NYT's future on the iPad? Ask these men

Matt Bowman · January 29, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/d79
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The Grey Lady shuffles execs, designates VPs to extend reach on “new devices."

 The New York Times announced several personnel shifts at its website, NYTimes.com, today as the company prepares for metered charging of online content in 2011. The execs now handling digital strategies, Eliot Pierce and Nick Acheim, have possibly the most important jobs in Big Media at the moment.

A looming question for the industry in recent weeks has been whether tablet devices like the iPad can reinvigorate readership and revenue. The NYT’s stock has plummeted in the last two years, and even its online revenues remain dismal.

Many pundits have billed the iPad as a potential savior for the dying newspapers, but if the iPad’s unveiling on Wednesday clarified anything it’s that competition for eyeballs will remain fierce—awesome games, apps, movies, the new ibookstore--all the iPad’s many uses mean that Big Media will still have to fight hard to gain mindshare.

Whether the iPad will help Big Media depends very much on how effectively the industry uses the technology. At the NYT, the task of innovating new kinds of products now falls squarely on the shoulders of Nicholas Ascheim, who was named VP-new ventures and is responsible for extending the NYT’s reach into “different products, services and platforms, including new video opportunities.”

Ascheim was previously VP-product management at NYTimes.com. He helped introduce long-form sponsored videos to the paper's main video page in 2007--a project that was apparently abandoned. (Compare this screenshot of the product from a Beet.tv post in ’07 with the NYT’s current video page--no more sponsored videos).

Another important player in NYT’s digital strategy will continue to be Eliot Pierce who was bumped up to VP-advertising and digital strategy, business development and ad operations, NYTimes.com. He was previously VP-operations and strategy. He will now manage advertising planning and digital ad operations, and continue to oversee digital strategy and biz dev for the site.

My advice to Pierce and Ascheim is to hire more software developers and less of everything else. Text is basically not monetizable, given the ease of copying it. The NYT’s competitive advantage is the amount of capital it can dedicate to editorial. This money should go to non-piratable content that users will be willing to buy. Picture an interactive 360-degree video (see Yellowbird's technology) in Haiti minutes after the Earthquake, or graphs of economic data with variables you can change by manipulating them with your fingers on-screen, or a side-bar to a story about tax policy that let’s you compare your tax situation based on numbers from your Mint app with national averages.

Best of luck to the new digital execs. The fate of the Grey Lady is in your hands.

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