The Times (Post, Trib, Et Al.) Are A Changin’


Bob Dylan once wrote, “The times, they are a-changin.’” As “Anchorman’s” omniscient narrator Bill Lawson noted, Ron Burgundy had never heard that song but for anyone working in the newspaper industry today in the past decade, it’s required listening. Major newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post, still reeling from the gauntlet of waning print media viability, now find themselves staring ahead at a new terrain fraught with fresh obstacles. As we’ve noted before, The New York Times has pivoted to a mobile-first approach, but now they, along with other leaders of the industry, are upping their game.

POLITICO’s Joe Pompeo writes that The New York Times, “like all newspapers—is grappling with economic headwinds and the rise of the smartphone, and its future is on the line once again.”  Framing the problem in financial terms brings the issue into even starker relief. Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine reports that the Washington Post, “will have to be cut by 50 percent over the next three years” and that “the last time total operating revenue for the paper was published, in 2012, it was $580 million; one former executive estimates today it’s probably closer to $350 million.”

The print industry has been battling novel news-reporting mediums and financial feasibility for decades. Preemptive and reactionary courses of action have come in the form of journalistic innovations and developments of business-related products.

On reporting innovations, The New York Times has placed a heavy focus on developing videos, graphics and social media in the past few years. The Washington Post has increased the number of their first person essays and health and life style coverage in response to a stronger demand for pieces on these topics. Sherman has also noted more attention-grabbing, “webbier” headlines from the Post.

Recognizing the need to supplement these efforts, the Washington Post and The New York Times have moved forward on business-related products as well. The Post is pushing their custom publishing platform to publishers and universities. They’ve also developed “software that allows readers to bookmark articles and continue reading across multiple devices” and are checking out programs that can engage with readers to grab headlines (Siri-style.) Pompeo notes that The New York Times will also be expanding their global readership, “creating digital editions tailored to non-Americans.”

Even bigger changes are ahead for The New York Times. The outlet has formed a “2020 Group” charged with major updates to the publication. The biggest of which is an “ongoing revamp of how the daily print edition gets put together.” Tom Jolly, an experienced mast head editor, has been tapped to lead in this “print hub” effort.

To borrow from Pompeo, “it’s hard to overstate the significance of these moves” made by the biggest players of print media. These changes impact how the world’s most influential news sources “present the world’s most important news every day to hundreds of thousands of people” who make up their audiences.

These are just some examples of recent significant shift and it’s safe to say, we can only expect more. Also, it isn’t just the newspapers that need to deal with the ever-changing dynamics of the media industry. As communicators, we’re constantly looking for ways to help our clients reach their target audiences, including by publishing their own content. It is critical to consider how that content is viewed not just in print, or online, but on mobile as well. We help our clients build innovative digital hubs to tell their story, grow their reach or marshal a movement. One of the first orders of business in working with our digital development partners is making sure that these sites are responsive and look great on mobile platforms.

We also have to make sure we’re aware and building relationships with publications and even social networks that are ‘mobile-first.’

With all of these changes it can be tough to stay on top of this evolving industry. Fortunately for communicators, the media beat is full of reporters who inform us of industry changes to make sure we’re up-to-date on how news is relayed to our target audiences. Here are some reporters and resources to follow closely: