The NEW YORK TIMES just doesn’t get it. At least, that’s the impression I get after looking at their home page (part of an Innovation Lab project we’re working on to rethink what a digital newspaper and/or magazine product could look like).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of the Times and a number of its writers. I love their product. In fact I love it so much that I know I can read the Times for free on my iPhone (it’s one of the most popular applications in the apps store). I love it so much that I know the Times has more than 300,000 fans on their Facebook page. I know that the Times has more than 500,000 followers for it’s Twitter feed. I know that if I wanted to, I could have a direct connection with the Times and its product, 24/7. But I would never know that from looking at the NEW YORK TIMES homepage.
Because the Times still thinks that their product is their newspaper. That’s why there are two call outs for home delivery in prominent locations on their homepage. That’s why they’re still encouraging me to receive information from them every 24 hours (and to receive that information in a non eco-friendly format with an expensive distribution system). Instead of interacting with that information (which is their real product) on a constant basis throughout my day. Instead of letting me know this information is available to me on multiple platforms and in whatever format I choose. Because the Times is heavily invested in an obsolete format and believes that they should control how I consume their product.
Management at the Times obviously realizes that they have to acknowledge new trends in information delivery. That’s why they’ve got a Facebook page and a Twitter feed and are stepping hesitantly in to digital media. But they need to learn that you can’t just dip a toe in these waters. You have to dive in headfirst. If you don’t deliver information in the format consumers want, don’t expect digital consumers to have any loyalty to your brand. They’ll be using Alltop or some other aggregator to cherry pick your content. And you’ll still look like an aging dinosaur, trying to stay relevant while clinging desperately to the crumbling vestiges of past glories.
I believe that we need the NEW YORK TIMES. It’s not just a powerful voice in the media landscape but an important part of America’s cultural heritage. But I also believe that they need to substantially revise their business model and embrace digital media wholeheartedly. Otherwise, it might not be too long before we read about the Times being bought by Google.
The only question will be if we read about it on Facebook or Twitter first.