What The New York Times Video Site Offers Millennials

The New York Times may be 165 years old, but it isn’t completely out of touch with today’s generation of millennials.

While The Times prides itself on quality reporting, the publication has always sought to relay content to its readers in an engaging way. Over the past few years, The Times has broadened its scope to target the needs of millennials, a generational cohort born roughly between 1980 and 2000. As of 2012, there are about 80 million millennials living in the United States, and they have become the largest share of the American workforce. Millennials are one of the most educated generations in Western history, they are impatient, and they are known for being remarkably technologically savvy.

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Time Magazine cover discussing millennials (Max Gaines/Creative Commons)

One major way that The Times has been appealing to millennials is through its videos. Since millennials are mostly educated and technologically savvy, it only makes sense that The Times capture their attention by producing quality videos. Emma Cott, a video journalist for The New York Times, has made significant strides in this field, producing videos that range from robotic teddy bears, to caring for Ebola patients overseas, to a documentary about healthcare.

The New York Times has increasingly been producing more risqué video content, like a video titled “The Uncanny Lover” about a sex robot. As other news outlets appealing to millennials become more popular, like BuzzFeed and Vice, The Times has been stretching its moral boundaries through other niche types of videos.

But, while it isn’t appealing to millennials’ taste in anything strange and outrageous, The Times is providing millennials, and everyone else, the ability to explore the world from the comfort of their couches. For example, The Times’ Block by Block videos allow viewers to explore New York City’s neighborhoods without leaving the comfort of their homes.

One particularly appealing feature on their video website is the travel section of their videos, which allow viewers to spend “36 Hours” in cities across the globe, like Rio, Istanbul and Portland. This allows anyone at any given time the ability to pick a place and learn what it’s like, with minimal cost.

Another cool feature is their food section of the video department, where they show how to cook recipes like chicken noodle soup and summer vegetable gratin. They also have an interesting subsection where they show what goes into making certain products, like chocolate candy and coconut water.

The Times’ 360 and Virtual Reality videos also appeal to millennials. Having a credible, renowned news organization create videos that place viewers in the scenes that they learn about is a tremendous asset. There is no better way to visualize conflict in other countries than by (virtually) walking a mile in someone else’s shoes there.

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New York Times most recent price increase (Renee Saff)

But, despite all of The Times’ efforts to appeal to millennials, they still have a long way to go in terms of rebranding their publication to a more youthful audience. Sites like Vice, BuzzFeed, Vox and The Intercept became very popular over the past five years, and The Times is struggling to keep up. While The Times is fantastic at producing quality content, they fail to get up close and personal in controversial matters, and they don’t bring to light enough of the gritty news that millennials thrive on. Anyone can produce high quality, original, creative videos about neighborhoods in New York City or the process of making coconut water, but not everyone has the guts to publish video taken on a contraband cellphone with a camera, like Vice did a few weeks ago.

According to Liz Spayd, The Times’ public editor, in an op-ed, “[T]he pace is no longer set by a building in Times Square.”

Here are some questions for Emma Cott:

  1. How do you find the inspiration for your videos. Does the video journalism world work the same way as the print journalism world, where reporters are assigned to beats, or do you have more of a selection when it comes to story topics?
  2. What do you think sets The Times’ video channel apart from other news outlets that are appealing to millennials?
  3. Do you think that Virtual Reality and 360 videos will one day be as popular as the standard videos that we are all so used to watching? Why does The Times focus so much energy on these channels?
  4. What is the most challenging part of being a video journalist at The Times? What is the most rewarding part?
  5. Do you think that it is necessary for all journalists in today’s day and age to be able to record, edit and produce their own videos? What kind of crossover is there between print journalists and video journalists at The Times?
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