At the recent INMA Congress of World Media, Stephen Dunbar Johnson, President of International at The New York Times, talked about the cultural changes happening at the company.
For the international division, which Johnson heads, the biggest cultural change is the recognition that 27% of its global audience — 160 million readers total — are coming from outside the United States.
“Whilst we have a truly global audience, and we are a truly global media organisation,” Johnson said. “We’re growing our bureaus around the world; we have 75, I think it is, foreign correspondents around the world, and we’re adding to that number.”
Yet, Johnson said that as a company, The New York Times is still not acting as much as a global organisation as he thinks they should be. “The vitality for that personally is that transformation of culture; thinking about what it really means to be a truly global media organisation.”
Johnson added that the question of culture is a complex one, but one that needs to be grappled with very quickly.
“Are we doing this fast enough?” he asked. “In our industry, change is happening so quickly. You know that whatever you think is going to happen in three years, you’re going to be broadly wrong.” For Johnson, it’s about constantly thinking how they are going to adapt their business strategy around that rapid pace of change.
Keeping very clear about core navigating principles is also vital. “For us it’s, first and foremost, the quality of the journalism; surrounding that with understanding your customer; and thirdly, adapting and using technology to connect to the journalism, and allowing that to get out to all these people around the world.”
Johnson said that while the current state of freedom of the press is depressing, the upside is that today’s technology allows media companies to get their journalism to their audiences around the world, in ways they hadn’t imagined just a few years ago.
“So there is the paradox,” Johnson said. “As this commodity of free, independent journalism becomes rarer and rarer, we are still able to produce it and get it into the hands of people.”