THE TIMES’ DIGITAL PLANS: On Thursday, Mark Thompson, the chief executive officer of the The New York Times Company, was at a panel convened by the Web site I Want Media to discuss the future of the media business.
Surrounding him were some of his most recognizable new media rivals — Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti; Roy Sekoff, the president of the Huffington Post’s video arm, HuffPost Live; Henry Blodget, ceo of Web site Business Insider, and Cindy Jeffers, ceo of Salon.com.
How was the Times surviving in such a competitive media environment, Thompson was asked.
“For legacy media, being quite good probably isn’t good anymore. There’s a danger zone in being in the middle. If you’ve inherited a great brand, with a national or global following, you’ve got the chance then to do the work you need to adapt,” he said.
Thompson used the panel to clarify some of the Times’ upcoming digital plans, which were hinted at in April, before the company’s first-quarter earnings report. These plans include a greater variety of subscription options to readers, including lower prices, as well as more games, in the style of its popular crossword puzzles, and broader e-commerce products.
Thompson compared the Times’ digital strategy to the way HBO develops its programming.
“One audience who loves ‘Girls’ and a different audience who loves ‘Game of Thrones.’ You create relationships around individual pieces, but adding up to a bigger proposition,” he said.
The Times works similarly now. The majority of readers probably come to the Times for breaking news and for the first-reads on major news stories. Others may come to read the political blogger Nate Silver.
In the future, Thompson said, the Times will offer even more digital products to choose from. One of the new products will be more games.
“It’s not going to be Angry Birds,” he said. Any games produced by the Times must possess a certain house style, Thompson said.
Peretti suggested an alternative to the popular mobile game. How about “Angry Words”? But that’s not quite right.
“It needs to be Times-ian,” Thompson finally determined.
Another alternative is interactive features like the enormously gushed over “Snow Fall,” which told the story of a fatal avalanche in a slick multimedia format.
While again speaking in general terms, Thompson said the Times had “a couple more really big projects coming through” that resembled the avalanche story. That project was so popular among reporters at the paper it’s inspired its own verb, “Snowfalling,” Jill Abramson, the executive editor, recently said at another panel.
“Snow Fall” taught the Times, Thompson said, the value of “enriching the storytelling experience.”
“A richer experience will draw people in to longer sessions times, deeper engagements. That makes sense in terms of advertising and subscriptions,” he said.