Over the next few weeks, the NYTimes.com will be rolling out its new online Opinion Pages, which follows last summer’s transformation of the Week In Review print section to the Sunday Review. The move is further immersion in the mix of news and opinion for NYT and other traditional news organizations, such as Bloomberg and Reuters (NYSE: TRI), have built up more features around blogging and analysis with a sharper point of view.
At a time when the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) is expected to report digital revenue declines of 2- to 3 percent, and to reduce the size of its newsroom by 20 staffers by the end of the year, offering more original content on its site is even more important right now. But mostly, this is about keeping pace with the competition and how the internet has changed the nature of news.
The NYT’s changes in its opinion section came several months after Bloomberg brought in former NYT op-ed editor David Shipley and James P. Rubin, most widely known as an assistant secretary of State during the Clinton Administration, to manage the effort (Rubin’s tenure was short-lived and he left Bloomberg last month).
Over a year before that, Thomson Reuters acquired the BreakingViews commentary platform for $18 million, a sure signal that the news service would be putting more effort into social media and personalities.
The NYT has always had its star columnists and for years, that seemed to be enough. But with the rise of social media, everyone not only has an opinion, they also have a more prominent voice to express their thoughts. The realization that this new form of competition was now taken more seriously forced the NYT to broaden the way it handled news and opinion as well.
Aside from offering a wider array of opinion, the new NYTimes.com opinion section will include more video and regular columnists. The first look at the new online section will be first be seen on October 24. A redesigned comments platform is also planned for the end of the year and is viewed as central part of driving traffic to the site.
The project of refocusing the NYT’s approach to its opinion pages, even as the news section has emphasized news analysis to a greater degree in recent years, was left to editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal and op-ed editor Trish Hall.
When I spoke with Rosenthal in June about the changes coming to online, he said he felt that the refashioning of the way it presents opinion did not represent a major change in the NYT’s DNA as an upholder of “objective” news gathering. The notion of objectivity has taken a beating as news has moved online and the blog format has forced established newspapers and magazines to forge a clearer identity and tone in the way they approach coverage.
For Rosenthal, it’s not about spreading a NYT ethos, necessarily. Rather, it’s about speaking directly to its audience and having that audience talk back in a fuller way.
“The Editorial Pages were the original social medium, with Letters to the Editor being the first form of commenting,” Rosenthal said. “The relationship between the paper and the reader has always been through the editorial page, in terms of that direct give-and-take. We can do a lot more with that. We want more reader involvement. People talk about reader engagement; our readers are already engaged. That doesn’t mean having readers write articles, though there is a space for that, we want them in our conversation.” Release