Time will tell if the recommendations will play out successfully. As Gigaom senior writer Mathew Ingram puts it “…can a traditional news outlet change not just the way it works but the actual newsroom and management culture that has persisted for decades, and focus enough energy on being digital first to make it work — while still being run by executives who rose to power within that traditional culture?”