Friday, May 16, 2014

The New York Times' Digital Strategy and "The Future of Libraries."

Last week the higher-ups at The New York Times did a bang-up job of reminding everyone that institutional sexism is real and pervasive. In addition, someone on The Times' payroll leaked a digital strategy document, titled Innovation Report 2014, to Buzzfeed that librarians would be wise to read.

To wit, The Times has a metadata problem: they lack both a controlled vocabulary and informal systems to tag stories behind the scenes, making it hard for reporters, writers, and digital content staff to make and promote connections.
“Without better tagging, we are hamstrung in our ability to allow readers to follow developing stories, discover nearby restaurants that we have reviewed or even have our photos show up on search engines.” (Page 41 of the report)
It took the Times seven years to come up with a “September 11th” tag, there's still no “Benghazi” tag (41).
“Just adding structured data, for example, immediately increased traffic to our recipes from search engines by 52 percent.” (44)
That's the price of bad, or non-existent, metadata.

There's more. The full Times report is hosted by the Neiman Journalism Lab, which also has excerpts. All images below come from that page.

Does this sound familiar, librarians? Do you think library websites are "gateways?" What is the role of content and discoverability?

The stuff that we, libraries and archives, have is valuable. But do we recognize opportunities when we see them? Gawker did. Phelps did. In reporting on the firing of executive editor Jill Abramson, The New Yorker did, scooping the Times on events that happened in the Times' own building.

Do we let the perfect be the enemy of the good? How afraid of mistakes, of failure, are we, even when we're surrounded by it?

Altmetrics: it's not just for scholarly communication.

Listen to your communities. Be responsive.

Your silos? They stink. They're often a product of organizational culture. They have implications for staff, and for communities.

The Times' Twitter account is run by its newsroom, while the business side of the Times handles its Facebook page, making for a confusing, incoherent public face for the paper.

“Because that's how we've always done it!”

Be curious. Seek continual improvement. Talk to people elsewhere, and steal their ideas. It's flattery. This is what conferences are for.

Again, it is okay to fail. I fail all the time, often in spectacular fashion. Failure is normal. Failure is natural. Try to create a culture where it is okay to take chances and okay to fail. And if something is failing, recognize it.


Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.

The full report is worth a read.

Elsewhere on this site:
Glass Houses, Pots, Kettles
The End of "The End of Libraries"


  1. It really helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for this, very interesting..

  3. I recently got a quote for a consortia offer from the NYT to provide campus-wide access to the current content on the NYT website. We already have it from several aggregator sources, but this would be a better interface for users and it seemed like a thing we'd want. But not at the $4+ per FTE annual subscription they wanted to charge, and especially not now that I know how terrible their metadata is.