Seth Godin’s six tips for the New York Times

by Jason Preston on November 24, 2008

Seth Godin wrote a good post last week on the New York Times, and six things they aren’t doing (or didn’t do), but should.

I particularly like this idea:

5. Stringers:

The Times has always used freelancers and stringers to report and contribute to the paper. But how many? Why doesn’t the paper have 10,000 stringers, each with a blog, each angling to be picked up by the central site? You wouldn’t have to pay much per story to build a semi-pro cadre of writers and reporters. When you organize the news (delivering unique perspectives to people who want to hear them) you influence the conversation.

Because it sounds a lot like my own 😉

Markets change. Innovate or die.

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11.25.08 at 2:45 pm


1 Wendy Parker 11.24.08 at 3:34 pm

A day after Godin posted this, a freelance NYT writer who writes the “Shifting Careers” blog told her readers that it was being shut down, ostensibly in an economic move:

Not even the online portions of newspaper company operations are safe any longer. I was a Web editor and producer for four years but was told I could be laid off earlier this summer if we didn’t have enough people taking buyouts.

I decided to take control of my own career and accepted the buyout, but I am frightfully worried for my colleagues who are still working at newspaper companies.

2 Wendy Parker 11.24.08 at 3:58 pm

One other thing I forgot to point out: When Godin casaully writes that “You wouldn’t have to pay much per story to build a semi-pro cadre of writers and reporters,” I am dismayed.

I fear for a future of journalism left to “semi-pros,” done on the cheap. And I say that not just as a journalist who recently took a buyout and is faced with the real possibility of leaving the profession because it may not pay the bills.

Readers see right through this ruse. My mother is an avid newspaper reader and is disheartened by all the “guest writers” in her local paper. It’s not fooling her.

3 Nisha Chittal 11.25.08 at 10:47 am

I loved that piece — it had so many great ideas that I wish the Times had thought of first. I particularly loved the ideas about getting prominent bloggers and writers as additional columnists, and the ideas about Zagats and Yelp. The Times should really be pushing itself to be more innovative…

4 Jason Preston 11.26.08 at 10:14 am

Wendy – I think that no matter how you shake it out, there are going to be fewer full-time “journlaists” than there have been in the past, at least for a while. But I’m not convinced that journalism will be “left to the ‘semi-pros,’ done on the cheap.”

I think it’s far more likely that we’ll see news organizations with smaller full-time staffs that rely more on the voluntary or small-pay involvement of the community. I think that many journalists need to get over the idea that they’re inherently better at “news” than someone who isn’t a professional journalist. If the lawyer down the street can be a valuable addition to the paper, and is willing to do it for free or for a nominal fee, just because she cares about the community, then that should absolutely be encouraged.

Nisha – I think newspapers in general, and the NYT is the least guilty of all the ones I can think of, have been slow to realize that online they are competing with a whole host of services. There’s no reason a traditional newspaper would think, immediately, that they are competing with yelp. But that’s exactly what they’re doing.

It’ll be interesting to see if it’s too late, or if papers still have some fight left in them.

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