Here’s what you need to know to build successful paid newsletters, popup newsletters, morning digests, and community newsletters

Thinking about starting your own email newsletter? A panel at ISOJ 2018 contains a wealth of advice for launching all types of editorial newsletters, from paywalled offerings to limited-run recaps tied to popular television shows to indispensable morning digests to community-creating newsletters. Continue reading “Here’s what you need to know to build successful paid newsletters, popup newsletters, morning digests, and community newsletters”

Thinking Like Entrepreneurs: Our Experience with Matter, a Design-Thinking VC Program

By Hannah Cassius, John Thai and Ben Solwitz

One of our co-workers sent us an email asking if we wanted to be a part of “The Matter Bootcamp”. She explained it as a design thinking workshop, meant to support both entrepreneurs in the media space and larger media companies (like The New York Times) in developing ideas to build a more informed, empathetic and inclusive society. Continue reading “Thinking Like Entrepreneurs: Our Experience with Matter, a Design-Thinking VC Program”

“Exceedingly generous”: Google will split revenue with publishers who use its new subscription tools

Google, an advertising giant, has been making nice with news publishers by developing a series of tools they can use to more precisely attract and target paid subscribers. (It also ended the first-click-free policy this month, allowing subscription-based publishers to choose how many articles to show to readers for free without search-ranking consequence.)

Google’s nice comes at a small business price for any publishers who might want to use the planned subscription tools, but the details are still being ironed out with publishers.

“It will obviously come down to what we think that business relationship should be, but bottom line, I think [revenue sharing] will be exceedingly generous [to news publishers],” Google’s head of news Richard Gingras told the Financial Times on Sunday. “In our ad environment, the rev shares are 70 per cent-plus. The rev shares [for publishers] will be significantly more generous than that.” (Google’s AdSense offers around a 70-30 split for publishers who use it to place ads on their sites.)

Gingras made sure to distinguish Google’s tack from Facebook’s “walled garden” approach, telling the FT that “unlike other participants in the environment, we’re not trying to own the publisher. If there are cases where we do cause the subscription to happen, we don’t want to own the customer. None of this changes the marketplace economics, people will pay for what they value.”

That “other participant in the environment” on Friday formally announced its test of news subscriptions models within its Instant Articles format, through which it won’t take any cut of the revenue from subscription signups (the subscription transaction and payment processing will take place entirely on the publishers’ site). Facebook’s subscription tests are Android-only, as it’s been wrestling with Apple over the past few months over Apple’s default 30 percent cut of “in-app sales,” Recode reported.

Social media crackdowns at the Times and Journal will backfire

The relationship between media outlets and social platforms like Twitter has always been tense. On some level, publishers know they have to be on social media, because that’s where the news happens, and it’s also where content gets shared—but at the same time, they are afraid of what might happen if reporters and editors speak […]

Open Speaker Series: Camille Fournier on Organizational Culture

Editor’s note: This is a recap from the Open Speaker Series, a regular series of talks held in-house at the Times featuring industry leaders in technology, design, product, organizational culture and leadership.

The Open Speaker Series and Women in Tech recently co-sponsored a conversation with Camille Fournier, founding CTO of Rent the Runway and the author of The Manager’s Path and Ask the CTO. Camille is currently Managing Director of Platform Engineering at Two Sigma.

The discussion centered on three topics — career, management advice and promoting diversity in tech.

Here are five highlights:

  • On learning and leadership: “I think the most important thing new people in tech can do is get comfortable looking dumb. The most important thing that experienced people in tech can do is get comfortable letting people ask dumb questions and not shaming them for asking dumb questions.”
  • On developing a diverse organization: “I found that when I was more flexible in where I looked, I found really amazing talent that had more non-traditional backgrounds, and they were more creative and actually worked better with the product and the team that we needed to build.”
  • On dealing with bureaucracy: “I do encourage always digging in on the bottlenecks and inefficiencies in process, and asking the question and raising the issue and seeing what happens.”
  • On improving technical interviews: “I don’t think that someone has cracked the code of how to give the best, most accurate interview […] I think that questioning, “what are we even looking for?”, in an interview is a good thing to do. I definitely think questioning, “how do we determine who is qualified to interview with us, for which roles?”, is another good thing to do.”
  • On self-improvement: “I am way smarter because I know a hundred people smarter than me that are willing, that I have helped out myself and who can then teach me things in return. Don’t expect to know it or do it all yourself. You’re never going to be able to successfully do it all yourself, but relying on those around you — and being there for those around you — delegating your brain out a little bit. You’d be surprised what people will do if you just ask them nicely.”

Open Speaker Series: Camille Fournier on Organizational Culture was originally published in Times Open on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

NYU Media Talk: Riding the Rollercoaster

“The lock screen will become our new home base,” said Clifford J. Levy, Deputy Managing Editor of The New York Times, in reference to his locked iPhone. It is his first source of news every morning.

I think back to my own 6:45 AM push notifications of CNN’s latest stories, media updates from POLITICO’s morning newsletter, job postings from an automatic job site e-mail, headlines from The Skimm’s daily news recap, and text messages from my family and friends. I am in total agreement. Listening to Levy and the other media thought leaders assembled for the 21stNYU Media Talk, hosted by the NYU Center for Publishing, I was struck by how drastically the distribution of content has changed. Continue reading “NYU Media Talk: Riding the Rollercoaster”

The New York Times, with a little help from automation, is aiming to open up most articles to comments

The New York Times’ strategy for taming reader comments has for many years been laborious hand curation. Its community desk of moderators examines around 11,000 individual comments each day, across the 10 percent of total published articles that are open to commenting.

