The Times, It Is A Changing....How About You, Big Brands?
The other morning as I was reading my copy of The New York Times, I was more than a little amazed to see (on page 3! – of the first section!) advice on how to be truly mindful while making coffee. “Smell the beans.” “Notice the clarity of the water.” I thought, “Where am I and what have they done to my Times?” It was my own truly mindful experience: I was sitting exactly where I usually sit in the living room, in my favorite chair, at 6:30 a.m. and I was keenly aware that my world had been rocked.
This is not what I come to The Times to learn about. This is not the ‘news that’s fit to print.’ It’s not news at all. And yet. And yet. It is part of The Times reimagining of itself. In real time. In front of us. It’s of a piece with the new backgrounding info from various journalists on page two, explaining deep detail about their reporting. It is of a piece with the real time conversational commentary among journalists during news conferences. It is of a piece with audio and video coverage, web events, film clubs and travels with journalists aboard the QM2. It’s of a piece with the daily email delivery of “What you need to know this morning.” And gee whiz: The Times’ is selling more papers.
Now there’s a fair argument to be made that The Times’ circulation uptick owes more to the current resident of The White House than it does to any of these real and imagined advances. All media are making gains, print and broadcast alike. But, what The Times is doing is what many brands fail to do: They are preparing for next. They’ve been doing it for the past five years at least. Preparing for worst case scenarios has positioned them well for the best case.
As the news cycle hurls more people towards The Times, the newspaper has done the heavy lifting of re-imagining itself to ‘catch and retain’ (not release) new readers. It created multiple path ways into the brand to capture and sustain interest. It has leveraged its core competency as a news gather brand to innovate its delivery beyond the thud of a physical paper to the physical threshold. It has put itself in the position to benefit from our current news obsession by being unwilling to sit on the sidelines and decry the decay of print media.
Meanwhile, in conversation with a client the other day, I heard him telling me about making coffee early in the morning and how he uses that time alone to notice the grind of the coffee, the way the plastic lid on the industrial strength club store container seems designed to easily release the aroma and what this ritual has to do with the start of his work day. I knew whereof he spoke. Thanks to The Times, that is.