Ditching budget meetings

One of my favorite parts of The New York Times Innovation Report appears to be coming to fruition. Dean Baquet announced this week that The Times would retire its traditional system for budgeting the paper.

From Poynter‘s Benjamin Mullin:

“Under the new system, each desk at The New York Times will pitch stories to be considered for ‘Dean’s list,’ a list of stories that get ‘the very best play on all our digital platforms,’ including Web, mobile and social platforms. Under the new system, there will be two Dean’s lists — one compiled after the morning meeting, and one after the afternoon meeting. Both lists will have ‘three or four enterprise pieces.'”

This sounds like one of my favorite parts of the innovation report, which quotes a Times’ reporter from the Washington bureau.

“Our internal fixation on it can be unhealthy, disproportionate and ultimately counterproductive. Just think about how many points in our day are still oriented around A1 — from the 10 a.m. meeting to the summaries that reporters file in the early after-noon to the editing time that goes into those summaries to the moment the verdict is rendered at 4:30. In Washington, there’s even an email that goes out to the entire bureau alerting everyone which six stories made it. That doesn’t sound to me like a newsroom that’s thinking enough about the web.”

It sounds like The Times is beginning its departure from print into digital media.

I think it’s a great idea to treat peak social media hours and the main spot on the homepage like a print front page. I also think this new system will urge editors to come up with online-only content and develop alternative ways to tell stories that are a better fit for online.

And hopefully, this new push will help the Times better monetize its extensive digital offerings. What I guess I was also hoping to see this week was more information about how The Times will reconcile its new (and much-needed) focus on web when the legacy paper still makes most of its advertising money from print advertisements.

In October, the newspaper reported that its digital advertising revenues were $38.2 million in the third quarter, a 16.5 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago. In that same quarter, advertising revenues dropped 5.3 percent. But digital advertising still only accounts for 27 percent of the company’s total revenue from advertising.

So obviously, the Times is doing something right. But I do wonder if they’re putting the cart before the horse with this complete overhaul.

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