Julie Angell

The Times Are Changin’

The top digital news entities ranked by total number of unique visitors for January 2015. (Chart courtesy of the Pew Research Center)
The top digital news entities ranked by total number of unique visitors for January 2015. (Chart courtesy of the Pew Research Center)

Before I glance at the comments section on a New York Times Facebook post, I generally know what I’m going to see. If it’s an article about a trending topic on social media, there are two types of people dropping comments: the old-fashioned media critic who is upset with the post. You’ll also find the enthusiastic millennial who will tag their friend before sharing it to their 683 social media followers.

We’ve started to embrace social media as way to gather opinions, share our own and stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the world. An established, trusted brand like The New York Times should have a team to curate major viral events.

“The reader controls the news agenda [now] much more than 30 years ago,” Patrick LaForge, NYT senior editor and director of the paper’s Express Team, told Margaret Sullivan in this article.

We have a public editor like Sullivan, who criticized and examined NYT’s coverage for the Flint water crisis, we also need a team of people to curate social media happenings on issues that are just as big.

I agree with LaForge’s tactic to focus more on engagement versus page views. Facebook is a money maker, so shares and comments carry more punch than page views. The content that NYT produces now is changing and I’m seeing more articles geared towards Generation Y. At times it’s scary, but mostly it’s just assimilation into the new media territory we’re in.

“I understand readers’ unease. They wonder, justifiably, if some of these stories make the best use of limited resources. They doubt whether they are worthy of attention in The New York Times,” Sullivan says.

So, if everyone jumps into social media aggregation and content curation, does that mean established outlets like The New York Times should too? Probably. Other outlets are aware of this too. Buzzfeed’s amount of unique visitors surpassed NYT’s a year ago. This just goes to show how important it is to create and curate content that is geared for sharing and retweeting.

“If you read The New York Times front page everyday to get informed, you would probably read it tomorrow to become informed,” Dao Nguyen, the publisher of Buzzfeed, said in an interview with Fast Company.

It might seem brazen to compare NYT with Buzzfeed, but we now have proof that the people behind it know the same things. People control what they read now, and news outlets have the responsibility to bring it to them.

Nguyen thinks of media as a different type of product. One that becomes a habit, a part of someone’s identity.

I’ve started to see more Buzzfeed-ish content from NYT on my Facebook feed, but that’s easily fixed if I go to NYT’s actual page, or their website. So maybe the fluffy stuff just floats to the top of my stream, leaving the original, deep reporting to drop further down.

Maybe the Times is just getting with the times; they’ve realized there’s tons of content and they need to be a go-to source for clarification and additional reporting. As long as they keep their brand strong and trustworthy, the Express Team, and those like it, should carry on.

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