Digital Lessons from the New York Times

Graph showing Newspaper Advertising Revenue, 1950 - 2012
Newspaper Ad Revenue


Everyone knows that the newspaper business has been suffering over the last ten years. While  most people believe this has to do with the decline in print newspaper circulation, it’s important to note that digital advertising for newspaper companies is declining as quickly as print revenue.

Not so, of course, with social media sites like Facebook. Social media advertising is growing at double-digit rates. So, why didn’t the newspaper companies get their share?

socia_media_ad_forecast Because they didn’t grasp the shift that was happening, away from daily print media and towards digital. They clung to their old model of print, first denying, then delaying, the digital world, and completely failing to understand how it changed publishing.

A recently-leaked internal memo describes the problems at the Times, and offers some lessons for all nonprofits, and especially those in healthcare:

  • “We are not moving with enough urgency,” it says. They point to upstart publishers like  “HuffingtonPost” and “Business Insider” and say “They are ahead of us.”
  • There is “a cadre of editors who remain unfamiliar with the web.”
  • The report also calls for a profound rethinking of the newsroom’s independence from the rest of the company, in order to involve editorial leaders more deeply in technological decisions.
  • The paper’s Twitter account is run by the newsroom. Its Facebook account is run by the paper’s business side.

Do these observations sound familiar in your healthcare organization? Are you “moving with enough urgency” to communicate with people where they live — increasingly, online? Do you have a “cadre” of senior leadership, either in fundraising or the larger organization, who “remain unfamiliar with the web.” Do you have a “church and state” wall between development and “communications” departments? Do you have to beg for “space” on your organization’s Facebook page? Worse, do you have a separate, red-headed-step-child page for your foundation?

Your healthcare organization, including development, is one entity in the eyes of a public that lives increasingly in a digital world. Your public face needs to reflect that.


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