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NY Times readies for mobile future

News, 24 February 2015

PHOENIX, AZ: Smartphones are set to be the arena where the "war will be won" for publications like the New York Times, according to Mark Thompson, president/ceo of the news title's parent company.

Thompson – who heads the New York Times Company – discussed this topic at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) 2015 Annual Leadership Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

"The war will be won for us on the smartphone. And we'd suspected it two years ago but now we're certain," he said. (For more, including details about how the news title is adapting for handheld devices, read Warc's exclusive report: Goodbye to print: Mobile is the future of the NY Times.)

While laptops and tablets "certainly won't go away", he continued, devices such as Apple's iPhone look set to be the major battleground in the growing fight for consumer attention, Thompson predicted.

"The Times moved unique users over to desktop and laptop users last summer, and those trends are only going one way. Cracking the code on smartphone is critical."

As seeming confirmation of this idea, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, recently issued a memo that eliminated traditional pitches made for the front page of the print edition.

Instead, editors from each desk will pitch pieces for new-media prominence, with the top items receiving "the very best play on all our digital platforms – web, mobile, social and others yet to come."

Such a shift was one of several small procedural changes "intended to ensure that our digital platforms are much less tethered to print deadlines," Baquet wrote.

"This new system will, in particular, give us more flexibility in targeting readers on mobile (which now receives more than half of our traffic) and on platforms like Facebook (where we are rolling out new strategies for presenting our journalism).

"In short, our goal is to further elevate the primacy of our digital platforms in the daily life of the newsroom."

During his keynote at the IAB conference, Thompson warned delegates that brands in every industry face a similar imperative to ensure their communications and content make the necessary impact.

"When we use smartphones, our session times are short and directed. We're not browsing; we're hunting. Adjacency and visibility have a valid [role], of course. But to the man or woman in a hurry and looking at a pretty small screen, it's a limited mark," he said.

"If the payload – the thing that the marketer wants to say" – is so dull that it misses the key moment of engagement, then consumers "will click it into oblivion in one heartless thumb swipe," he added.

Data sourced from Warc/Politico; additional content by Warc staff