A New(ish) Time For Media

The New York Times is not only surviving, but thriving by doubling down on traditional journalism.

The New York Times was created in 1851, and it is the epitome of established media. Adolph S. Ochs bought the newspaper during a bankruptcy sale in 1896. Since then, it has stayed in the family for five generations and for more than a century. In the early 1990s, A.G. Sulzberger began giving an annual “State of the Times” address. This week, his son A.G. Sulzberger Jr., who took over for his father at the end of 2017, gave his perspective on the media landscape and how The New York Times has adapted to meet this challenge.

During his speech, he highlighted the major scoops the paper covered and how investigative stories have had real-life impacts. He talked about how the team has expanded to cover unique things it never has in the past under a category called: “Stuff I Can’t Believe Appeared In The New York Times.”

The New York Times has had an impressive 2018:

  • It repeatedly scooped other media outlets while covering the White House because of reporters like Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt.
  • The heartbreaking photo of 7-year-old Amal Hussain put a face to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
  • Their Overlooked series profiled women that were unnoticed during their lifetime by writing them a modern-day obituary.

All these examples and the myriad of other stories Sulzberger recounted in his address to staff highlight his focus on reporters and good journalism.

Only at the end of his speech, did he mention the work of the people behind the reporters, like the website managers, graphic designers and people selling advertising.

Why It Matters

  • In the age of social media and technology, prioritizing traditional reporting is unconventional.
  • Funding models for media outlets is still evolving and many are experimenting with visualizations and other catchy ways to pull in readers rather than increasing long-form articles.
  • The New York Times is bucking media trends, and is not only surviving, but thriving with robust growth of readership.

Clyde Group Insights

Most people get their news on broadcast, social media or online rather than through print publications, according to Pew Research Center. Burgeoning media platforms are popping up, like Axios creating the concept of “smart brevity,” and pushing established media to innovate to stay relevant.

Instead, The New York Times has bucked the trend and doubled down on traditional journalism. Sulzberger has focused his paper’s business model on the power of storytelling through good journalism.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, has pumped money into the backend of the publication to achieve things like faster buffering rates so the website loads quickly on all devices. The Washington Post created Post Live, which is an events-based journalism that live-streams on-the-record interviews and has vastly expanded their video operation to deliver visual journalism and original creative content.

Today’s crowded news space shows how different media outlets are chasing varied goals to remain relevant. As public relations specialists, finding ways to pitch our stories to these outlets means we must be aware of their business model and priorities as much as their editorial calendar.