What the next New York Times editor learned about the Web

Incoming New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson spent six months recently focusing on the online operations. During that time, she tells AdAge, she learned a number of things — such as the Web staff was not as integrated as it should be, the online competitive landscape is greater than she realized, and The Times needs to be more competitive online in the early mornings.

She said:

One thing I tried during the six months was to only read online. As I read more and more early in the morning I felt like everyone else was playing to win the morning, and we weren’t enough. Many sites, whether Politico or Bloomberg or another site, by like 6:30 in the morning were full of fresh stories. If breaking news had happened overnight, we covered it, but basically early in the morning we were an echo on the web of the six stories that were on the front of the print paper.

I think that in order to have an integrated newsroom, all the people who work on the news report have to feel that they have a real career track here. I think for our digital employees, especially web producers and some of the web editors, they felt like they loved their work but where were they going to go? They’d never covered cops for metro, that sort of thing. In the end my plan for the newsroom was that we dispersed the web producers and web editors and put them on the desks, so web producers that were working on business news now work for Larry Ingrassia, the business editor, after they had worked for a web editor.

Part of what I did was I went and visited a lot. Bill Keller came up with a great word — neo-competitors. That’s what he thinks sites like Politico and Huffington Post are. I went and spent a day at some of those. I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising but the largeness of the competitive field came to surprise me.

Our night note, the competition report which has been put out forever, would only mention what was on the front page of the Washington Post, maybe something from the Journal’s website, but never any mention of a Politico or a HuffPost or a Bloomberg. That has changed.