NYT to launch “immersive digital magazine” and new food news product, led by Sam Sifton

Gigaom

In a letter to the newsroom Friday, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson announced that the company is launching a new, “immersive digital magazine experience,” as well as “a new dining news product” and a “new ideas task force” that will “think up and propose new ways to expand our news offerings digitally.”

In addition, the NYT’s upcoming lower-priced digital product will be called “Need to Know” and is getting its own editor.

The digital magazine aims to capitalize on the success of interactive features like “Snow Fall.” It and the new dining initiative will be led by Sam Sifton, who was national editor and previously the paper’s restaurant critic. Abramson explained these projects:

“His first assignment is to create an immersive digital magazine experience, a lean back read that will include new, multimedia narratives in the tradition of Snow Fall and last weekend’s compelling account of the Arizona fire, as well as some of the best reads published during the previous week. As the new Need to Know project is aimed for quick and periodic dips into the news, the new digital magazine would be a need to read. … The second assignment puts Sam’s incredible depth as a food editor and food writer to use in creating a new dining news product, separate from our current dining report and section led so expertly by Susan Edgerley, who has already drawn up some very exciting ideas for expanding our dining coverage and will surely be an invaluable partner on this project.”

“Need to Know” refers to a separate initiative: The NYT’s lower-priced digital subscription, which hasn’t been released yet but which is far enough along that Abramson has assigned an editor to it:

“Meanwhile, the development of Need to Know is far enough along that what this project most needs to launch is a brilliant editor to sculpt its content. I have asked Cliff Levy to take a leave of absence from his post as deputy Metro editor to accomplish this. Having just invented the hugely popular New York Today for mobile users, Cliff has the perfect gifts to make N2K absolutely stellar.”

In addition, the NYT is creating “the newsroom’s version of a skunk-works team”:

“Arthur Gregg Sulzberger will also take a leave from metro to be the editor in charge of a new ideas task force, which will function as the newsroom’s version of a skunk-works team, a creative team that will think up and propose new ways to expand our news offerings digitally.”

NYT spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told me that the availability and price points of the digital magazine, food publication and “Need to Know” and haven’t been decided yet — though she said the plan is for “Need to Know” to launch sometime early next year.

Here’s Abramson’s full memo:

“Dear Colleagues,

As part of my strategic push to have the newsroom take a leading role in developing new ways to present our journalism in digital forms and to create new products, I have made various changes in the structure and leadership of the newsroom. My goal has been to find the best digital talent in the newsroom and appoint people to very senior editing roles that report directly to Dean and me.

Before I get specific, it’s worth noting that we are by far the most read newspaper Web site, thanks to all of your heroic work and innovation. At a time when mobile traffic is nearing half our visits, we are reaching a much broader array of readers. Many recent moves, including the new ones I am announcing today, help solidify and expand our achievements.

First, by way of background, I promoted Tom Bodkin to deputy managing editor and he has also assumed the important role as the company’s design director (a joint report to me and Mark Thompson), insuring that his brilliant journalistic sensibility infuses all of our news products. I also asked Larry Ingrassia and Ian Fisher to become assistant managing editors and to focus on and lead our main digital priorities. Next, I asked Aron Pilhofer and Steve Duenes to become associate managing editors to help invent the best possible interactive experiences and dazzling presentations of our digital journalism. Meanwhile, Rebecca Howard has already energized our burgeoning video efforts and will soon be adding key members to her team.

The push continues. Sam Sifton has agreed to leave his post as national editor, where he has so expertly guided our coverage of immense national upheaval to become a senior editor and the creative mind in charge of two new ventures. In all of his editing roles, as well as in his writing, Sam has been an inventive and inspiring creator of the best digital journalism. (As culture editor, he was, among desk heads, one of our most forward thinking Web-first journalists).

His first assignment is to create an immersive digital magazine experience, a lean back read that will include new, multimedia narratives in the tradition of Snow Fall and last weekend’s compelling account of the Arizona fire, as well as some of the best reads published during the previous week. As the new Need to Know project is aimed for quick and periodic dips into the news, the new digital magazine would be a need to read. (This is a different product from the Sunday magazine, where Hugo Lindgren has been unendingly creative in digital presentations and he will surely be a counselor to Sam).The second assignment puts Sam’s incredible depth as a food editor and food writer to use in creating a new dining news product, separate from our current dining report and section led so expertly by Susan Edgerley, who has already drawn up some very exciting ideas for expanding our dining coverage and will surely be an invaluable partner on this project.

Meanwhile, the development of Need to Know is far enough along that what this project most needs to launch is a brilliant editor to sculpt its content. I have asked Cliff Levy to take a leave of absence from his post as deputy Metro editor to accomplish this. Having just invented the hugely popular New York Today for mobile users, Cliff has the perfect gifts to make N2K absolutely stellar.

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger will also take a leave from metro to be the editor in charge of a new ideas task force, which will function as the newsroom’s version of a skunk-works team, a creative team that will think up and propose new ways to expand our news offerings digitally. He, too, has displayed impressive creative inventiveness and leadership as a national correspondent and as a Metro reporter and editor.

Sam, Cliff and Arthur will have the needed resources to build teams for creating compelling news content for these initiatives. Besides reporting to Dean and me, they will all work closely with David Perpich and other business side colleagues. All three have proven skills at producing the best journalism, leading teams and working collegially with Times colleagues.

We will make sure not to leave either National or Metro bereft. Alison Mitchell, after a fabulous run as Weekend editor, (and in olden times created a splendid Education report and directed the Washington bureau’s congressional coverage) will take over the leadership of the national desk as National Editor, where she also had a stellar run as deputy. National Editor is the job she was born to do.

More to come.

Fondly, Jill”




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