New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger gave a speech a few days ago at Polis LSE, which Charlie Beckett kindly posted in full. In it, Sulzberger talks about why the NY Times (which recently said it now has 325,000 digital subscribers) is engaging with its readers.
The main Facebook page of The New York Times has more than 1.7 million fans. Our main Twitter page has more than 3.8 million followers… We have more than 15.8 million followers on Twitter for all New York Times accounts. And here is an astounding fact – a New York Times story is tweeted every 4 seconds.
He points to three NY Times reporters doing a fine job of using social media in their reporting and relationships with their readers:
Nick Kristof — has huge, real time communities on Facebook and Twitter and he uses them to great effect in his reporting, often from some of the world’s most troubled places.
Chris Chivers – uses Tumblr and Twitter to draw back the veil on his reporting, often posting story snippits on his Tumblr blog before they appear on nytimes.com. He also asks his audience to help crowd-source a question for him, for example about ammunition he’s found in the field in war torn Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq.
Lydia Polgreen – She has used her Facebook page to build a community of readers interested in India, where she has been a Delhi-based correspondent. Now that she’s moving to South Africa, I can only assume she will do the same there.
And he makes the point that the NY Times audience is one that is well worth tapping into:
There is a reason why we are so committed to social media at The Times and that reason rests with our audience. We have an incredibly enlightened, intelligent and sophisticated group of users who are highly engaged with our products. Our efforts in social media are meant to tap in to the knowledge from that readership. We value what they can share with us and with other users.
For this specific reason, we are currently in the midst of an expansion of our online discussion and community features at NYTimes.com and we are redesigning our comments section later this year.
We’re also in the process of creating a Trusted Commenter program, which will be available to a select group of readers with a history of high-quality comments. Their submissions will be published on our Opinion pages and across NYTimes.com without prior modification.
Last but not least, the business case:
The business result of all of these efforts is increasing levels of engagement with our site. This includes more time spent, more stories read, more videos viewed…and more ads viewed.
Rest of the speech is here.