New York Times Appoints Digital Pro to Engage its Readers

newspapersImagine The New York Times appointing an assistant editor for audience engagement.

Only 33, Alexandra MacCallum was described as a “business-side executive,” who will have a dual reporting role to the news and opinion editors.

My, how times have changed.

A Different Kind of Experience

The paper’s Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, in her op-ed column last Sunday, noted, “Although in the past masthead editors usually have boasted foreign reporting experience, years of editing experiences, and perhaps a Pulitzer, these qualities were not germane.”

That was directly from the mouth of the Times’s Executive editor, Dean Baquet, who told her, “I just picked the smartest person I could find.” MacCallum’s appointment is one of many changes predicted in the Times’s own self-evaluation, called The New York Times Innovation Report that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

The New Paradigm

Purists may see this as splitting hairs when Baquet says the traditional wall is still up between advertising and the newsroom. “I see this whole group of talented, creative people as something like Switzerland,” he said, “a third universe” in which both the newsroom and business side collaborate on new ways to attract and keep readers.

Ironically, MacCallum was one of the first three employees at Huffington Post which years ago surpassed the Times in readership. She’s digital all the way.

How Readers Consume Content

The Times, like those of us who are “publishers” of blogs, recognizes that visitors to home pages are declining. Readers increasingly are conducting searches on their mobile phone for certain key words. The Times appointed a seasoned digital pro to engage readers wherever they consume content.

Bloggers need to follow suit. Most likely readers will not land not on your blog’s home page but in a post where you’ve carefully sprinkled key words like bread crumbs so people can find their way to your most relevant content. Maybe they landed on one of your posts through a social network like Twitter or LinkedIn.

The Social Media Funnel

sales funnel social  mediaWe can’t overlook traffic from social networks. I don’t know about you, but I routinely use Buffer to post content of interest to my social networks. Possibly you use Hootsuite or another scheduler. But that’s what it’s become: simply a routine.

Smarter bloggers than me have developed a strategy for posting their content and cultivating relationships that will engage readers in their content. It isn’t random.

Do you actually participate in LinkedIn Groups instead of just posting your blogs? Have you engaged in one of the hundreds of twitter chats that are scheduled around the clock? I just took a look at the schedule and the topics range from Social Media to the Environment to Agriculture and Blogging #bloggab.

LinkedIn recently rolled out Pulse to all its members. This applications enables anyone on LinkedIn to become a content publisher. I’ve published two posts that have been read by close to 500 members, not nearly enough. But that’s since May. It’s easy to repurpose blog posts you’ve already written and LinkedIn is OK with that.

Striving to Survive

The New York Times is in survival mode. As the public editor reported, an NYU professor said recently, “The future of the daily newspaper is one of the few certainties in the current landscape: Most of them are going away in this decade.” We know the fate of most blogs. The owners lose interest, they write less and less content, ignore and forget to post to their social networks and eventually they end up in blog limbo.

The Times wants to stay alive and so do I. So, I’ll end this little pep talk to myself now. I hope it made you think more about your future, too.

Leave a Reply


  1. Jeannette- Blogging is overwhelming but I look at it as the cost of doing business. I participate in blogging groups as well as writing blogs. Recognition is important and the groups are helping to achieve just that. We are in a digital world and must maintain exposure or you are gone. Great pep talk.

  2. Wow…what a wake-up call! Part of my strategy is to get more folks to subscribe to my blog. Personally, it’s hard to count on or keep up with the latest Google algorithms…so that is becoming my mission. Ha! That said, other than posting a subscribe to notification at the end of each blog and on my home page, I’ve not thought of anything creative to lure them, other than content. Time to put on my thinking cap:)

  3. Our local big newspaper practically died already a couple of years ago. They did not realize (and react to) the changes of digital era and now it’s just horrible to watch. Especially the quality of the journalism… well. Cannot really talk about quality anymore.

  4. Hi Jeanette – The pep talk was needed – not just for yourself – but for all bloggers. It really did give me something to think about. To stay relevant we have to have a strategy and stay on top of changing times or we will end up in survival mode just like the New York Times. I want to stay around for a long time. I know you do too. 🙂

  5. I am trying to be more chatty on the groups. I read share and comment on the blogs I read. I can say, there are some connections with other bloggers now.
    Sometimes, not trying to work, but trying to know people might help to get more connections and then more clicks.

  6. That certainly kept me captivated. If the NY Times is willing to adapt then far be it from me to go against the tide. Like everything online I have read posts condemning scheduler services as well as ones promoting them. For me I like to engage with the folks who read what I write whenever possible.

  7. “The times, they are a changing.” So right Jeannette. My main take away is your point, I think, about not just being there (online) but getting engaged, moving conversations along.

    Mostly I love writing although at times, life becomes a priority and I have to miss a week. Not often but sometimes.

    Nice pep talk!

  8. Not long ago I went to great pains to re-design my landing page. I did it by myself and it took forever as many mistakes were made. I’ve since realized the landing page doesn’t get a lot of visits as you point out above. I would have been better off picking some good posts to pump up their keywords, etc.

    • Jeri — true. Most of our readers land directly on our posts and not our home page or landing page. That said, we still need an inviting design for our “house,” or home page. Who wants to visit a place that needs a paint job or seems outdated?!

  9. Interesting, Jeannette. If The New York Times, and other top publications, want to have high readership they have to stop charging people who read their newspaper online. The sooner the better because the young generation is not prepared to pay for reading online.

    They should definitely use social media more actively to gain readers. Like you, I use Buffer and am very content.

    Thanks for clarifying that we can re-post old articles on Linkedin Pulse. Have been invited to post but haven’t done so for the simple reason of time:-)

    • Catarina — That is the dilemma for newspapers and magazines. They are losing print readers but have to make money and need to charge for reading online. The Times now has more online subscribers than print subscribers so I think the public is getting around to the idea that not everything online is going to be free forever.