The New York Times’ leaked innovation report was probably the best thing that ever happened to the Times. Of course, the global humiliation of their digital failures had to have stung at first, in the moment, but in the end the way they responded to the truth of their situation – that they were stuck using old ways in a new world – become the source of how they found their way towards evolution. Rather than licking their wounds and doing the same thing they’ve always done, they embraced their need to change their perspective and adopted a new road map to help them take the Times legacy into the digital age, and today, they are starting to thrive.
So what happened? A few months after the New York Times innovation report was leaked, they responded by creating an Audience Development department to build and implement Audience Development strategies that would help this publishing behemoth evolve and bring them success in a 21st century media landscape.
As this Digiday article reviews in detail, under the leadership of Alexandra MacCallum, they developed Audience Development strategies that integrated the efforts of the newsroom, analytics, social media and SEO, which started the creation of a seamless, cross-platform customer experience that now works to serve the best interest of everyone – journalists, audiences and the Times.
The results? Within the first 2 months, online readership increased by 20%! They found that they were not as far off as they thought. They just needed to approach their business challenges with a new paradigm – an audience first approach to brand growth.
At the core of their audience development approach was
1. Adopting an audience first strategy
2. Utilizing social analytics to guide the formation of strategy
3. Creating separate niche strategies for the various types of audiences that exist within the larger Times umbrella; such as, travel or cooking
4. Changing the way their teams work together – rather than in silos – sharing ideas, supporting each other’s efforts and streamlining the work flow.
While the Times continues to adapt and grow their audience – both in size and loyalty – they are still behind other digital-only news sources like Yahoo, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. But at least they finally took the risk to make the paradigm shift they needed in order to find the right strategy to lead them towards success. Had the innovation report not leaked, they may still be running circles around themselves trying to figure out how to evolve in the digital age. Now, with an audience first mindset, they are finally starting to join the digital evolution rather than waiting and being left behind.