Would You Watch a Game Show Based on the New York Times Crossword Puzzle?

At its NewFront, the paper of record talked TV, podcasts and more

New York Times Styles editor Choire Sicha discussed the section's unique reporting on style and culture. Chris Ariens

First out of the gate at the 2018 Digital Content NewFronts this morning, The New York Times announced a reimagined Business section, an expansion into TV and film productions, touted its investments in new news desks and its blockbuster podcast The Daily.

CEO Mark Thompson opened the NewFront, which played out more like an 95-minute live journalism event rather than an advertising pitch–though there were more than a few direct calls to buy during the packed event at The Stage at The TimesCenter in the New York Times building.

“We’re finding new ways of telling stories, and new partnerships with the world’s biggest brands,” said Thompson.

Business editor Rebecca Blumenstein announced that the Times will rename the Business Day section—which has had that name since 1978—and by December will relaunch it as Sunday Business.

Investigative reporter Nick Confessore and advertising reporter Sapna Maheshwari delved into the challenges facing digital platforms YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, which remains a vital distributor of publishers’ content, including the Times.

“The New York Times spends a lot of money on Facebook and it’s an incredibly effective marketing tool,” said Seb Tomich, global head of advertising for the Times, who moderated the Confessore/Maheswari conversation. “You should tell me more about that later,” added Maheswhari, always the journalist.

"Over the past decade there has been an explosion in TV. The Times hasn’t been a part of it and we should be."
Sam Dolnick, New York Times assistant managing editor

The Times’ popular 15-month-old podcast The Daily is part of a larger push by the Times from an audio perspective.

“The Daily has more listeners than the weekday newspaper has ever had,” said New York Times evp and COO Meredith Kopit Levien, who discussed the success of The Daily with host Michael Barbaro.

“When we started we didn’t know how we were going to relate to the newsroom,” said Barbaro. “Now we see ourselves as a new front page. It’s a wonderful sign of how powerful that megaphone is.”

The podcast has been downloaded 280 million times and averages about 1 million listeners a day. “You don’t skim a podcast. You opt in to a podcast,” said Barbaro. “And what our data shows is that people will listen to four or five episodes a week. They buy in.”

Assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick talked about his task of accelerating film and TV projects.

“What does The New York Times know about television?” asked Kopit Levien, somewhat rhetorically.

“Over the past decade there has been an explosion in TV. The Times hasn’t been a part of it and we should be,” said Dolnick.

Dolnick announced medical investigative column Diagnosis is coming to Netflix as well as a partnership with Hollywood studio Anonymous Content “to use their TV production facilities and our giant newsroom to create something really exciting.” There is also a film in the works on their Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvey Weinstein coverage.

"The Daily has more listeners than the weekday newspaper has ever had."
Meredith Kopit Levien, New York Times evp and COO

“This is All The President’s Men, with three women,” said Dolnick.

“We think (dating column) Modern Love should be a series on TV. The Crossword Puzzle. That could be a game show,” added Dolnick.

The presentation also included two of the Times’ newest editors: Styles editor Choire Sicha, who “hijacked” the presentation, and Jessica Bennett who explained her role as the Times’ first Gender editor.

“I’m like a regular editor, but angrier,” she joked.

The NewFront closed with two Times’ data scientists talking about new marketing tools to better help brands understand a New York Times consumer:

  • NYTReaderScope will use machine learning to model who reads what and where.
  • ProjectFeels will use emotional targeting to help advertisers who have brand safety concerns.
  • ProjectBlossom will use predictive analysis to determine trends, conversations, and the immersive nature of certain piece of content.

While the NewFronts are all about bringing excitement and generating interest in publishers’ video offerings, Tomich told us The Times takes a different approach. “We really don’t treat this as a video event. It’s really the moment where we want to talk about the most important things we’re doing, as they relate to the ad market.”

@ChrisAriens chris.ariens@adweek.com Chris Ariens is the managing editor and director of video at Adweek.