One of the interesting parts of The New York Times’ editorial makeup is the public editor. In addition to writing a few times a month, the public editor‘s role is to “handle questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity. The public editor works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper; her opinions are her own.” Margaret Sullivan is leaving that role and penned her last column over the weekend. In it she cautioned the following:
The old business model, based on print advertising and print subscriptions, is broken. A new one — based on digital subscriptions, new advertising forms, and partnerships with other businesses and media platforms — is in the works. There are hopeful signs, high ambitions and lofty plans, but certainly no guarantee of success.
I think we all recognize that. It’s interesting that the Times seems have reinvented itself as a digital media company that publishes a newspaper. That paradigm change affects everything – how content is created, the speed with which it’s made available, and most importantly, the business model. The Times isn’t the only organization to have done this. Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), for example, has always seemed to think of itself as a digital services company that has Major League Baseball as its primary client, and not just as Baseball’s digital arm. Having run a similar organization for a league, I can tell you that the differences in how business is done based on that thinking are stark. Perhaps it’s time you stepped back and had another think about your paradigm?
Ms. Sullivan also struck a cautionary note:
As partnerships, especially with Facebook, the social media behemoth, become nearly impossible to resist, The Times shouldn’t let business-driven approaches determine what readers get to see. In dealing with Facebook and other platforms and potential partners whose businesses revolve around algorithms, it’s critical that the paper makes sure the news that readers see is driven by the judgment of editors concerned about journalism, not business-driven formulas that may only reinforce prejudices.
In other words, be who you are and service your readers. Don’t let others control you and broaden your thinking about the best way to solve your customers’ problems. I think that’s a good mantra for any business. You?