May 19, 2014

What Marketers Can Learn from the New York Times' Innovation Report

You might not think that The New York Times needs to worry much about content marketing, but you’d be wrong. When you think about it, what The Times does is precisely content marketing—its news pieces, opinion columns and photos are all content.

Last week, the New York Times Innovation Report 2014 leaked. While "The Gray Lady" patted itself on the proverbial back for “winning at journalism,” the report’s writers also indicated that the newspaper needs to reinvent itself digitally to remain relevant over the long term.

“We are falling behind in a second critical area: the art and science of getting our journalism to our readers,” the report reads. “We have always cared about the reach and impact of our work, but we haven’t done enough to crack that code in the digital era.”

In other words, The Times is struggling to effectively reach its readers, whose reading habits are changing thanks to the evolution of technology.

Let’s take a look at three content marketing lessons that can be gleaned from the innovation report:

  • If you build it, they will come—if you promote it appropriately. Believe it or not, less than 10 percent of traffic to The Times’ website originates from social media, compared to sites like Buzzfeed, which gets 60 percent of its traffic that way. Effective use of social media will undoubtedly grow your website traffic. But that all starts with creating high-quality content and spreading it intelligently. Your content creation strategy should incorporate social media strategies as well.

  • You are not the best thing since sliced bread. Even for a paper as prestigious as The Times, it’s important to remember that there are many competitors out there. And while you may have established yourself as an industry leader, all of those competitors are actively working to replace you and attain that status themselves. According to the report, many Times’ reporters said that their work speaks for itself and because of as such, they didn’t want to self-promote it. But in today’s socially networked world, all of your competitors are promoting their own work. And with the right combination of content and promotion, the audience grows. So don’t sit back and wait for your audience to approach you. Instead, reach out and engage them.
  • Your promotion strategy might be just as important as your content. Even the strongest content might be hidden from view without a proper promotional strategy. And that’s why marketers need to ensure that their promotional campaigns are thoroughly planned and ready to go immediately. Gone are the days of publishing content and then thinking about how to promote it. The two now go hand-in-hand, so keep that in mind when devising your content creation strategy. When Derek Jeter surprisingly announced that 2014 would be his last campaign earlier this year, the Yankees were already prepared for the announcement and immediately took to social media with a branded campaign centered on the hashtag #FarewellCaptain.

The above is not a comprehensive list of what marketers stand to learn from The Times’ report, which is available in full here. But it does go to show that even an established industry juggernaut will face the prospect of becoming irrelevant as things change if it isn’t willing to reinvent itself. To arrive at success, marketers need to focus on constantly improving and adapting with the times, lest they be overtaken by organizations unafraid to take chances.


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