The New York Times Begins To Outsource Stories

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on July 19, 2009

The New York Times is just beginning to opt for a new journalism model that outsources stories from its own newspaper silo that I began to experiment with, successfully, six years ago at Business Week. When Jessie Scanlon and I launched the Innovation & Design site, we designed a networked model to generate content. Our constraint in the launch was money—very little of it. So we connected with Core77 and a whole series of content providers to supply us with great stories. We connected with lots of brilliant “thought leaders” to do columns for us. And we connected with other partners to launch mini-sites within the I&D channel.

The constraint was a wonder for us—it created a new model for journalism that the NYT is starting to use. In fact, we took a second step and then migrated stories, columns and other content to a second platform—print. Reena Jana joined us to launched a magazine, Inside Innovation or IN.

This new journalism model had another impact—it forced us to create a team that could work on many platforms—online, print, video, TV, pod—you name it. Frankly, it was just wonderful. Reena, Jessie, Helen Walters joined up and then Matt Vella, our 20-something genius guy. We were a multi-generational, multinational mashup team.

So the NYT is beginning to do the same—create a network of sources outside its siloed stable of journalists. This could be a very good thing. Not only does it save money and help save the NYT, it opens the conversation, it broadens the sources of stories way beyond the knowledge and expertise of the journalists inside the NYT silo.

Just one bit of advice to the folks at the NYT. You are beginning to shift to curating from editing stories. Curating is harder than editing because you have to work with people you don’t intimately know, at least at the beginning. Editing your own people, well, you know them and their culture. With curating you have to insist on high standards even as you move from being the Voice of Authority to the Curator of Conversations. It’s a huge shift but a necessary one.

Reader Comments

Murli Nagasundaram, PhD

July 20, 2009 9:06 AM

It looks like two different print models -- one, completely outsourced but strictly curated (academic research publishing) and the other largely insourced but edited (news and features publishing) -- are beginning to merge on the 'net. Check out the latest edition of PhD comics: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1200

Perhaps multiple variations on this general theme founded on two dimensions -- Curated-Edited and Outsourced-Insourced -- will emerge in the coming years.

There is frustration in both camps among the users/subscribers/readers. Scholars are often driven to rage by the slow and arduous process by which their research becomes widely disseminated. For general publications, readers are often ahead of the curve on the news as well as commentary; techies, for instance, tend to sneer at tech reporting in the general press, and the situation in the case of science reporting is even worse.

Speed (time to market), accuracy, breadth and variety of perspective and commentary are issues common to both camps. Peer review, despite its well-documented shortcomings is still the Gold Standard in academic publication. At least one scholar (Noah Wardrip-Fruin at UCSD) has employed a blog to augment the peer-review process (http://bit.ly/OdxVP).

I think both camps can use similar processes to become more effective in achieving their very different goals. It's going to need a very different set of skills on the part of Curators/Editors in order to do this right. It would be a good idea to engage in a discussion on what that skill set should be, and how, if at all, it can be imparted in higher education. - murli

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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