Why I started the Digital Lab Series at the New York Times, International

For the past year, once a month I invite a tech or digital company to the New York Times in London or Paris to speak about what they are doing in the space. It’s an informal, hour long session on Friday where people in all international sales offices — Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore and London — congregate for a dosage of digital from the outside world. We have everyone on our team, from interns to creative strategists to members of our creative studio and back to sales and ad ops, who join for the discussions. As cutting edge as we are at the New York Times, sometimes an outside perspective can lend itself to even more self awareness.

The goal of this series is for our international teams to hear what is happening in the world of digital outside of the NYT walls. They aren’t pitches; they aren’t necessarily people we are or aren’t working with but the rule is that it has to be interesting. We have had conversations around competitors, different perspectives in digital, new challenges in digital innovation, digital trends or what that company has learned. For the company that presents, it’s an opportunity to hear feedback from our colleagues, to present a new idea and later, a free drink from me as a thank you.

I started doing sessions like this at a startup I helped co-found. Back then, we called it “Rebecca Black Fridays” and we typically used them as brainstorming sessions for creative projects. It was sporadic as these sometimes can be, but the idea was to get out of the office into another space to let our minds breathe a bit.

We can often be so laser-focused at our jobs, that we end up missing the big picture. It’s between the gaps or with fresh perspectives that the best ideas can often come from.

This has the same connotation. There is something about stepping away from the focus that somehow gives way to even more focus in the long run. It opens up ideas, expands the mind and gets people talking about subjects perhaps they wouldn’t in the interim. It’s essential to understanding the market and how to tackle it.

We have had everyone from Sizmek to King Games to a location-based data company named Beemray coming to present today. For me, it’s not about who we are already working with, it’s about having a deeper understanding of the industry at large to ensure we are continuing to stay ahead of the game.

Simple but effective. Let me know if you know of an interesting digital startup or are interested in speaking about a topic! Always looking for new and interesting discussions.