In a bid to be more transparent with audiences, The New York Times has launched Times Insider, an offering of podcasts, stories, events and newsletters that takes audiences behind the scenes and into the workings of the newsroom.
"We don't want The New York Times to be this faceless place where nobody ever goes in and no one knows what's happening there," said Francesca Donner, director of Times Insider, The New York Times, at the Digital Innovators Summit in Berlin today (20 March).
"We are opening the fourth wall and bringing readers in as participants. We want to give readers the idea that we're all in this crazy journalism together."
Stories published on Times Insider are "like conversations with a friend", she continued, which detail behind the scenes of a story, showing readers what it's really like to cover the Ebola crisis, film a war zone in virtual reality, or cross a border with migrants.
Times Insider is an upgrade to The New York Times subscription at $10 every 4 weeks, after an initial free 8 weeks.
"With everything that we do, we want to answer four questions – how we work, who we are, what we know and what we like. Answering these four questions in all kinds of ways is going to make the audience have a deeper connection with The New York Times," Donner said.
Newsletters, addressed to 'Insiders', are sent to subscribers, along with podcasts that discuss how editors are covering the top stories of the day, and invites to events that allow readers to chat to reporters and to ask them questions on a more personal level.
"Events are hugely important, they build intimacy and connect like-minded people around topics they care about. The readers go from solitary behaviour, which might be listening or reading alone, to attending this communal thing so the connection becomes very real," Donner said.
"Scalability is a problem, so we can do a lot with livestreaming, to answer listener questions and have fun by building in challenges and puzzles. People feel that if a journalist responds to them, even in a digital space, it is incredibly fulfilling."
Donner explains that transparency is a useful way to tackle the misinformation ecosystem and build trust with audiences.
"We want to bring readers the story behind the story, take them behind the scenes and show them what it took to get that extraordinary scoop," she said.
"In many ways, that can actually sharpen the story as a whole and bring a lot into perspective."
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