Nick Rockwell, chief technology officer at The New York Times, says the newspaper is deep into the digital revolution. While the digital age is no longer a new thing, he said, it still feels new. “There are new waves of innovation breaking over us still,” Mr. Rockwell added. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain.”
For daily updates, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here.
Mr. Rockwell spoke on Tuesday at the Mind the Tech conference in New York, hosted by Calcalist in collaboration with Bank Leumi and the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage.
As new and mysterious as the digital innovation can be, the Times has, by now, “gotten the hang of it,” Mr. Rockwell said. “We are on a path that we think will eventually get us to a fully digital business model. That path is the digital subscription business.” The New York Times saw enormous growth in digital audience in the past two years, he said, with 2.6 million digital subscribers, more than two and a half times the newspaper’s print circulation.
One challenge facing the Times, Mr. Rockwell said, is the fact that while the digital audience is much larger, it is much harder to monetize.
“Tech cuts both ways. It disrupts but also enables,” Mr. Rockwell said. “If you are not close to the bleeding edge of technology, if you are not trying to enjoy the positives that the technology brings, then you are only getting the disruption.”
“We learned this in a very brutal way in the newspaper industry. Media companies tend to lack confidence in tech, so we tend to be conservative, but we have to be aggressive, we have to take advantage of new technologies,” Mr. Rockwell said.
The New York Times was slow to embrace the cloud technology, but “now, just as we are finishing the cloud migration, serverless is coming along, which is a whole new ballgame,” he said.
The New York Times is now looking into machine learning technology to offer content that has more relevance for every individual reader, Mr. Rockwell said, and it is also integrating new media, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), into its storytelling arsenal.