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NY Times vs. Yahoo: Who innovates faster?


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September 28, 2005

NY Times vs. Yahoo: Who innovates faster?

Stephen Baker

It's the hidden challenge facing mainstream media: technological innovation. At a big forum today about the future of media and blogs, Martin Nisenholtz, who heads up digital operations for The New York Times, stressed that mainstream pubs have great trouble landing the skilled technicians they need to compete.

Yahoo and Google, by contrast, are storming into media, and they have legions of brilliant engineers and developers to build the next generation of media services. Sitting across the table from Nisenholtz was Bill Gannon, editorial director for Yahoo! He raved about the speed with which Yahoo can turn an idea into an editorial project. It was not a reassuring moment for the ink-and-paper crowd.

What's this mean? Look for mainstream outfits outfits to buy-up online products (and then hire consultants to integrate them). This is what The Times did with About.com (later hiring Jeff Jarvis as a consultant).

I'm still mystified as to why The Times can't hire tech whizzes. I asked Nisenholtz before lunch, and he said that the brightest tech minds like to work on interesting problems--and that they're not drawn to old-line media companies. But surely somewhere, from Palo Alto to Bangalore, there must be gifted techies who could be turned on the idea of remaking the greatest news franchises for the 21st century. Is that so boring?

02:04 PM

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Can the Times compete at all with Google salaries? Can they provide a chief with great food? Can they give the techie a day/week to work on personal ideas? Can they cut the bureaucracy? Can they make things happen in a timely fashion?

If not, there's your answer :-)

Posted by: PXLated at September 28, 2005 08:08 PM

Newspapers almost always insist that problems be solved within a set of stupid and arbitrary constraints, rather than with a focus on reader and advertiser needs.

Bright people like to do things that work and that delight users. Newspapers obsess about their own needs at the expense of users. Who needs that?

And besides, if you're young and competent, how can you face your peers and tell them that you work for a newspaper?

Posted by: Joe Zekas at September 28, 2005 08:30 PM

Why do you wonder?

If you talk to mainstream media executives they always talking about small steps first and securing their existing business (and than, maybe …), They tell you about their (very modest) targets and if you ask them about their ambitions, they tell you about their worries for the future of their business …

Posted by: Hugo E. Martin at September 29, 2005 10:00 AM


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