21 Content Marketing Lessons from the New York Times

21 Content Marketing Lessons from The New York Times

When the Huffington Post was sold for over $300 million, it was a signal that news was never going to be the same again. Websites that at first glance look like blogs on steroids have now become the new and fast emerging global news channels. Their home pages are dominated by list style posts.

These include:

  • 29 signs You’re Not a Cat Person
  • 25 Very Real Struggles Of Making New Friends As An Adult
  • 20 Things Only People With Cold Hands Understand

Love or hate them “list posts” work.

Buzzfeed by the numbers

Buzzfeed is one of these new generation social network driven websites that are making the traditional players sit up and take notice. What started as an online laboratory called “Buzzfeed Labs” in 2006 (which was an initiative to create, test and measure viral content) is now evolving into a more serious long form journalism site.

Today the site publishes 378 posts a day which are sourced by staff, syndicated content and external contributors. To put some perspective on its popularity that has the traditional players such as the New York Times worried, here are the latest traffic numbers for the last month according to Quantcast.

  • 162 million unique visitors
  • Over 106 million mobile visitors
  • 394 million page views
  • Ranked as the 11th largest site in the USA

Despite its humble and seemingly superficial beginnings, the impact of a website driven by data scientists and social media cannot be ignored.

The New York Times takes a hard look

The New York Times is a 150 years old. So you don’t expect it to be nimble. It is struggling to reinvent itself. But it did decide to review this new landscape and take a hard look at the fast emerging publishing landscape and have an honest review of itself and its competitors. These include not only Buzzfeed but Mashable, The Guardian, Vox, First Look Media, The Atlantic and Politico.

The revelations from the recently leaked report into their challenges of facing upstarts and competitors is a compelling insight into publishing and also content marketing.

Content is the weapon of choice to gain attention traffic and advertising revenue in a digital world.

Content marketing lessons

One observation from the report that surprised me away was that they didn’t use social media for marketing but for measuring!

Here are some insights into how companies need to adapt in a digital age with publishing and content marketing. I have also included actual excerpts from the report.

1. Experiment

Just like Buzzfeed started a “Buzzfeed Lab” to find what went viral and why, brands need to be experimenting all the time to find what works and what doesn’t. As all of us have become online publishers we need to be constantly learning about what content resonates.

Coca Cola’s content marketing strategy is built upon a 70/20/10 investment principle. 70% is low risk content, 20% should innovate off what works and 10% is high risk ideas.

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

2. Repackage your content

The New York Times discovered that original content that was repackaged  into Flipboard became the best read collection in the history of the paper.

So take your content and turn it into videos, images and even presentations and podcasts. Everyone has different media consumption habits and preferences.

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

3. Re-use old content

They discovered that resurrecting old content could generate significant traffic. They tested this with videos related to love and articles about sex trafficking. Nothing new…just recycling!

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

4. Create content templates

Buzzfeed has perfected the template model so that they can quickly create new content without having to custom build from scratch as bespoke content. Publishing content quickly  is important on the social web that doesn’t tolerate the old 24 hour news cycle.

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

5. Continue to innovate your platform

Innovation is not just about the content. First Look Media were found to have provided modern tools and templates that elevated and motivated the content creators. Journalists and writers.

The platforms need to consider analytics, optimization and testing frameworks. This builds a moat around your brand and is difficult to replicate

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

6. Content marketing is not just about “publishing”

Writers and content creators have often put marketing a very distant second to the art of writing. You need to hustle your content.

Everyone is a marketer whether you like it or not.

New York Times Insights 6

7. Your content creators need to be socially savvy

The savvy publishers and content marketers realise that the content creator (reporters and even editors) to be socially savvy and fully fluent in social media. Often writers are chased down by even traditional publishers because they have large social networks!

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

8. It’s not just about the headline but social

Pushing your content onto social networks is important to accelerate sharing. It’s not just about the headline anymore.

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

9. Don’t forget search engines

On an integrated web search engines are still vital. They discovered at the New York Times that doing some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) increased traffic by 52 percent!

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

10. Build best practice into search and social

The New York times has realised that it’s competitors have been following best practice for digital marketing for years. At the Huffington post a story can’t be published unless it has the following ready to go:

  • Photo
  • Search Headline
  • Tweet
  • Facebook update

Lessons from the New York Times for Content Marketers

11. Email is a very important marketing tool

Content marketing is not just about the new shiny toy of social media marketing. The New York Times, despite having an email list of 6.5 million still used email marketing as an afterthought!

New York Times Insights

 12. Use your social channels for experimentation

Social media, due to its low cost of publishing is a perfect tool to use as a hotbed of experimentation. The high cost of print didn’t allow you to do that and receive data and results back in real time

New York Times Insights

13. The brand content creators need to be part of the marketing

They discovered that Reuters Digital made sure its web editors were tasked with identifying influential online communities to seed and amplify their content.

Sometimes called influencer marketing.

New York Times Insights

14. Tap into the power of user generated content

User generated content is free and a very powerful marketing tactic and its free. Octoly provided some research that revealed that some brand content creation just on YouTube alone was 99% of all brand conversations.

New York Times Insights

15. Use an email marketing platform

Using your email list is one thing but having a “proper” email marketing platform is another for efficient work practices in a digital world.

The report revealed that the New York Times had to manually pull it from registration data. This revelation is scary!

New York Times Insights

16. To do content marketing at scale you need a “marketing platform”

The digital media world is many moving parts and splintered tactics. The only way to do it “at scale” is to have a “marketing platform”

New York Times Insights

17. Fail fast and learn

On the fast moving web you need to fail fast, often and learn.

New York Times Insights

18. It’s a team effort

Content marketing is a team effort. It requires skills across writing, technology, products, user experience and marketing.

New York Times Insights

19. Need to know what success looks like

A content marketing strategy needs to outline what the metrics that measure success look like. Is it traffic, brand awareness, conversions or sales?

New York Times Insights

 20. Leaders need to “unlearn”

What used to work years ago quite often doesn’t work “now”. Many executives and CEO’s were born in an era of fixed phones, traditional media and suits and ties being the dress standard for every office. They built huge companies with what worked then. But it is now. Amazon has redefined retail. Apple has disrupted the music industry (just to name one) and Kodak missed the digital camera boat.

The old business models are being shaken to the core. Only before the old habits are unlearned can new content marketing habits be embraced.

New York Times Insights

21. Think “digital” as a priority

After the leaders have unlearned then the requirement is to ensure “digital first” as a mantra. Content marketing is not just about digital content but it’s now the “big” part!

New York Times Insights
New York Times Insights

 What about you?

What has surprised you the most about these content marketing lessons, insights and revelations from the New York Times?

What could you implement today?

Look forward to your insights and feedback in the comments below.

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  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great post Jeff. I definitely need to repackage some of my own content. I have over 300 blog post and haven’t repackaged any of it!

  • http://www.integraphix.com/ Advertising Agency

    Thanks for the post, Jeff. Reusing old content is great, as long as that content was popular when it was published. My New York marketing firm has seen some people make that unfortunate mistake.

  • Alexander Konrad

    Wow, really nice article. Thanks a lot, Jeff.

    Gonna use is in our weekly review.


  • http://aleedex.com/ Farid P.

    Hello Jeff,

    Nice lessons for content marketing. Content marketing has an important role in present date as good content attracts everyone, whether it is an audience or search engines. I am completely in favor of the point that keep doing experiments as it makes you aware about the fact that which thing will work and which will not. After that, I also like your point “it’s not about publishing” as it is an art of creating such an useful piece of information which can be liked every age group.