Martin Nisenholtz, New York Times Digital
The web is the most important tool for freedom of speech since the invention of language. Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, tells it like it is.
Job title: CEO, New York Times Digital
How long have you been in this role? Four years.
What does it entail? I have overall management responsibility for NYTimes.com, Boston.com and our Digital Archive Division, which licenses our digital content to the business marketplace (ie Lexis Nexis, Factiva).
I am also one of seven people on the executive committee of The New York Times Company.
What inspires you to come to work each day? Our people and our mission. It is wonderful to be part of a great team. And it is a great challenge to build a scale business in the digital content space. The pay ain't bad either.
How did you enter the industry? I was recruited by New York University to work on a very early research project in interactive telecommunications in late-1979. We've been inventing the industry ever since.
Any top tips for new journalists? Embrace the web.
How has journalism changed since you started? I think the biggest single impact has been all-news cable television in the US. It's created a 24/7 news cycle. Some of this is good. People are probably more informed about major world events. But it has also created a kind of frenzy around the news and turned it in the direction of ratings-driven entertainment.
Do you still buy newspapers? Yes.
Will new media overtake traditional media? New media couldn't totally replace traditional media, but electronic delivery will become more and more important both for commerce and for the consumer. Smart phones will, I predict, particularly change news delivery.
Which web sites do you use the most? Obviously, I use NYTimes.com the most. It's a terrific home page. I also look at Boston.com every day. I use Google quite frequently. I do all my banking online, so I use Citibank's site a lot. And I administer many of my business and personal purchases through the American Express site. I book much of my travel online through Hotwire and Expedia. I read several web logs, the most frequent of which is corante.com, a tech news site. I use Abuzz [UPDATE: this site no longer exists - it's been replaced by askmehelpdesk.com] when I have a question that can't be answered through a document search. I use CNET if I'm shopping for gadgets. And Bizrate to get the best prices on everything from books to camcorders. I love the Web. I could go on and on.
What can web journalism achieve that print journalism can't? First, the Internet is the freest distribution system ever invented. The fact that NYTimes.com is read literally everywhere on earth is a miracle. We take the First Amendment very seriously here in the US and the web is the most important first amendment tool since the invention of language. It's much more powerful than print as a distribution vehicle because it goes everywhere and it's very difficult to stop.
Second, the web is much better than print at reader input. Take a look at movies.nytimes.com and you will see our readers helping one another find the best movies through a simple rate and review function.
Third, the web carries digital data regardless of its form. We can combine text, photography, graphics, audio and video in ways that no other medium can do. The best young journalists understand that this is a genuinely new form of expression.
Fourth, we are not constrained by newsprint, either in form or in the cost structure of the business. Speaking of movies.nytimes.com, we offer 5,000 film reviews.
Fifth, you can slice and dice content in almost unlimited ways. Through our NewsTracker service, for example, I can deliver to you all of the most relevant stories that we publish on a particular topic. This doesn't negate the serendipity of our home page and section fronts; on the contrary, the service brings you things you might otherwise miss if you're a busy person.
What would make online journalism even better? There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the single most important development would be a more robust business model. We are profitable but still very small. Our business model is still nascent. It should go without saying that journalistic enterprises need to make money to pay journalists. If we were making more money we could be re-investing it in better journalism.
How will new media influence the future of news provision? New media will have profound influence, despite the naysayers. While some of my colleagues disagree, I think the web log and Wiki movements will have a growing impact on the public dialogue. I believe that blogs complement more mainstream sources. It used to be that patients got information from one source - the person's doctor. Google came along and now patients can get smart without having to understand a medical text. On balance, I think this is good. The same is true in news. We are moving toward a much more distributed kind of news sourcing. This makes quality reporting and editing all the more important. In an atmosphere of information overload, editors make a great deal of sense.
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