For the past few months, the Times has been testing a new tool from Jigsaw — Google parent Alphabet’s tech incubator — that can automate a chunk of the arduous moderation process. On Tuesday, the Times will begin to expand the number of articles open for commenting, opening about a quarter of stories on Tuesday and shooting for 80 percent by the end of this year. (Another partner, Instrument, built the CMS for moderation.)

“The bottom line on this is that the strategy on our end of moderating just about every comment by hand, and then using that process to show readers what kinds of content we’re looking for, has run its course,” Bassey Etim, Times community editor, told me. “From our end, we’ve seen that it’s working to scale comments — to the point where you can have a good large comments section that you’re also moderating very quickly, things that are widely regarded as impossible. But we’ve got a lot left to go.”

These efforts to improve its commenting functions were highlighted in the Times announcement earlier this month about the creation of a reader center, led by Times editor Hanna Ingber, to deal specifically with reader concerns and insights. (In the same announcement, it let go Liz Spayd and eliminated its public editor position.)

Nudging readers towards comments that the Times “is looking for” is no easy task. Its own guidelines, laid out in an internal document and outlining various rules around comments and how to take action on them, have evolved over time. (I took the Times’ moderation quiz — getting only one “correct” — and at my pace, it would’ve taken more than 24 hours to finish tagging 11,000 comments.)

Jigsaw’s tool, called Perspective, has been fed a corpus of Times comments that have been tagged by human editors already. Human editors then trained the algorithm over the testing phase, flagging mistakes in moderation it made. In the new system, a moderator can evaluate comments based on the likelihood of rejection and checks that the algorithm has properly labeled comments that fall into a grayer zone (comments with 17 to 20 percent likelihood of rejection, for instance). Then the community desk team can set a rule to allow all comments that fall between 0 to 20 percent, for instance, to go through.

“We’re looking at an extract of all the mistakes it’s made, evaluate what the impact of each of those moderating mistakes might be on the community and on the perceptions of our product. Then based on that, we can choose different forms of moderation for each individual section at the Times,” Etim said. Some sections could remain entirely human-moderated; some sections that tend to have a low rate of rejection for comments could be automated.

Etim’s team will be working closely with Ingber’s Reader Center, “helping out in terms of staffing projects, with advice, and all kinds of things,” though the relationship and roles are not currently codified.

“It used to be when something bubbled up in the comments, maybe we’d hear repeated comments or concerns about coverage. You’d send that off to a desk editor, and they would say, ‘That’s a good point; let’s deal with this.’ But the reporter is out reporting something else, then time expires, and it passes,” Etim said. “Now it’s at the point where when things bubble up, [Ingber] can help us take care of it in the highest levels in the newsroom.”

I asked Etim why the Times hadn’t adopted any of the Coral Project’s new tools around comment moderation, given that Coral was announced years ago as a large collaborative effort between The Washington Post, the Times, and Mozilla. It’s mostly a matter of immediate priorities, according to Etim, and he can see the Times coming back to the Coral Project’s tools down the line.

“The Coral Project is just working on a different problem set at the moment — and the Coral Project was never meant to be creating the New York Times commenting system,” he said. “They are focusing on helping most publishers on the web. Our business priority was, how do we do moderation at scale? And for moderation at our kind of scale, we needed the automation.

“The Coral stuff became a bit secondary, but we’re going to circle back and look at what it has in the open source world, and looking to them as a model for how to deal with things like user reputation,” he added.

Photo of chattering teeth toy by Wendy used under a Creative Commons license.

Introducing the New Open Blog


Illustration by Erik Söderberg

I’m very pleased to announce today that we are relaunching The New York Times Open blog. In the process, we are making three important changes:

First, while the blog began life with an engineering focus, we are expanding coverage to include everyone who builds our digital products at the Times. You’ll see posts on design, product development, management, editorial, and yes, definitely engineering. Most posts will come from our team, but you may also see occasional guest posts, from people we are collaborating with in some way.

Second, we are greatly increasing our output. Previously we posted “every sometimes”, but from now on we are committed to posting weekly — at least. So be sure to follow us here on Medium, as well as on Twitter.

Last, as you can see, we are on Medium! While it may seem strange for us, a publisher, to post on Medium rather than our own platform, we are here for a simple reason: the community. Medium is where so many of our people are, so much of the product, design and development community, so we wanted to be here too.

So what is Times Open all about? Why are we doing this at all? We are very proud of our crew, and want to give them a platform to share the good work they are doing every day. We also want to share with the community, and help others who may be able to learn from our work. Writing is good for the mind — it helps each of us organize our thoughts, and become better communicators and thinkers.

Today we are launching with three new posts:

And you can also take a look at the archives, which we have ported over from the old blog. Here are a few of my favorites:

So take a look, and watch this space. And, huge thanks to Chase Davis, Sarah Bures and Allen Tan for getting this next version of Open off the ground!

Introducing the New Open Blog was originally published in Times Open on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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