Building Customer Experiences at the New York Times

Ejieme Eromosele is the New York Times’ first-ever Managing Director of Customer Experience. She is a pioneer in many ways, and she’s on a mission to make customer experience the focal point of The Times’ future.

Charles Trevail

CEO at C Space

The New York Times is one of the world’s most iconic newspaper and media brands. Its journalistic standards have delivered more Pulitzer Prize winners than any other publication.

But, like all global media organizations, the “Gray Lady” – the newspaper’s nickname – has faced significant challenges throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Declining print readership, the migration of advertising revenues to online formats, and rapid changes to the way readers consume news have forced media brands to re-think their customer-engagement strategies. Tech-savvy consumers want news that’s personalized, immediate, and delivered 24-hours a day across a wide range of web, video, and mobile sources.

Subscribe to the Outside In podcast:

At the recent Chief Customer Officer Exchange, I met Ejieme Eromosele, The New York Times’ first-ever Managing Director of Customer Experience. Ejieme is a pioneer in many ways, and she’s on a mission to make customer experience the focal point of The Times’ future.

Much of the focus on customer experience has emerged following the newspaper’s switch from an advertising-based to a subscription-based commercial model. “Advertising made up most of our revenue base before,” explained Ejieme. “Readers and customers were just an avenue to getting more advertising revenue. But that’s changed. Folks like Google and Facebook have these broader platforms and can oftentimes offer advertisers different things than an individual, single domain like The Times can.”

Indeed, a new media landscape is forcing the industry as a whole to look to customers as a source of growth. “We are now a lot more heavily reliant on the customer to subscribe and to be a revenue source for the business,” Ejieme said.

This reliance has also forced the organization to build stronger relationships with its subscribers – many of whom have “higher expectations” than non-subscribers – and align the “journalistic mission” of the newsroom with what people actually want from modern day news products. “It’s not only about acquiring new customers and making sure that we can get them to our domain,” Ejieme pointed out. “It’s about understanding who they are, what they need, and what they’re getting out of The New York Times and making sure we can provide that.”

What struck me about the progress made at the NYT is that the prioritization of customer experience now cascades down from the top-tier of management through to senior journalists in the newsroom. Mark Thompson, the former Director General at the BBC, is now the NYT’s Chief Executive – and has personally endorsed the organization’s customer-centric strategy.

And it extends all the way to the newsroom, where even the busy journalists responsible for day-to-day news output are actively encouraged to interact with readers. They engage directly through news comment sections – responding to the views, questions and concerns of those who matter most: the customer. Doing so builds an open, honest two-way dialogue that strengthens the relationship between the newspaper and its readers.

At The New York Times, “customers” are core to the organization’s, and Ejieme’s, mission. And, depending on which department you ask, “customers” have different names – they’re “readers,” “users,” “subscribers,” “consumers.” Ultimately, it makes no difference. The Times owes them all the same thing: a superior experience seamlessly coupled with outstanding journalism.

As Ejieme summed up: “They’re citizens of the world. And we have a responsibility to them and the journalism we produce.”

You may be interested in:

We All Need Friends

We All Need Friends Relationships are the most important things we have – and that’s just as true for a brand as a friend. Here’s how we can make one into the other Christina Stahlkopf is an Associate Director in C Space’s Boston...

David Weinberger: The Upside of Chaos

David Weinberger: The Upside of Chaos Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: The Cluetrain Manifesto, published at the turn of 21st century, was one of the most prophetic and important books written about the internet. It was a call to arms -- and a warning...

Thomas Buberl, CEO, AXA: Responding to Risks in a Volatile World

Thomas Buberl, CEO, AXA: Responding to Risks in a Volatile World Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: All around us, risk is increasing along with growing instability and volatility. Cyber crime, climate change, and social division are just some of the...

Who’s In Charge?

Who's In Charge? Most CEOs would claim to be steering their business, but the smart ones are starting to realize that it’s the customers who are really setting the direction. Jessica DeVlieger is the President of C Space Americas. In...

Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer, AMA: Engaging Physicians in a Digital Age

Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer, AMA: Engaging Physicians in a Digital Age Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Founded in 1847, the American Medical Association has a long history of advocating for physicians and advancing medicine in the United...

The Right Insight

The Right Insight What makes a successful customer insights leader? Here’s a guide to the challenges and strategies of some of the best in the business. Robert Howie is Managing Director of growth at C Space, and previously led the...

Where Net Promoter Score Goes Wrong

Where Net Promoter Score Goes Wrong

by Christina Stahlkopf (C Space)
HBR

We surveyed over 2,000 consumers across the United States and the United Kingdom to take a fresh look at consumer advocacy behavior, free of any preconceptions or assumptions. The result: our Earned Advocacy Score™. Based on definable behavior that maps out detailed, clear, actionable data, our framework unpacks the context of actual earned advocacy, uncovers what is really driving the conversation, and provides targeted strategies for growth. Christina Stahlkopf, Associate Director at customer agency C Space, digs deeper…

Kelly Leonard, The Second City: Improv and Business Share the Same Stage

Kelly Leonard, The Second City: Improv and Business Share the Same Stage Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: The Second City is arguably the most renowned and important improv institution in the world. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Stephen Colbert all honed...

Safi Bahcall: Why Do Good Companies Kill Great Ideas?

Safi Bahcall: Why Do Good Companies Kill Great Ideas? Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Disruptive innovation. Visionary leaders. Innovative culture. All phrases you’ve likely seen before in your LinkedIn feed, heard in TED Talks, or read in business...

Nicolaj Siggelkow & Christian Terwiesch: Advantages of a Connected Strategy

Nicolaj Siggelkow & Christian Terwiesch: Advantages of a Connected Strategy Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Companies like Disney, Nike, Amazon, and Netflix are all creating continuous relationships with customers by implementing a “connected...