On the second day of the summit, I attended the Keynote Session: Morning Edition with The New York Times, and found it fascinating. Jim Roberts, Editor of Digital News, The New York Times, along with colleague Aron Pilhofer, Editor of Interactive News Technology, discussed the move from traditional print to online publishing.
Roberts began by stating that it was a scary time in print publishing; sometimes there are headlines he doesn’t want his family to see. In particular, he mentioned the coverage of reporter layoffs at national daily newspapers (including more than 100 Times reporters in the last few months). While Roberts attributed the layoffs at least partially to the state of the economy, he suggested that this transition from print to online publishing also played a role.
He continued by lauding the new interactive tools that The Times has “put … in the hands of our users,” speaking with awe about the interactive political maps they have on the site and admitting to “playing with them” while having stacks of stories on his desk.
Roberts’s colleague, Aron Pilhofer, noted that “things are really changing quickly” in the field of online news publishing. In order to keep up, the Gray Lady hired seven journalists/developers in September of 2007. Pilhofer admitted that if you had asked him two years ago if he would be doing interactive news technology, he would have laughed. Today, he believes that “the Web is the future.” He went further, stating, “it is a matter of survival” and that if “we don’t embrace it [the Internet], we are going to die.”
I doubt that the Gray Lady will die, because as it has already made the transition—albeit a slow one—to online news publishing, offering interactive tools, news blogs and even interactive sports features. However, Pilhofer brings up a good point. There is a paradigm shift occurring within the news industry, and The New York Times is on the right path by embracing the new medium, rather than ignoring it.