Why does the NYT still think it can digitally transform?
Well, I finally read the much-ballyhooed internal report by the New York Times that was released on Buzzfeed the other day (irony implied). It paints a picture of a company acutely self-aware that it is not generating the necessary digital numbers to compete for a much larger share of available digital advertising revenue.
But it also seems to conclude that there is a hidden combination of audience development techniques and internal collaboration to doing so that simply needs to be identified and unlocked, thereby vaulting the venerable old brand when, in fact, the nature of that brand is exactly why it will never win the digital game.
Just making, somehow, a more digitally-focused newsroom won’t matter. It will just bury resources into “not-the-problem.” Obsessing about when news is published and trying to get it published earlier is another false problem. It takes longer when the journalism is good and your first mantra is to get it right. That is not a spirit anyone wants to see digitalized away. And having a hip-cool app is the least of the problem.
The NYT brand is so strong, so focused and so accepted for what it is by the populace, that no rebranding or fine tuning will ever convince enough consumers that it is the cutting-edge digital choice for 2020 and beyond.
The New York Times is publishing. It’s Pulitzers. It’s print. Most of all, it is print. The monumental task of making enough consumers of the right demographic mix and heft think of it as anything than the Old Gray Lady – a great as the journalism it produces still is – will prove too great for its best minds. And it has the best minds in the game and access to the best anywhere. The fact that they have yet to unlock this magical code after two decades of exploration should be self-evident enough.
There is simply no point in diluting the good brand by forcing some sort of never-before-seen scale of digital surge on the bet that it would get NYT where it wants to be.
No, there are only two options. One is to create a new digital brand so independent of and differentiated from the Times that it won’t be dragged down by it. But at this point, such a thing would take too long considering the rapid pace of revenue transition needed.
The only remaining choice is to acquire a solid up-and-coming brand to which it can apply purely digital principles and business plans unencumbered by the current thought and bureaucratic infrastructures.
So who would that be? Hmmmm.