Internal Report Reveals New York Times’ Digital Failings

According to a document obtained by BuzzFeed, the Grey Lady “has watched readership fall significantly” over the last year. And that may not be the worst part.

Internal Report Reveals New York Times’ Digital Failings
[Image: Flickr user Alec Perkins]

An internal report obtained by BuzzFeed reveals that the New York Times is, by admission of its own employees, struggling to adapt to a digital publishing landscape. The Times‘s “Innovation Report,” commissioned by chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and conducted by his son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger (a journalist at the paper), reveals a newsroom “falling behind” in the “art and science of getting our journalism to readers.” Over the last year, the Times “has watched readership fall significantly.”


“Not only is the audience on our website shrinking,” notes the report, “but our audience on our smartphone apps has dipped, an extremely worrying sign on a growing platform.”

Per BuzzFeed, the Times is getting trounced by savvier online competitors like the Huffington Post, which are leveraging the Times’ reporting to generate traffic:

“An executive there described watching the aggregation outperform our original content after Nelson Mandela’s death,” the report says. “You guys got crushed,” he said. “I was queasy watching the numbers. I’m not proud of this. But this is your competition. You should defend the digital pickpockets from stealing your stuff with better headlines, better social.”

The report notes some eyebrow-raising business decisions regarding how social media is handled within its confines:

Another issue: The paper’s Twitter account is run by the newsroom. Its Facebook account is run by the paper’s business side.

And the paper admits that it may be losing the battle for top-notch talent:

…the paper has been losing talented staffers and been unable to recruit others. Upworthy’s former head of promotion, Michael Wertheim, turned down a job at Times, the report says.

On Wednesday, the Times abruptly fired managing Jill Abramson in an announcement that took many of the paper’s staffers by surprise. The aftermath has become something of a PR nightmare: Although the Times‘s official stance was the Abramson was removed from her post for management reasons, the New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta reports that she was removed from her post shortly after “Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs.”

You can read the whole internal report over at BuzzFeed.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.