Technology and the internet have both helped and hindered the news industry. Blogs and Twitter have taken over some of the space that newspapers have traditionally covered. On the other hand, social media has allowed news outlets to provide a constant stream of news, interact directly with their readers, and get a direct source of news as it happens.
Despite being a highly acclaimed and award-winning newspaper, The New York Times has felt the impact of new media. In a recent internal report, the paper took a close look at its own practices and process, analysing its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the changing market. It might have been surprising at first that its competitors were not necessarily fellow ‘institutions’ in the news world, but young companies like youth-oriented Buzzfeed and online news aggregator The Huffington Post.
The key takeaway from the leaked publication was that collaboration is essential if The New York Times is to enjoy future success through innovation. The report noted the disconnect across departments at the paper, especially between the business and reader experience teams. The company’s Facebook page was managed by the business team, while the Twitter stream was controlled by the news desk. The report pointed out the very clear disadvantages of having social media and marketing work divided across the PR, marketing, search and social teams.
“We are not proposing a wholesale reorganization. But we do believe simply issuing a new policy — collaborating with our colleagues focused on reader experience is encouraged and expected — would send a powerful signal and unlock a huge store of creative energy and insights.”
Merely claiming to adopt a collaborative spirit in strategy and vision documents is just one part of the equation. A common problem that Collabforge has seen with large-scale, organisation-wide collaborations is gaining sufficient levels of buy-in, support and permission from senior executives in order to implement collaborative activities. Having to continually seek permission can be a roadblock, and even if requests are given the green light, the process of doing so can slow down momentum and be harmful. The innovation report notes:
“If… employees can communicate and collaborate without first seeking permission, colleagues who reached across the news-business divide could feel more as if they are crossing a state line navigating a national border.”
The report goes on to note the incredible competitive benefits that collaboration would have to help keep The New York Times relevant:
“[An employee] recently made the jump from the newsroom to the new product team, and has been an invaluable asset, in part because of the breadth of his experience and his ability to translate the needs of each side.”