The New York Times Makes a Move Toward Audience Development


What does it take for a newspaper that built its reputation on print to become successful in the digital age? That is a question that respected publications such as Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have been asking for years. As more and more print publications shrivel and fall apart in the wake of the digital age, many of the more hallowed publications are starting to embrace the shift and are using it to their advantage.

In August 2014, the New York Times named Alexandra MacCallum as assistant managing editor in charge of audience development. MacCallum has a successful history with the business side of the Times, which would explain why she was moved to the editorial side. The Times has recognized that successful digital media is a mixture of marketing and content. Now the Times hopes to leverage MacCallum’s business expertise in its pursuit of more web traffic.

What Is Audience Development?

On its website, Forbes Magazine defines audience engagement as using social media to attract a large group of people to a particular point. That point could be a company’s website, or it may be an online promotion that the company is running. The end result is more traffic which, as any website owner will tell you, means more revenue.

The Times indicates that MacCallum will use social media and other online vehicles to draw more traffic to the work that the writers generate. In simple terms, MacCallum is going to devise clever ways to use social media to get more people to go to the New York Times website. Sustained traffic is the only way that the Times can survive in the long run.

Why Is An Audience Development Expert Important For Media Sites?

Because most print media companies come from a background of hard copy newspapers, they are not conditioned to react to the interactive nature of the Internet. Most print media companies just keep putting out more content and hoping that something catches on with readers.

SEE ALSO: Science Drives Audience Development for Some of the Biggest Names in Publishing

A business expert in charge of audience development understands that the key to sustained success on the Internet is actively marketing to a broad audience. Instead of doing market surveys and creating new marketing material once a week, it has to be done several times a day if you are to survive on the Internet. The audience development expert finds ways to reach that audience and uses instant feedback from that audience to create sustained traffic.

What Can Smaller Newspapers Take Away From This New Audience Development Position?

The biggest thing that smaller newspapers need to realize is that they need to talk with their audience and not at their audience. An audience development professional will gauge the reaction of an audience and help the smaller newspaper to create content that is more engaging.

A smaller newspaper also needs to realize that it can compete with the bigger media companies on the Internet. With the help of an audience development expert, a small town newspaper can reach the same exact audience that a large media company reaches. In the end, the website that gets the most traffic will be the one that pays attention to what its audience wants. More traffic equals more revenue and that means revenue for small newspapers as well as big media giants.

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