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The New York Times Admits it's Doing the Internet Wrong

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As if the Wednesday firing of executive editor Jill Abramson didn't give media junkies enough to buzz about, the ouster was quickly followed by the release of an internal New York Times report detailing many of the paper's Internet-related woes.

Pedestrians wait for cabs across the street from The New York Times on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in New York. The New York Times on Wednesday announced that executive editor Jill Abramson is being replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet after two and a half years on the job. On Thursday, an internal report laying out the paper's digital weaknesses went public. (AP Photo) AP Photo

Here are some of the highlights of the March 24 report, obtained by BuzzFeed:

  • "Today, a pack of news startups are hoping to 'disrupt' our industry by attacking the strongest incumbent -- The New York Times," says the report. "Should we be defending our position, or disrupting ourselves? And can't we just dismiss the BuzzFeeds of the world, with their listicles and cat videos?"

    The answer, the report argues, is no -- the Times needs to take a page out of BuzzFeed's book and work aggressively on audience development.

  • "When the time came to put our journalism on the web, we adopted a much more passive approach. We published stories on our home page and assumed that most people would come to us," admits the report.

    Compared to the old days of paper deliveries, the Times web presence is a failure.

    "We are putting less effort into reaching readers' digital doorsteps than we ever did in reaching their physical doorsteps," says the report.

  • The paywall, at least, is strong.

    "The success of the paywall has provided financial stability as we become more digitally focused."

  • Leadership is taking some risks -- but they're not necessarily paying off.

    "Both (Times CEO) Mark Thompson and Jill Abramson have established themselves as willing and eager to push the company in new, sometimes uncomfortable directions."

    The report was finalized a mere month and a half before the Times' pushed Abramson in an "uncomfortable direction": out the door.

  • The Times has to refocus on promoting stories, not just telling them.

    "The few new roles we have proposed are not focused on creating new journalism; their goal is to get more out of the journalism we are already creating."

Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post both beat the Times in web traffic, notes the report, and those sites (and many others) often produce quick hit news pieces by piggybacking off of the journalistic work of the Times. In other words, "digital pickpockets" use the Times' own work to grab page views for themselves.

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