The New York Times has changed a lot in the past 10 years, embracing digital subscriptions and growing into online video and specialty areas like cooking.
It has not been enough to prepare the company for the future, according to the paper’s own 2020 report released on Tuesday.
“While the past two years have been a time of significant innovation, the pace must accelerate,” the authors wrote in the opening of the report. “Too often, digital progress has been accomplished through workarounds; now we must tear apart the barriers. We must differentiate between mission and tradition: what we do because its essential to our values and what we do because weve always done it.”
The report, authored by an internal committee at the Times, provides a snapshot of how far the paper has come in changing itself for the digital age while also pointing out what needs to be done. It is the second such report from the company, which released its “Open Innovation” report in 2012.
It comes as buyouts and layoffs loom for the Times, a topic not touched on in the report. A note from executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn sent to Times staff said that “budget cuts this year” will be laid out “in the coming weeks and months.”
Also announced on Tuesday is the Times renewed efforts for covering the upcoming Donald Trump administration for which the paper is budgeting an additional $5 million.
The areas that need improvement are focused on the newsroom, particularly in the tools and internal structures that journalists must deal with to produce their work.
Many of the report’s recommendations are familiar to anyone who closely follows the Times or newspapers in general: A shift away from print’s outsized importance on the newsroom’s operations, better ways to include multimedia in stories and a renewed effort at creating more a diverse newsroom with a variety of skills.
Oh, and more subscribers. Definitely way more subscribers. The paper has an ongoing goal that started in 2016 of doubling digital revenue to $800 million by 2020.
“To secure our future, we need to expand substantially our number of subscribers by 2020.”
The report also calls into some question that formats on which the Times and most other newspapers rely on, namely a mix of news stories and features that are text heavy.
“Too much of our daily report remains dominated by long strings of text,” the report states.
The report stresses that the Times should do more to educate readers. It points to the acquisition of The Wirecutter and the new Smarter Living section as the kind of thing the paper needs to do more.
“Our readers are hungry for advice from The Times. Too often, we dont offer it, or offer it only in print-centric forms,” the report states.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the report comes at the very bottom in the form of critiques from the paper’s own journalists, who have been granted anonymity in the report.
Reporters said they would like to see less incremental news, flexibility in choice of how to tell certain stories, and some disagreement about what kind of tone the Times should embrace going forward.
“Emotion is not something we tend to embrace, and we should. Its a major driver of loyalty. Of connection…. We write too often in a male executive voice, which tends to push away many readers we should be bringing close,” said one person quoted in the report.