At this morning’s news meeting at the New York Times, the paper’s big shots projected onto a screen a shot of the New York Times mobile feed. That’s a big deal, because before last week, the default image in such sessions was the New York Times homepage, says Clifford Levy, assistant masthead editor with authority over digital platforms.
An institutional mindset has been tweaked: All last week, the New York Times blocked access within its building to the paper’s desktop homepage, forcing employees to check their mobile devices:
— Clifford Levy (@cliffordlevy) June 12, 2015
“The experiment was a very good way to look more and more to the phone as the place they should be thinking a lot about,” said Levy in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog. There’s something of a disconnect in the journalism production-to-consumption continuum, Levy stresses. Editors and reporters are accustomed to creating content in a desktop environment, yet a growing number of news consumers are experiencing it on mobile devices — about half of the Times’ traffic, actually, though less a percentage of digital advertising revenue. The NYT Now app, a favorite of the Erik Wemple Blog, didn’t meet the company’s subscription expectations and relaunched recently as a free product.
Levy drew inspiration for the mobile-HQ-shutdown from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who once tossed a desktop-centric engineer out of a meeting for being too desktop-centric. The homepage shutoff, says Levy, netted him ideas, supportive e-mails and the determination to continue prodding a century-and-a-half-old organization that has a knack of getting stuck in its ways. “The thing I came away with is that we have to keep doing this more and more — not this particular experiment, but to be focusing almost obsessively on mobile and innovating and moving very fast toward the future,” says Levy.