Digital Transformation of the New York Times Continues With New President and CEO

From a Wall Street Journal story by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Dave Sebastian headlined “Times Taps Head of Digital Products To Become Chief”:

Meredith Kopit Levien has been promoted to become the next president and chief executive officer of the New York Times, a media company that has made significant gains in building subscription revenue but faces challenges on the advertising front.

Ms. Kopit Levien, 49 years old, will succeed Mark Thompson, who led the newspaper’s digital transformation, on Sept. 8, the Times said. . . .

Appointed chief operating officer in 2017, Ms. Kopit Levien is responsible for the company’s digital-product efforts. She previously served as the head of advertising as well as chief revenue officer, overseeing the subscription and advertising business.

Ms. Kopit Levien, who joined the company in 2013, has helped upend the Times’ ad-sales strategy, shifting away from one-time ad placements in favor of more elaborate and lucrative deals that resemble corporate partnerships—an approach that contributed to digital-ad growth.

David Chavern, chief executive of the News Media Alliance, a publishers lobbying group, said Ms. Kopit Levien has worked closely with Mr. Thompson and was the most likely successor.

“It represents a continuation and expansion of their strategy of building reader revenue supported by a range of other products including Wirecutter, podcasting, and video,” said Mr. Chavern. Wirecutter is a product-review website that the company acquired in 2016.

In an interview, Ms. Kopit Levien said she believes the Times will reach its goal of 10 million total subscriptions by 2025. “There’s no reason to believe the Times won’t get there and beyond,” she said. “There’s a really big market of people who will pay for quality journalism.” The Times currently has more than six million subscriptions, publisher A.G. Sulzberger said Wednesday.

Ms. Kopit Levien noted that other digital products, including the Times’ cooking and crossword offerings and “The Daily” news podcast, have been well received by consumers.

The advertising business, while challenged, will remain a key contributor to the paper’s economics, she said. “It won’t be where it once was,” she said. However, as “long as you have a big audience that is deeply engaged and a brand that marketers want to be associated with,” advertising can play a significant financial role, she said.

Ms. Kopit Levien also addressed the recent upheaval at the newspaper’s opinion section. James Bennet resigned under pressure as editorial-page editor in early June, and this month Bari Weiss, an editor and writer for the opinion section, resigned, writing on her website that she had been bullied by colleagues.

“It would be a mistake to construe that anything that has happened as a retreat from our mission and our values,” said Ms. Kopit Levien. “The Times intends to be and will remain a forum for important ideas. There is no backing off from that. We’re living in a polarized time and so much of what is said about the Times or any news organization is a reflection of that.”. . .

The Times had a strong first quarter, reporting its biggest quarterly increase in digital subscriptions ever, although Mr. Thompson said at the time that advertising in the second quarter was expected to decline by about half, largely because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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