New York Times contest brings tech startups into its headquarters

New York Times

New York City is bristling with tech companies, and many of them are whipping up new ideas for publishing, advertising and social media. This spring, a select few of them will get an invitation to strut their stuff inside the New York Times as part of what the paper hopes will be a “mutually beneficial relationship.”

In a program called TimeSpace announced Tuesday morning, the Grey Lady said it will accept three to five early-stage companies for four month partnerships. Those selected will get an opportunity to demonstrate their products while teaching and learning alongside Times employees in the company’s 8th Avenue headquarters. The Times suggests the best candidates will come with seed stage funding and be focused on products like┬ámobile, social, video, advertising technology, analytics and e-commerce.

So will all this help the Times navigate a path to digital prosperity? On one hand, these type of projects can feel more like sizzle than substance. The Times already has an ideas lab called beta620 while the Boston Globe is partnering with MIT students to inject more technology into the news process. So far, nothing earth-shattering has emerged from either project. Likewise, Philadelphia’s major news outlets have been tinkering with incubator-style projects for a while with mixed results.

On the other hand, these type of ventures deliver intangible cultural benefits. Startup companies, including those in the media space, typically have little idea how the news process works and how media companies actually run. Meanwhile, old-line media types are often suspicious or dismissive of new technologies and the people wielding them. Opportunities like TimeSpace, which will also give the startups a gloss of prestige, thus represent a welcome occasion for the two cultures to rub shoulders in a real world news and business environment.

Would-be New York Times partners have until February 19 to apply.

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