For eons, it seems, the news media has been neck deep in the trial and error business. Since long before I left daily journalism 13 years ago, the media, mainstream newspapers in particular, were trying and failing to be something they weren’t – purveyors of celebrity gossip, click baiters, partisan hatchet sheets and worse.
At every turn, it felt like media entities were giving up a bit more of their soul to attract eyeballs.
So it was refreshing for me to grab an insert in this Sunday’s New York Times and find a special section devoted to helping readers easily find audio content on their Amazon Alexa – where they offer their audio podcast, “The Daily,” get book recommendations, hear the “Pop music roundup” and even take the Times’ News Quiz.
In doing this, the Times hopes to continue to drive its digital connection with readers (which is still going up while subscriptions overall continue to drop) – but they’re doing it without seeming to lose their soul. The Times’ Voice Editor Dan Sanchez told The Verge they are trying to capture the narrative storytelling that has made The Daily a top podcast but do it in micro form with the goal of “actually trying to form an emotional connection.”
To me, this speaks to a trend of media companies doing more to reach readers their way, not just any old way.
Take “Dear John,” the incredibly written and voiced news series and podcast by the Los Angeles Times that is still in the top 5 podcasts and became a Bravo series with A-list Hollywood talent. Glamour is following suit with its investigative story and podcast “Broken Hearts,” about the mother who appears to have intentionally driven her wife and six children off a California highway to their deaths.
And any list like this can’t be complete without thinking of CNN’s surprise smash documentary “RBG” on the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – which became one of the most successful documentary films even with a very limited theatrical release.
So fret not, lovers of media, the signs of its imminent demise is greatly exaggerated – and there might just be some great content to come out of this continued reinvention.