“Journalism: A profession whose business is to explain to others what it personally does not understand.”

“Print media isn’t dead! Go to our website for the whole story”

Two articles about the NYT adapting to the Age of the Internet highlighted how stodgy Olde Journalism companies can play to their strengths.

In an article at Fast Company, Mark Wilson describes the NYT blog called The Upshot, where 17 reporters, graphic designers, and programmers create stories that synthesize mountains of data into a form that the average reader can both understand and relate to.

Wilson read an interactive Upshot piece about whether it’s better to rent or buy depending on your individual circumstances, like income and interest rate. Wilson put his own information into the calculator and it told him to buy rather than rent — and he bought a condo. He points out that he trusted the calculator’s advice because it was the NYT. He said he wouldn’t have trusted the same advice from an interactive feature at Vox or another site.

This shows that even though the NYT changes at an almost glacial pace, and seems to be incredibly reluctant to adopt features of new media, people trust them more because we assume that the people behind these articles are intelligent and aren’t just trying to get more clicks.

The New York Times Twitter team

Michael Roston wrote another article about the NYT and new media. “Don’t Try Too Hard to Please Twitter” describes the lessons the NYT Twitter team learned last year. It was funny because I felt like their assumptions about certain things were wrong — they still have a lot to learn about the internet.

For example, they explained how they posted an article about the security guard who lost his job after riding in an elevator with Obama. The first tweet simply used the article headline with a link. The next morning, they tweeted the article again, but this time with what they thought was more “Twitter-friendly” language. They noted that the second tweet got far less clicks, and assumed it had something to do with the wording in the tweets. The real reason was probably that by the next morning, a lot of people had already read the story, either at the NYT or at another site. Unless a subject is extremely fascinating to me, I won’t read multiple articles about it.

I also thought it was funny that the Twitter team had to learn through trial and error that people are more likely to click on an article when the tweet highlights what is interesting about the story, rather than focusing on the multimedia and audio features. No one is going to think, “Hey, this story has an audio documentary, I want to check that out!” Media consumers click on things because the story interests them; they aren’t thinking about exactly how the story is put together or what features it has.

While journalists should use new media, it shouldn’t be show-offy and obvious. It should meld with the story, so the reader isn’t conscious that the story might contain audio, visual, interactive graphics, etc — they just see it as part of one story.

It was cool that near the end of the piece, the author let down his hair a little and allowed himself & the social media team to crack just the hint of a smile… as he points out, the piece as a whole was pretty dry and humor-free, but the last few examples of tweets show that even the NYT can be funny… especially the “Autocorrect has come a long wa” with a link to an article on Autocorrect — haha.


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