If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: Sharelines and Sensationalism


“You should defend the digital pickpockets from stealing your stuff with better headlines, better social.”

That’s one of the many call-to-digital-action quotes pulled from an internal New York Times report, obtained by BuzzFeed and sent to top executives last month by a committee led by the publisher’s son. And on page 28 of the 96-page report, we’re given an example:

“On Oscar night, The Times tweeted a 161-year-old story about Solomon Northup, whose memoir was the basis for “12 Years a Slave.” After it started going viral on social media, Gawker pounced, and quickly fashioned a story based on excerpts from our piece. It ended up being one of their best-read items of the year. But little of that traffic came to us.”

This Oscar example represents a newspaper’s greatest modern challenge: how does journalism adapt and compete socially with sites like BuzzFeed and Gawker, who can easily repurpose a story for their own benefit and who, despite other shortcomings, do social better than it’s ever been done.

How does a paper retain their readers without stooping to the same level?

You won’t believe how.

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